Congressional Logrolling Threatens Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

Writer S.E. Robinson has a new post up over at The Blaze looking at the Sealaska Corporation, Tongass National Forest and H.R. 1408. The entire article is well worth a read. Here’s a quick snip, which illustrates some of the feelings local residents have about the issue:

Referring to Sealaska Corporation and its allies in Congress, Gerry D. Misner an avid outdoorsman and resident of Kosciusko Island,  said, “In my opinion, for what it’s worth, these guys operate like the mafia if I’ve ever seen mafia, and you can quote me on that.”

6 thoughts on “Congressional Logrolling Threatens Alaska’s Tongass National Forest”

  1. This legislation, if passed, will reestablish a new corporate timber monopoly on the Tongass National Forest, and unleash a new wave of clear cutting of the last of the intact forest ecosystem which escaped the pulp mill era here. This will eliminate large tracts of a USFS conservation strategy which was put in place to allow the previous industrial clear cutting to pass muster on NEPA and NFMA. These laws will not apply on privatized lands if this legislation is enacted.

    Should this come to pass, history will demonstrate the environmental groups being funded by corporate foundations to attend the Tongass Futures Roundtable (TFR) will have played a crucial role in facilitating a Quid pro quo. These environmental groups, as proxy unelected representatives of the larger American public, are being paid to vote and lobby, (presumably), on behalf of the public’s best interests. So these groups have been publicly claiming to oppose the Sealaska legislation, but now as before, are actually working behind closed doors to “improve” the legislation.

    These politically expedient measures facilitating QPQ wilderness bills will not only raid the taxpayer coffers and our national heritage, but help reestablish the same heavily subsidized timber industry some of these groups once successfully opposed. The new industry will be based upon heavily subsidized biomass proposals (which the environmental groups have signed-off on at the TFR) not unlike the former taxpayer boondoggles of the pulp mill era.

    But the ramifications of greenwashing go much further than large-scale industrialization, privatization, deregulation of environmental law, corporate outsourcing, and political and biological devolution on the Tongass. The environmental groups attending TFR are helping to perpetuate a cultural genocide waged against an aboriginal culture which once thrived in Southeast Alaska for 10,000 years.

    At issue for environmental groups embracing free market environmental approaches at the Tongass Futures Roundtable, (such as the QPQ wilderness bill which Sealaska legislation is poised to pass with), is the failure to recognize the native corporate model has been central to the present socio-economic tragedies being perpetuated in Native villages throughout Southeast Alaska. The Sealaska Board of Directors vote with the same amoral bottom-line calculations as their white brethren in JP Morgan boardrooms. Sealaska legislation will only continue to feed the ANCSA beast of Southeast.

    ANCSA “assimilated” native villages into white man’s dominant corporate culture all right, but it is all wrong.

    These hunter gatherer tribes thrived within a highly advanced culture, social structure, art form, and deeply developed wisdom and spiritual connection to this temperate rainforest. Thus, they proved anthropologists claiming to know the limits of hunter gatherer tribes dead wrong and Garrett Hardin’s half-baked thesis of the inevitability of the “tragedy of the commons” dead wrong too.

    The horrific treatment of the Natives (Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian) by corporate exploiters during pre statehood days, was but a continuation of the past genocidal and slavery campaigns of the US government. Unfortunately, once Prudhoe Bay oilfields were discovered, these historic human rights atrocities which were being successfully challenged in court were interrupted by Congress.

    Congress wanted aboriginal lands claims quickly settled because they had an oil pipeline to build connecting Prudhoe oil with world export markets. They did this by enacting ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) 40 years ago. They transferred nearly a billion dollars and 44 million acres to 200 federally recognized tribes. They also tragically established the Native corporate model (ANCs) of which Sealaska is the largest and most infamous.

    Rather than being a model for economic and cultural success, ANCs have perpetrated a cultural and socio-economic coup de gras upon the tribes of southeast Alaska. This was covered in detail in ethnographer Dr. Kirk Dombrowski’s book, “Against Culture: Development, Politics and Religion in Indian Alaska”. The book documents the Sealaska and tribal corporate clear cutting across Southeast Alaska which was mostly exported to Japan, bypassing sustainable opportunities for annual local mill jobs and finished products.

    And so, the rapid corporate liquidation of primeval forests effectively destroyed — culturally, economically and environmentally — the Native way of life depending upon intact forest ecosystems to support a subsistence-based culture. This has resulted in massive native unemployment, tragic social dysfunction, and decimation of village populations as residents flee villages seeking jobs elsewhere.

    To quote an interview with a Southeast Native speaking on the contradiction of money and subsistence, (pg.90 of the book): “Us Natives, we should have the right to live out our culture, something that cannot die… to take away our culture would be to take away our lives… What is a billion dollars? I’d rather have my fishing and hunting rights.”

    This Sealaska legislation privatizises vast portions of the Tongass National Forest even though Sealaska has already made their final land selections with the BLM as Congress intended.

    This logrolling is being enabled by environmental groups “collaborating”, ie., cutting back room deals to enable political paybacks using the taxpayer bank account and national heritage to draw from.

    And that simply isn’t right.

  2. David: Please say you have read more than one book (the one you cite) about the “10,000 years” of human occupation of SW Alaska. Your statement that: “the rapid corporate liquidation of primeval forests effectively destroyed — culturally, economically and environmentally — the Native way of life depending upon intact forest ecosystems to support a subsistence-based culture” is ridiculous — particularly for people that participated in international trade for centuries, hunted whales on the open sea, harvested salmon for much of their protein, were master artisans, lived in towns, and had their cultures altered forever in the late 1700s and early 1800s. And whose lives were NOT “dependent upon intact forest ecosystems.”

    Do you have even a shred of evidence to support any of your assertions regarding white (and black and Asian) “amoral” influences on “aboriginal” societies of SE Alaskan “hunter-gatherers” — or are you just repeating someone else’ politicized “history” in support of “large tracts of USFS conservation strategy” being continued? Is that what the people who manage those resources really want, or are you attacking their corporations out of frustration because their values don’t match your own?

    “Altered forever in the late 1700s and early 1800s” — NOT the 1950s. And, of course, it had nothing to do with clearcutting. Try sea otters, whales, introductions of metal and gunpowder and infectious diseases for starters — then consider the other effects associated with the abrupt changes in trade items (and geographical expansion) in international trade 200+ years ago.

    If you are going to use other peoples’ histories to further promote your own “moral” resource management preferences, and least show them (and your readers) some basic respect by getting your facts straight.

  3. Easy there Dr. Zybach, if you’re not too busy attacking peer reviewed climate science, you might want to read the several anthropological texts devoted to exploring the issue of ANCs on the Tongass before you start attacking me on getting “my facts straight”.

    You don’t seem to understand the points I was making, and may have inadvertently misrepresented and added to what I actually wrote. But if you think you do understand, maybe you could get a consultant job with Sealaska Timber Corporation defending the most infamous land mangers in the history of the Tongass? — (and that’s saying a lot considering the decades of mismanagement the USFS presently admits now needs “Restoration” and Stewardship”.)

    While you’re studying up, I highly recommend Kathy Durbin’s masterpiece, Tongass: Pulp Politics and the Fight for the Alaska Rain Forest (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999) and Naomi Kline’s Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

    Thanks for your valuable, always insightful, feedback.

  4. David: Sometimes it IS hard to understand what “points you’re making,” with all of your generalizations, moral indictments, and veering to side issues, such as “peer reviewed climate science.” (btw, it is called “questioning” or “challenging” when refuting the work of other scientists — not “attacking.” It’s a critical element in the scientific process; and one that has become largely dysfunctional in the past 30 years. See:, where I am a Board member, to get an idea of where I am coming from on this issue.)

    That being said, I don’t see how I misrepresented what you wrote in my response. Rather than simply directing me toward a couple of politicized perspectives that agree with your own (and you’re right — I don’t have enough time to dabble in that kind of reading), why not respond to my challenge to do more reading about the PEOPLE (not politics) you are using to further justify your position.

    I lived with some Tlingit friends in Juneau for the summer in 1967, and I’m pretty sure they’d be a little offended by some of your assertions and presumptive use of themselves, their ancestors and their families to further your position. There is (I’m assuming it’s still there) a nice museum in Juneau you might want to visit to learn more, if you are interested, about native history and culture. It is a little more complex (though it might not sound so) than “socio-economic tragedies” foisted upon “aboriginal hunter-gatherers” who had their “subsistence based culture” “destroyed” via the “amoral” “liquidation of intact native forest ecosystems.” I’m not sure that that is what you were trying to actually say, but that’s what I got out of it, and those are your words (or reasonable paraphrases).

    Dave, your basic argument seems to be against “corporate greed” and “environmental degradation” (i.e., positions based on your own personal values, not necessarily facts), not against the the destruction of native cultures caused by clearcutting, thereby eliminating “sustainaible” opportunities to “keep local sawmills going.” Those mills were created by the clearcuts, not traditional Tlinglit cultural subsistence practices. Yes, I understand there are native people that agree with you; but there are also many (many) others that don’t. Personally, I’d let them speak for themselves on issues of morality, history, culture, and current economics. And logging and subsistence.

  5. Thanks for demonstrating my points Dr. Zybach.

    When a studied approach is conducted of another scientist’s work, as you say, “It’s a critical element in the scientific process.”

    When on the other hand, you “don’t have enough time to dabble in that kind of reading” (i.e.. the text I cited, was a peer reviewed, exhaustively referenced, scholarly work titled, “Against Culture: Development, Politics, and Religion in Indian Alaska” by Dr.Kirk Dombrowski), and yet you refer to it as ‘someone else’ politicized “history” ‘…,

    That Doctor Zybach, is a clueless, unqualified “attack”, and significantly undermines both your credibility, and ESIPRI’s, in any role of scientific scrutiny.

    It seems you don’t have enough time to read much of anything on the subject or you surely wouldn’t have pinned your expertise on having “lived with some Tlingit friends in Juneau for the summer in 1967”.

    ANCSA didn’t pass until 1971, and the full consequences of Native corporate logging weren’t becoming realized until well into the ’80s. A little research on your part would have quickly revealed native corporate shareholders are among the most strident critics of Sealaska Corp. :

    The following video was also produced by Tlingit activists:

    As for your statement, “Dave, your basic argument seems to be against “corporate greed” and “environmental degradation” (i.e., positions based on your own personal values, not necessarily facts)”, my personal values are supported by the aforementioned facts, and there’s plenty more where they come from.

    The same cannot be said for your knee-jerk, fact-free statements based on your personal values.

    Lastly, I have not just visited 40 years ago, I’ve lived on the Tongass for close to 30 years now and have made many Native friends and spoken on behalf of their concerns without being attacked by them, as you feel compelled to. I raise these concerns as a citizen because they pertain to large scale privatization of the Tongass National Forest. Frankly, your (admitted, and well demonstrated) willful ignorance addressing these matters is so overwhelming, I’m finding it difficult to justify any further dialog with you.

    • David: By “dabble” I mean read the abstract and tables, skim the body, and look at the conclusions and references. In both of your recommended readings it is obvious — by their titles! — that these things are about politics, and from perspectives different than my own and that I generally disagree with. Why go on any further? I wouldn’t continue reading if they were about nuclear fusion or French cuisine, either. Or global warming. There are only so many hours in a day.

      I’m wondering what your credentials are, David, to lecture me on scientific methodology, mock my statements, and then having to somehow “justify” any “further dialog” with me on these topics. Most of your “charges” against me would serve very well as descriptions of your own work; I can tell you are unfamiliar with mine.

      Finally, if you think that your personal values are based on “aforementioned facts” by simply citing some legislative dates and a “peer reviewed” study, then it appears we have differing definitions of “values.” And “facts.” Good luck imposing those views on others.


Leave a Comment