March 1, 2012 | Vol. 39, No 9

Letters to the Editor

Field inventories needed

To the Editor:

The Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan FEIS of 1-23-2008 provides for the sustainability of the resources of the Tongass National Forest yet the proposed Tonka Timber Sale only provides for viable populations of deer for subsistence.

Definition of these 3 key words are (1)Sustainability- to provide for support of and sustenance or nourishment for. (2)Resource- something that lies ready for use or that can be drawn upon for aid to the care of a need. (3) Viable- able to live and likely to survive. The Forest Plan Amendment notes that scientific sources relied on were cited, responsible opposing views were discussed, incomplete and unavailable information was acknowledged and scientific uncertainty and risk was addressed.

The evaluation of wildlife collected thus far has been computer generated data not adequately supported with field inventories. This standard of acceptance for computer data has encouraged corner cutting and laziness and should not be accepted just because it is expensive, difficult and time consuming to put people in the field.

The Forest Plan concluded that the only subsistence resource that may be significantly restricted in future by management activities is subsistence use of deer. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is not required to meet Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) objectives for deer but by National Forest Management Act (NFMA) regulations are directed to maintain viable populations. USFS definition of viable is, one which has the estimated numbers and distribution of reproductive individuals to ensure its continued existence is well distributed throughout a national forest. USFS definition of well distributed is throughout the existing range of a subspecies. What this means is the USFS implementation of the forest plan can virtually eliminate the numbers of deer on Mitkof and Kupreanof Island because there are hunt- able numbers on the surrounding islands and therefore the opportunity to subsistence deer hunt is still available.

Because fish and wildlife have inherent value as components and indicators of healthy ecosystems they often demonstrate how altered environments may affect changes in quality of life for humans. USFS compliance with Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Title VIII requires that the needs of rural residents be given priority when managing wildlife and fisheries resources in Alaska. Without adequate field verification the Forest Plan implementation will result in a reduction of 68% of our vital Sitka black-tailed deer habitat of Mitkof and Kupreanof Islands; thus far we have lost 47% of our deer winter habitat.

The City of Petersburg, and the City of Kupreanof have expressed support of the Tonka Timber Sale for timber related economic reasons and were also concerned with the issue of subsistence and other associated economic values for its citizens. Jack Ward Thomas, chief of the Forest Service (1996) stated, “Right up front I clearly state, without equivocation, that these are our lands today - the lands of all the people. These are our lands - they belong to us lock, stock, and barrel. And they will be our land and our children’s and our children’s, children’s lands far into the future unless we, as a people, through carelessness or apathy or conscious choice, allow that precious heritage to be sold or traded away for pottage.”

Are citizens of Petersburg willing to trade-off the future generations quality of life?

Dave Randrup

Petersburg expects above average

performance

To the Editor:

To the Honorable Sean Parnell Re: District Attorney’s Office

The City of Petersburg would like to thank Deputy Attorney General Richard Svobodny for his attendance at our public hearing on Feb. 21. While Mr. Svobodny was unable to commit to improvements, it did help our community know that our issues are being heard. We understand that his and your focus is on many issues including the state budget.

As a recap, we heard that the Department of Law is not in agreement with adding staff to help alleviate our perceived problems. Mr. Svobodny indicated that adding staff would not markedly reduce the workload, yet he said that adding two prosecutors last year reduced that work load by 10%. In a review of the case loads as provided by Mr. Svobodny, it appears that lawyers in the Department of Law get an average 5.89 hours for each case (2080 hrs a year – minus 96 holiday hours, minus 100 vacation and sick hours, divided by the average case load of approximately 320 cases for each lawyer). This time does not include any allowance for travel, training, meeting with their supervisor or talking to local officials. In our minds, this explains why the District Attorney’s Office may feel pressure to move cases quickly without taking time they do not have to consult with our local police.

In addition, we heard how nice our community is, and how lucky we are not to have the crime levels of some other communities in Alaska. While this is nice to hear, it does not solve our problem. As mentioned by our school administrator at the meeting, Petersburg does not accept average performances either in our schools or as it relates to protecting our community. We feel Alaska would be better served by this approach to the issue of crime.

We also heard that there are many different ways to interpret dismissal rates. Mr. Svobodny wants to focus on numbers that show lower rates; our analysis shows something different. We are willing to admit that there are many different ways to pull numbers, analyze statistics and prepare colored graphs. Mr. Svobodny has his, we have ours, and I guess it is safe to say that we see things differently. There is not much value in arguing these points, other than recognizing the issue as a symptom of the bigger problem of a perceived lack of communication. We did feel Mr. Svobodny heard us on this issue and would like to improve the current process. Again while no commitments were made, we felt some of this message was heard.

Mr. Svobodny was gracious enough to respond to many tough questions from some of our citizens. We continue to hope ongoing dialogue can be used to improve the relationship between the departments and provide a method for further improvement. We also continue to hear from other communities and state agencies that are having similar issues. We are encouraging them to speak up and be recognized, but understand their concerns that discussing this openly could bring negative criticism upon them. We hope that Petersburg’s willingness to openly discuss this difficult issue will help the State of Alaska and your office see the importance of increased focus on keeping our communities safe through effective and efficient law enforcement. The more dialogue we have the better it will be for all of us.

Last, we heard from Mr. Svobodny that one option for the City of Petersburg is to hire its own prosecutor. While this may be a consideration, our guess is that the Department of Law is not interested in funding this position. Maybe this becomes a Legislative issue where communities like Petersburg who want to improve our local law enforcement situation receive some form of increased revenue sharing to help fund performing this Department of Law function. We need to talk to our legislators and neighbors to see if this is a possibility or if there is any interest in this approach.

Again, we thank you for your support and appreciate any action your office can take to further the forward progress on this issue. The City of Petersburg believes that this is a very important issue and one in which it will take all parties to adequately solve.

Al Dwyer

Mayor, City of Petersburg

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