State proposes regulations on logging herbicides

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The state is proposing regulations that would allow a Native-owned logging company to spray alder-killing herbicides on clear-cuts to help speed the reforestation cedar and spruce -- cash crops.

Klukwan Inc., however, would have ensure that no herbicides drift within 200 feet of a public drinking water source.

Also required would be a 35-foot pesticide-free zone around other water bodies and another buffer outside that area. The additional buffer's width would be negotiated between state officials and Klukwan based on the soils, the terrain and the type of herbicide to be used.

The rules would apply to any other forestry company wanting to spray herbicides.

Alaska's Environmental Conservation Department released the regulations in late March and asked the public to comment by May 1. After a draft proposal came out in November, the department received numerous letters, mostly attacking the idea of aerial spraying.

''We need to learn from the mistakes of the Lower 48,'' Pam Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics told the Anchorage Daily News. ''The state is making an unnecessary concession to industry by allowing the aerial application of these chemicals.''

Federal agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration have questioned the proposed rule. And local communities and tribes, particularly the Haida, oppose spraying on land where they subsistence hunt, fish and gather.

''This ruling could be catastrophic to our traditional way of life,'' said Becky Frank, president of the Hydaburg tribe.

Klukwan vice president, Tom Blanton, declined an interview request. Bill Thomas, a director and former chief executive, defended the proposal, saying Klukwan needs to follow its reforestation plans for Long Island, the heavily logged area the company wants to restore.

Long Island is Klukwan's land, private property, he said.

''It's a trespass if you come onto our land. So where's the problem?'' Thomas said. ''If people come onto our land, we ask them to leave. It's our liability.''

The Haida don't consider themselves trespassers. Before the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that created companies like Tlingit-owned Klukwan Inc., Long Island was Haida country.

Two ancient village sites and burial grounds used by Haidas remain on the island, about an hour boat ride from Hydaburg, said Cherilyn Holter, environmental planner for the Hydaburg Cooperative Association. The Haida still have summer fish camps on Long Island.

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