Aug. 23, 2001 The Voice Of The Times gives a boost to a Ketchikan booster

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

A Ketchikan woman has challenged The Washington Post on a recent article the newspaper carried about a pending timber sale on Gravina Island, near Ketchikan.

Several national environmental organizations have chosen the Gravina timber sale as one of their prime targets. They want any timber sale headed off and Gravina declared officially a roadless area. The Bush administration is reviewing the logging ban in roadless areas declared by President Clinton.

The Forest Service estimates that the Gravina timber sale would support 346 jobs for several years and pump about $15 million into the regional economy.

After the article appeared, Ketchikan businesswoman Ernesta Ballard fired off a letter telling the Post that its article -- written by a staff reporter -- ''did not meet the high standards of investigative reporting to which you normally aspire.'' Ms. Ballard was regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency under President Ronald Reagan.

Among other things, she wrote the Post: ''You missed the fact that Gravina Island has been logged before. You missed the fact that roads have previously been built on Gravina that are now impassable due to regrowth within the rights of way.

''You missed the fact that the proposed timber sale would extend over less than 4 percent of Gravina's 61,000 acres. You missed the fact that the United States Forest Service carefully followed its own excellent guidelines to protect archaeological sites on Gravina before proposing the timber harvest sites . . . (as well as) guidelines to protect subsistence fishing and gathering on Gravina.

''. . . The conclusions drawn by your reporter reflect sentiment, not reality. Ketchikan, Alaska, no more and no less than the rest of the nation, is home to people with a variety of values and world views. Each must plan for the future and find a way to put food on the table.

''The hopes and dreams of civic leaders in Ketchikan for development and prosperity are no different than those expressed by thousands like them throughout the world. Your reporter's ridicule of those visions in favor of your own beliefs about what is best for others belongs on your editorial page. It is not news.''

Well said, Ernesta Ballard.

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