Logs cut on the Lindenberg Peninsula of Kupreanof Island near Petersburg are trucked to the Wrangell Narrows and barged south to a sawmill. (KFSK file photo)

Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday came out against a bill that could transfer up to two million acres of the Tongass National Forest to the state of Alaska.

The bill is sponsored by Alaska Congressman Don Young and would allow states to select or purchase the forest land for logging or other uses.
The assembly heard from borough residents opposed to Young’s bill. Many were concerned with the potential impact of logging on salmon streams.

“The idea of squeezing this last money out of the forest where a lot of it’s already given up a lot of the old growth logging really you should really examine what the risks are when you’re gonna go down that road,” said troller and former state sport fish biologist Doug Fleming. “There’s been plenty of work done to show how habitat loses out and it’s a longer term effect than the short term gain from taking the wood out.”

Assembly members were considering a resolution against the federal legislation, called HR 232. The local resolution notes that most of the land in the Petersburg borough is National Forest land. It notes that having the state select that land could end federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILT, funding along with Secure Rural Schools payments that help fund the schools.

Jeigh Stanton Gregor said he agreed with most of the local testimony against the bill. “I think HR 232 is terrible for Alaska,” Stanton Gregor said. “I think it’s terrible for Southeast Alaska and bringing it home I think it’s terrible for the community of Petersburg. I see very little if any redeeming qualities to it. I’ll definitely be voting for this resolution.”

The resolution was revised after some on the assembly had concerns with the original version during a meeting in March. Mayor Mark Jensen did not support the resolution last month or this month. “If this bill 232 did go through which I don’t feel it probably will pass Congress, but I don’t know that PILT would totally disappear,” Jensen said. ‘I can’t believe that they’re gonna take, if it passed, 232, they’re gonna take all two million acres out of the Petersburg borough.”

The vote was 5-1 with Jensen the only no vote. Jensen attended the meeting by phone and assembly member Eric Castro was not at the meeting. Young plans a visit to Petersburg next Monday, April 10.