Opinion: Frank Murkowski’s vision for Southeast Alaska takes us in the wrong direction

Murkowski fails to look beyond the roads we’ve already traveled.

  • By MEREDITH TRAINOR
  • Monday, May 13, 2019 2:01pm
  • Opinion
Meredith Trainor. (Courtesy Photo)

Meredith Trainor. (Courtesy Photo)

In a recent Empire interview, former Gov. Frank Murkowski weighed in on all things Southeast Alaska, timber and roads, sharing a “vision” for Southeast that fails to look beyond the roads we’ve already traveled.

The elder Murkowski asserted that timber and roads are our economic future, that “Outside interests” inform efforts to preserve the Roadless Rule, and contemplated Alaska’s current economic predicament, commenting “without a strong economy, the state can’t exist.”

On that last point, we agree. Alaska needs a strong economy, and the current governor lacks the vision to build one. Where Murkowski and I differ, is on a vision for how we get there.

My organization, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, turns 50 years old this year, and was created by a hardy group of geographically remote Southeast Alaskans, who in the early days of industrial logging, witnessed sweeping clearcuts peeling back the forest in Southeast, and realized that if they didn’t act quickly to protect their home, it was possible no one would.

[Congress attempts to strengthen Roadless Rule]

And so they organized. Southeast Alaskans reached out to their neighbors and other concerned individuals in communities throughout Southeast, forming a council to help them stop the big timber sales slated for the Tongass.

That organization grew and became the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, a robust and increasingly diverse group of Southeast Alaskans who help lead the fight to conserve Southeast on behalf of and for those who live here today, and will in the future — not as “Outside interests,” but as community advocates. We do so in part by protecting the Tongass, pushing back on timber sales and fighting to keep protections under the Roadless Rule.

In my job as executive director at SEACC, I have had the privilege of traveling throughout Southeast Alaska, spending time in communities of all sizes, connecting with SEACC’s many lifelong members and meeting new ones. These new SEACC supporters include young people — my peers — who are building their futures here and looking for leaders with vision to take us forward.

When I visit communities in Southeast, I always ask people I meet what they want from their political leaders and for their region, and what kind of opportunities they think will help their communities succeed.

[Environmental orgs sue Forest Service over ‘mammoth’ Southeast timber sale]

From political forums to informal encounters in restaurants, conversations over coffee to those held around bonfires on Southeast shores, I have never heard a Southeast Alaskan wish for a return to clearcut logging of the Tongass, or for more industrial timber jobs or logging roads. It just doesn’t happen. And I ask these questions of everyone — not just people I agree with.

Clearcut logging of old-growth forests is simply not a part of the lived experience of the vast majority of Southeast Alaskans in 2019, and is not a part of our vision for our future. Industrial clearcut logging made up less than 1 percent of both earnings and jobs in Southeast in 2018, and I can count on one hand the outspoken Southeast Alaskans who advocate for more industrial logging and logging roads on the Tongass: Murkowski and Jim Clark are two of them.

There is no clamor for expanded logging and logging roads in Southeast; there are just a few outsized voices with access and influence, chasing after an outdated dream.

Instead, when I meet with Southeast Alaskans, I hear concern for the places they love. I hear about a need for forest restoration, job training and retraining, tax credits and incentives for businesses, and for protections for tourism and fishing — the real drivers of the Southeast economy. I hear a need for a contemporary vision for economic development that is more responsive to our identity and values than that of the old banana republic days in Southeast.

Southeast Alaskans want well-paying jobs, a healthy forest and a resilient economy. In every community I visit, community members are starting small businesses working with their hands, our forest and their friends, building diverse local economies together.

These are all opportunities we could build toward, and that Sen. Lisa Murkowski could advocate for and support, if the Murkowskis would join the rest of Southeast in looking forward, instead of always looking backward.


• Meredith Trainor is the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, a nearly 50-year-old conservation nonprofit homegrown in the Tongass National Forest. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

Norwegian Cruise Lines announced in late August that it would donate a 2.9 acre plot of land owned by the cruise line since 2019 on Juneau's waterfront to Huna Totem Corporation to develop. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Aak’w Landing is Juneau’s most promising new project

Now, more than ever, our community needs the jobs, tax revenue, and stability…

t
Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

This photo available under a Creative Commons license shows a kelp forest. (Camille Pagniello)
Opinion: Indigenous-led mariculture and traditional economies set an example for our future

November is Native American Heritage Month, and traditional Indigenous knowledge is essential… Continue reading

Exhibit curator Ron Carver designed “Mỹ Lai – A Massacre Took 504 Souls, and Shook the World"  to progress from gruesome images to the soldiers who courageously intervened. And to those who made sure America and the world learned the truth. (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: The power in attempting to memorialize the truth

Real heroes emerge from horrific events.

t
Opinion: My Turn was right on the money

While I’ve never met Mr. Adler I share his concerns.

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Mayor and assembly must rein in the assessor’s office

The unconscionable way the assessor’s office is treating commercial property owners must end.

This photo shows Diane Kaplan at Silver Salmon Camp. (Courtesy Photo / Sven Haakanson)
Opinion: Exciting new beginnings — they always come with sad farewells

Perhaps now is the right time to hand off our creation to the next generation.

Most Read