Sealaska defends Kookesh; continues land effort

Sealaska Corporation says alleged threats made by its board chairman will not derail efforts to get a lands-selection bill through Congress.
Albert Kookesh, also a state senator, was part of a corporate delegation visiting a recent Craig City Council meeting. Sealaska officials pushed local leaders to support its proposed takeover of valuable timberlands on Prince of Wales Island.
Kookesh angered some by suggesting state funding for city projects could be tied to support for the bill.
In an interview with CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld, Sealaska C-E-O Chris McNeil says the comment was unfortunate. But it wasn’t a threat.
Kookesh has not commented on his statements to Craig’s City Council. That’s because he expects to face legislative ethics charges for his comments.
The lands-selection bill would transfer 65,000 to 85,000 acres of Tongass National Forest to the corporation. In exchange, Sealaska would give up claims to other lands it could select without Congressional action.
The bill has received only one hearing. Opponents say it would remove valuable forest habitat and popular recreation areas from the public land base. Opposition in Craig comes in part because it would keep a local mill from accessing timber it hopes to cut.Related Link: Hear a report on Kookesh’s comments to the Craig City Council.

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