U.S. Agriculture Department official on roadless, Sealaska lands

One of the Department of Agriculture’s top officials travels through Southeast Alaska and the nation’s largest national forest over the next week.

U.S. Agriculture Department Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman arrives in Juneau on Saturday and then heads to Sitka and Ketchikan over the next several days. The culmination of the trip will be celebration of a stream restoration project in Craig next Thursday.

During a recent wide-ranging interview with Undersecretary Sherman, we asked him to comment on the Department’s legal plans since the Roadless Rule exemption was lifted for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The State of Alaska is appealing a District Court ruling essentially setting aside the exemption. A group of Southeast businesses and organizations are intervening on the side of the state – saying application of the roadless rule could prevent development of hydroelectric projects and restrict the timber and mining industries. Sherman says the thrust of their Alaska legal case will be up to the Solicitor general.

Among many of the department’s issues ar the latest bills that would devote land from the land from the Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska corporation to make up for shortcomings in selections under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

We’ve aired many stories previously documenting views of Sealaska corporation, the congressional delegation, environmentalists, and Southeast residents. But little from the current landlord. The Agriculture Department also says they have some issues they’d like to iron out before a transfer. During that recent interview with Undersecretary Sherman, we also asked him to comment on the latest versions of the land selection bills.

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