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Alaska Supreme Court halts ‘No Name Bay’ land transfer to mental health trust

No Name Bay on Kuiu Island in Southeast Alaska in 1992. (Photo by Skip Gray/Lighthawk)

Alaska’s highest court has sided with environmentalists: The state should not have turned over a swath of Southeast forestland to the Alaska Mental Health Trust for potential logging.

The case goes back to the 1990s, when a settlement directed the state to manage an approximately 3,400-acre tract on Kuiu Island for wilderness conservation and habitat.

But the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council says that in 2009, the state Department of Natural Resources began to quietly engineer a way to turn over the No Name Bay parcel to the mental health trust, which commercially logs in the region.

“And that’s when SEACC is like, ‘Whoa, that’s against the agreement that we have,’” said SEACC Executive Director Meredith Trainor.

The group filed a lawsuit in 2013 after it learned of the state’s intentions.

On Friday, the Alaska Supreme Court released a 51-page opinion. A majority of justices rejected a number of arguments by SEACC, but all agreed with a central charge: that the state violated public notice requirements when it tried to transfer the land without telling anybody.

It’s kicked the case back to the lower court to work out the details of what exactly happens next with the land.

But the bottom line, Trainor says, is the forestland around No Name Bay won’t be ceded to the mental health trust for potential clear cutting.

“Those lands provide important access to Kuiu Island for Southeast Alaskans who hunt, fish and recreate there,” she added. “It also includes key habitat for wildlife from deer to marten, otter, wolf, black bear, migratory waterfowl and of course, salmon.”

A spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources says the agency is still considering the decision.

“Until we’ve completed a careful review we cannot comment,” DNR spokesman Dan Saddler said in a statement.

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director based in Juneau. CoastAlaska is our partner in Southeast Alaska. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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