The Sealaska board of directors recently combined the Lands Committee and Sealaska Timber board into the Natural Resources Committee and I have the honor as serving as the first chair. The committee is responsible for all land-based policy, guiding principles for land management and most importantly to ensure the Native ownership and proper care of Sealaska lands in perpetuity.
Our Southeast Alaska traditional homelands are the cornerstone of our existence, a relationship so special it has survived millennia and thrives today. Sealaska will always invest in our lands to maintain a healthy, growing forest. When we consider a timber program, we also consider other opportunities that can positively benefit the region, with the most exciting being the development of a carbon sequestration project. We would like to construct a carbon project from our lands that will protect sensitive forests and provide financial benefit, while continuing to leave land available for our small-scale timber harvest that supports regional jobs.
Sealaska leadership has spent the last year strategizing to ensure a consistent smaller timber program can achieve profitability and support a meaningful industry for rural communities. Sealaska’s smaller annual harvest will be approximately 40-45 million board feet, 60 percent smaller than our historic average harvest. Our goal of a smaller sustainable cut, can support a stable, local workforce that can bridge our timber program to a second growth timber program. To create a stable industry that local communities can rely on for economic opportunities and jobs requires adequate and consistent timber.
Sealaska directors reaffirmed that Sealaska’s ANCSA lands are collectively owned by its shareholders and will be managed according to Native values. Landmark policy forever declares how Sealaska will protect and benefit from the land and lays out key priorities, including Sealaska’s continued commitment to Landless communities and Native veterans in Southeast Alaska.
Here are a few other recent committee highlights:
- Organizational restructure that increases collaboration and includes creation of, and approval for recruitment for, a Haa Aaní vice president position to lead our coordinated natural resource efforts
- Approval of Sealaska Timber’s 40 million board feet harvest plan in 2016
- Long-term planning that broadens opportunities from our lands and ties us more closely with our traditional communities
Community focus and one unified voice across our Haa Aaní operations will strengthen Sealaska. I look forward to reporting our progress.
Sealaska Natural Resources Committee Chair