PETERSBURG, Alaska — Petersburg Borough officials are seeking a land exchange to stop the Alaska Mental Health Trust from logging on a steep hillside where there’s been several landslides.

Residents and homeowners are concerned about the increased risk of landslides if the slopes are logged, KFSK-FM reported (http://bit.ly/2c6yo8j). The Petersburg Assembly Borough addressed those concerns in a letter to the trust board, the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

The action comes after the board announced plans in August to log trust-owned lands near Petersburg and Ketchikan if a land exchange does not get Congressional approval in January. Sullivan has said he does not know if lawmakers would support the land exchange.

Local resident David Beebe sees Mental Health’s ultimatum as “extortion.”

“These are threats to public safety, and our citizens’ home, and private property, our local economy, their highways and other public and private infrastructure,” Beebe said.

Homeowners along Mitkof Highway near the proposed logging site have documented landslides over the past three decades and say logging in the area will increase the risk for slides. They have been fighting against Mental Health logging plans for about ten years.

The trust board decided to proceed with the timber sales plan over concerns that southeast Alaska’s declining timber industry would make their land “valueless” if not logged on. The trust land office funds mental health programs throughout Alaska using land and resources granted by the state.

During Tuesday’s meeting, assembly members agreed to include in the letter an option to lobby for a buyout of the land by the federal government through an endowment. The option was presented by resident Becky Knight, who said Sen. Lisa Murkowski could work on the deal with the Alaska Mental Health Trust.


Information from: KFSK-FM, http://www.alaska.net/~kfsk/