By , November 17, 2017

Today, my comments on the proposed University of Alaska Timber Sale on our peninsula will get mailed.

I have written some difficult letters in my life, but this one may have been the hardest.

I had to ultimately answer this question: how does one who has chosen quality of life over quantity of goods and funds sway the opinions of those who choose the opposite? It seems the University’s Board of Regents has one primary responsibility, which is to make money for the University of Alaska. When you know the price of everything, what do you care for those who value other than material wealth?

sunlight through trees

Sunlight through our homestead trees (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

(If this subject seems new to you, catch up by reading Something New to Worry About.)

I don’t think I found an answer, but I’ve found new resolve. This comes from a basic question:

What Alaskan, or any American for that matter, would fail to fight for what she/he holds dear? And, who can fault them for that?

So, my letter points out that only someone who benefits directly from the enterprise would tolerate an operation like logging (or any neighborhood-altering private enterprise abutting one’s property) adjacent to one’s home. After all, what could be more precious to anyone than their home and their family’s well being?

sunlight through trees

(Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

I didn’t explicitly state this in the letter, but I am taking the NIMBY position—”Not In My Backyard.”

NIMBY is one of those terms we commonly throw around without thinking carefully about exactly what it means. The acronym actually stands for those who advocate and/or lobby for a change, but balk when achieving their goal effects them too closely. A classic example would be a man who cries out for electricity in his neighborhood, but doesn’t want the high tension wires that deliver that electricity passing over his house.

Too often, this concept gets extrapolated to too-broad generalities. For instance, a less thoughtful person might ask me if I use lumber, then criticize me because I do, but don’t want the lot next door logged. Obviously, this could apply to anyone. Under this wide definition, we are all of us, every single one, NIMBYs.

Sadly, I represent a minority opinion, particularly in Haines. Supposedly, commentary on the sale runs almost 80% positive. This implies that plenty of people weighing in are avidly in favor of this sale, while the tiny minority who will be effected personally must, as one Assembly member implied, sacrifice their personal values for the greater good of the borough.

sunlight through trees

Thankfully, the trees in these photos belong to us, and are not subject to logging. But, these views are typical on the peninsula (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The sale raises many questions. I have to wonder: will the successful bidder be concerned with Native heritage sites in the lots? State law requires that such sites be preserved, but our university does not appear to have a policy on this.

We’re finally seeing a sharp increase in our local deer population, many of which swim north and come ashore just south of one lot’s border. They live in or pass through many of the lots in the sale on their way toward Haines. Eventually, that population might stabilize to the point where Hainesites can legally hunt them. How many years would logging these lots delay that future stabilization?

If logging does take place, will the buyer process the trees at our local mills, or will they ship them elsewhere?

It seems there’s a lot more at stake here than a few thousand board feet of raw lumber.

If you want to weigh in on this, you can express your opinion using the information here. This seems to be the most accurate information, despite possible change of address recently. Just to be safe, I intend to email them the text of my letter in addition to mailing ahead of the deadline. Comment period ends November 22nd, 2017.

So, call me a NIMBY if you want; I’ve been called worse. And again, what sort of Alaskan—or American—would I be if I were unwilling to advocate for my land and my family?

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