- Associated Press - Thursday, April 13, 2017

PETERSBURG, Alaska (AP) - U.S. Rep. Don Young said his bill that could give Alaska thousands of square miles of a national forest would not result in the loss of federal money.

The congressman argued in favor of the bill before an audience in Petersburg Monday, KFSK-FM reported (https://bit.ly/2oCPGSy). The bill would allow the state to select or purchase up to 3,125 square miles (8,094 square kilometers) of Tongass National Forest land for uses such as logging.

“The Tongass was not allowed to be selected lands when we became a state,” Young explained. “We were allowed 103 million acres of land as a state, of our selection of lands that were not reserved at that time and the Tongass was reserved. So the only land you have are the communities themselves.”

Petersburg’s borough assembly passed a resolution in opposition to his bill earlier this month. The resolution cited concerns over state management of the forest land, potential loss of federal funding and U.S. Forest Service jobs.

The Petersburg borough receives payment in lieu of taxes since the borough cannot collect tax on the federal land. It has also received money for schools and road work under the Secure Rural Schools Act. Officials say the act has given hundreds of millions of dollars to rural communities surrounding National Forests.

Young said that his bill will not change anything.

“You won’t lose any money,” Young said. “If you lose any money, if you lose any money from that selection, I won’t run again. OK? That’s how confident I am you’re not losing any money.”

Audience members credited Young for supporting funding for Essential Air Service, the Alaska Sea Grant programs and public broadcasting. Such programs are in danger of losing money under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.


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

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