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March 26, 2004 - Native corporation forges ahead with herbicide plan

A Southeast Native village corporation is moving ahead with plans to spray herbicides on its forest land, despite local concerns about the effects on human health.

Long Island Trust, created in 1997 by Haines-based Klukwan Inc., has asked for a state permit to spray chemicals on 2,000 acres on Long Island near Hydaburg. The permit application follows new state regulations that allow aerial herbicide spraying for forestry purposes.

Klukwan's president, Tom Crandall, declined to comment Thursday.

The herbicides Klukwan intends to use, also known as glyphosate and imazapyr, kill brush while allowing other plant species to grow more rapidly. In Klukwan's case, the company wants to control alder and salmonberry, considered weeds, and stimulate growth of spruce, hemlock and cedar.

Two decades ago Klukwan logged the forest it acquired under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 and the firm now wants to turn the clear-cuts into marketable timber faster than if the trees were allowed to naturally regenerate. It could employ people with chain saws to clear the brush but chemicals are a cheaper and faster approach.

Aerial herbicide spraying is rare in Alaska.

The state has issued only three such permits ever, including just one for forest management. In the early 1990s, Port Graham's Native village corporation and Monsanto Corp. got a permit to spray herbicides from aircraft on test plots on a Kenai Peninsula clear cut. But high winds ended up scuttling the effort, which had been appealed by environmental groups.

Critics say Port Graham's experience underscores how inaccurate aerial spraying can be. State assurances that streams, lakes and oceans will be protected by a required 35-foot, pesticide-free zone along water bodies are ridiculous, said Michelle Wilson with Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

Last week, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, the village's tribal government, passed a resolution condemning Klukwan's plans. Adrian LeCornu, tribal administrator, said Klukwan should rethink plans to apply herbicides during the prime season for fishing and gathering.

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