Anchorage Daily News 12/26/98

Research shortchanged

Sen. Frank Murkowski recently detailed his proposed legislation that would allow the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council to invest settlement funds in U.S. government securities. A portion of that legislation disallows the council from using any new money for land acquisition.

As an ex officio member of the public advisory group for this council, I expressed my concern about new major land purchases at our May 28 meeting and notified Sen. Murkowski of my support of his efforts in October.

The council has shortchanged research to fund land acquisition. Alaska will be poorer if the council continues to buy more land at the expense of meaningful research that could keep Alaska at the forefront of marine science.

The council also continues to downplay its responsibility to deal with the spruce bark beetle problem it inherits with land purchases. It cannot ignore the continuing epidemic of spruce bark beetle damage to Alaska's forests and the fire risk that damage promises. On the one hand, it wants to acquire forested areas that were planned for timber harvest to protect the habitat of species dependent on the forest cover; but, on the other hand, it doesn't have a plan to protect that cover by reducing forest loss.

Recent research by an Extension Service forestry specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks indicates that beetle resistant trees could be a possibility. I encourage the council to consider funding this and other meaningful research.

Sen. Loren Leman

Be informed! Don't allow yourself to be snowed by CARA.

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