House Bill 155 Authorizes Land Swaps Between the Alaska Mental Health Land Trust and the U.S. Forest Service
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2017
JUNEAU – On Monday, Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) introduced House Bill 155, which details the process to swap lands between the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority and the U.S. Forest Service.
The Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority uses revenue from Trust-owned property and lands to provide funding for programs and services that benefit people with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injuries, and substance abuse disorders.
One piece of Trust-owned land is Ketchikan’s iconic Deer Mountain, which is currently being considered for logging.
“The vast majority of people of Ketchikan, including myself, are opposed to logging Deer Mountain,” said Rep. Ortiz. “This bill would allow for the preservation of Deer Mountain lands while making other lands of comparable value available to the timber industry.”
By exchanging Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority lands for lands of equal value from the U.S. Forest Service, the Trust Land Office will gain land that can be logged and bring in revenue directed to programs that serve Alaska’s most vulnerable populations. House Bill 155 includes a transaction of approximately 20,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land for 18,000 acres of Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority land. Lands affected by the legislation are in Ketchikan, Petersburg, Wrangell, Sitka, Juneau, and Meyers Chuck.
“Logging Alaska Mental Health Trust land not only funds important programs for Alaskans, it also sustains the timber industry. Current and upcoming logging projects act as a bridge to the timber industry until young growth timber is ready to be logged. Maintaining the timber industry is particularly beneficial to Southeast Alaska, and this bill would bring new logging jobs to Southeast,” said Rep. Ortiz. “I am excited about the potential of this bill to increase revenue for mental health programs and the timber industry while protecting iconic lands, such as Ketchikan’s Deer Mountain.”
House Bill 155 is the state match for federal legislation sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski and Representative Don Young.
HB 155 was formally introduced on Monday and was referred to the House Resources and Finance Committees.
For more information, please contact Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 465-3824.