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This week Ketchikan achieved two milestones — one preserved Deer Mountain timber and the other officially named the Alaska Marine Highway System’s newest vessels.
Ketchikan is ecstatic about the mountain and extremely pleased for AMHS.
It’s really remarkable to witness the former occurring as quickly as it did — at least since the Alaska Mental Health Trust provided the incentive. Particularly, in that legislative agreement at both the state and national levels these days is infrequent.
But Juneau and Washington, D.C., delivered for Ketchikan and Deer Mountain.
The Trust, which owned property on the mountain, had been trying for about a decade to trade its Deer Mountain timberland for other land with harvest potential. It finally announced it would sell its Deer Mountain timber for harvest.
This caused a local uproar, of course.
An effort to save Ketchikan’s scenic backdrop from logging sprung up, and local, state and national leaders heard and responded. Congress OK’d a land trade in May and the state Legislature did the same, with Gov. Bill Walker signing off on it here Thursday.
As a result, the logging industry will have timber to harvest — elsewhere. Ketchikan will retain Deer Mountain in its current stateliness, and the Trust will be able to generate revenue through a timber sale to benefit its services for mentally impaired Alaskans.
It’s a story with a happy ending. It illustrates that when politicians are appropriately motivated by the people they serve, they can deliver. The key component is that parties at all levels — local, state and national, Democrat, Republican and Independent — agreed on what the outcome had to be and then devised a way to achieve it.
Think of the possibilities if such could be achieved on state budget deficits, natural resource development, health care, immigration and a myriad of other issues.
Perhaps a new legislative approach should be considered. For example, that of naming the two new AMHS ferries.
The names were the result of an Alaska student essay contest.
The M/V Hubbard is the idea of Taylor Thompson of Eagle River High School.
Thompson wrote: “The Hubbard Glacier was named after Gardiner Greene Hubbard in 1980. He was an amazing man who accomplished great things in his lifetime such as co-founding the National Geographic society and helping found Clarke School for the Deaf. This man was so outstanding that he had may places and geographical figures named after him as a sign of honor. Since it seems as though Hubbard Glacier took on some traits of its namesake, I can’t help but assure that a ferry would be afforded some of the same magic.”
Malea Voran, a seventh-grader at Tanalian School in Port Alsworth. Wrote the essay that resulted in the M/V Tazlina, a Ahtna Athabaskan name. In the essay, she concluded: “One of these ferries should be named the Tazlina in honor of the glacier. This name would remind us that even small things are capable of doing big things. This small boat could be named after something big and inspiring. If the one of these new ferries were named the Tazlina, it would be named after a glacier that inspires awe.”
Gov. Walker announced the winners — clearly excellent choices well received.
Both new ferries are being built at Ketchikan Shipyard.
All of this is significant to the local economy. Certainly, ship building provides work, as will timber harvest. The Trust employs local people. And Ketchikan’s green foliage peak is attractive not only to locals but the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the community during the spring and summer tourist season, which creates jobs — some of which carry through the year.
Just think of the economic opportunities to come if and when the powers that be work together, as they did on the Deer Mountain and ferry issues, to make it happen. The possibilities are endless.