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By SAM STOCKBRIDGE
Daily News Staff Writer
Ketchikan Indian Community will become a cooperating agency with the Tongass National Forest on a proposed multi-year project on Revillagigedo Island, the U.S. Forest Service announced in a press release Monday.
The South Revillagigedo Integrated Resource Project will seek to restore forest and watershed areas, construct roads, harvest timber and develop recreational activities in the Tongass over the course of 15 years, according to the project website.
The proposed area for the project is near Shoal Cove and Shelter Cove, approximately 17 miles northeast of the City of Ketchikan, according to the website.
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart and KIC President Norman Skan signed a Memorandum of Understanding to complete the agreement on Nov. 18.
"As a cooperating agency, KIC will provide their specialized knowledge and expertise on land management, subsistence, traditional ecological knowledge and natural resources toward the development of the Environmental Impact Statement," the press release explained.
The Forest Service must consider proposals and environmental analysis from cooperating agencies "to the maximum extent possible consistent with its responsibility as lead agency," according to the Code of Federal Regulations.
That consideration was the focus of criticism in October, when six Southeast Alaska Native tribes wrote a letter to the Forest Service accusing the agency of ignoring their input as cooperating agencies on a proposed exemption for the Tongass from the 2001 Roadless Rule.
Both parties to the South Revilla project MOU expressed positive outlooks in Monday's press release.
"This MOU means we can continue to build on our relationship of trust and cooperation, by sharing skills and resources to help shape the environmental analysis," Stewart said.
Skan added: “Ketchikan Indian Community appreciates the commitment from the Tongass National Forest to work with our tribes. This government to government relationship strengthens our resolve to do what is right for the forest. We could not ask for a better partner in this endeavor."
The Forest Service expects to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Revilla project in January, according to scoping information for the project.