One of the joys of air travel over Southeast Alaska is looking out of the window and, weather permitting, seeing the broad expanse of open land and sea below.

A much different experience is looking down on a map of Southeast Alaska that shows the patchwork of land ownership and jurisdictions here.

From the 17 million acres of the Tongass National Forest to the land held by the State of Alaska, Sealaska, Alaska Mental Health Trust, Cape Fox Corp., University of Alaska, municipalities and others, there many entities and interests involved in land ownership in the region. Trying to develop land management plans and projects across ownership/jurisdictional lines can be complicated.

Southeast Alaska isn’t alone in this. Cross-boundary/jurisdiction land management issues are common across Alaska and much of the western United States.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Western Governors’ Association is interested in identifying ways to improve the processes involved.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little is the current chairman of the association that represents the governors of the 22 westernmost states and territories, according to WGA information. That’s everything west of a line drawn down along the eastern borders of every state between and including North Dakota and Texas.

Little has launched a policy initiative titled “Working Lands, Working Communities” that’s intended to examine the “interdependent relationships between western communities, state and federal land resource management entities, as well as the role that local communities play in successful land planning and management processes.”

Started in September, the initiative has produced two workshops (one in Utah and one in Colorado) and a survey to agencies and stakeholders about land management and planning, cross-boundary collaboration, forest and rangeland management, and rural development.

The third workshop is scheduled for Tuesday in Ketchikan, hosted by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

According to WGA information, the Ketchikan workshop will involve federal, state and local policymakers and stakeholders discussing emerging issues, sharing success stories, and providing a “forum for the development of bipartisan strategies” to meet the initiative’s goals.

The day-long agenda has a variety of topics of interest to the Ketchikan area and beyond.

Roundtable topics include:

• Recreation and tourism challenges in accessing public lands.

• Rural workforce capacity.

• The future of mineral production and dependent economies.

• Building a resilient long-term timber supply.

• Fisheries and local water resource management.

• Supporting tribal engagement in long-term agreements.

• Overcoming barriers to cross-boundary land use planning.

Dunleavy is scheduled to provide introductory remarks.

Further information about the initiative, including overviews of the two previous workshops and the survey results, is available on the Western Governors’ Association website at

It’s good that an organization with this type of bipartisan membership is pursuing improvements on processes and flows of information.

As Southeast Alaskans know well, there always will be situations in which competing interests and values will clash, especially regarding access to and the development of public land. We also know how difficult it can be to bring the interested parties together to find workable pathways forward.

Gov. Little has laid out a difficult but worthy goal, and we look forward to hearing more from Tuesday’s workshop in Ketchikan.