The Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office is no longer pursuing action toward timber sales on Deer Mountain or land in Petersburg.
The Trust board meets next week – Jan. 25th and 26th – and in the meeting packet is a memo from TLO Executive Director John Morrison. He writes that while a federal land exchange deal wasn’t approved by Congress during its last session, he is confident that the reintroduced bill will pass this year.
Therefore, Morrison writes, TLO staff members are now focused on helping that bill make it through, and on introducing a complimentary bill in the state Legislature.
Last summer, Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office announced that it planned to move forward with logging Deer Mountain and the Petersburg site if the land exchange wasn’t approved by earlier this month. After public outcry and questions about the TLO’s decision-making process, a final decision on that plan was delayed.
The federal legislation would put Mental Health Trust land on Deer Mountain and above homes in Petersburg under U.S. Forest Service control. In exchange, the Trust would receive federal land on Prince of Wales Island and in Ketchikan’s Shelter Cove area for logging.
The TLO’s decision to focus on the exchange and stop pursuing timber harvest on the controversial sites doesn’t mean it can’t happen. If the land trade is rejected or delayed by Congress, the state agency could still bring back the option of logging Deer Mountain.