A bill to fund the federal government through September is on the move in Congress, and it includes a land trade in Southeast Alaska.
The swap would exchange Alaska Mental Health Trust land near Ketchikan, Petersburg and other Southeast cities for about 20,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest. It would allow the Trust Land Office to gain logging revenues to pay for mental health programming without felling trees close to homes and communities.
The Trust’s plans to log areas near Ketchikan and Petersburg were strongly opposed by many community members.
Bob Weinstein of the Ketchikan-based group Save Deer Mountain says he’s pleased with the progress of the federal legislation.
“I think the decision to include the land exchange between Mental Health Trust and the Forest Service as a priority during the recent budget negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in Congress was a great decision,” he said. “The result that it’s actually included is a very good thing for Deer Mountain and the many people who enjoy it and wish to keep it the way it is today.”
Deer Mountain was one of the Alaska Mental Health Trust sites that had been threatened with logging.
A bill allowing the land trade is also moving through the state Legislature.
The federal spending bill is expected to pass the House this week. It covers the rest of this fiscal year. It does not include many of the domestic spending cuts President Trump proposed for FY2018.
The bill also would boost defense spending, including a 2.1 percent military pay increase.
It also has $150 million for pre-acquisition work on a heavy icebreaker for the Coast Guard.
(KRBD’s Maria Dudzak contributed to this report)