Angoon protests Admiralty Island annexation

Matthew Carlson, 35, beats a drum and sings Tlingit songs in protest on Jan. 22, 2018 on Egan Drive in Juneau. Carlson, who lives in Juneau but is originally from Angoon, was protesting the City and Borough of Juneau’s plans to annex parts of Admiralty Island. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)

Snow blanketed two adults and three children holding signs and singing in Tlingit at the base of the Douglas Bridge today.

Listen now

Matthew Carlson, 35, is originally from Angoon. He said Angoon elders worked hard to get the federal government to create Admiralty Island National Monument in 1978.

“Since then it was put on the back burner by the (City and) Borough of Juneau and now that it’s 2018, it seems like it’s now on the front burner,” Carlson said.

A delegation from Angoon is protesting the City and Borough of Juneau’s attempt to annex parts of Admiralty Island. It’s up for public hearing and possible vote this evening by the Juneau Assembly. The City of Angoon passed a resolution last spring opposing Juneau’s annexation plan and sent a letter of protest. And Angoon’s mayor will address the Juneau Assembly directly this evening.

“These are actual leaders of Angoon who on their accord made it to here to show up to the city council meeting starting at 7 o’clock,” Carlson said. “And they will be having a presence there.”

In the meantime, Carlson and his friends are taking to social media to try and get the word out.

“We’ve reached out through Facebook ‘NO ANNEX on Admiralty‘ and it’s spread the word across, it’s probably still under 100 likes and shares but throughout time, it’s going to multiply,” Carlson said.

The Juneau Assembly is looking to expand in four areas. Three would enlarge its footprint on Admiralty Island. Assembly action wouldn’t make this a done deal. Annexation petitions are reviewed by the state’s Local Boundary Commission. And its ruling would still need to go before the Alaska Legislature.

Some Angoon residents are wary of Juneau annexing a tract just south of Hecla’s Greens Creek Mine. This tract was added to the annexation plan by the Juneau Assembly at a committee meeting earlier this month.

“I’m sure the mine is hoping to get some expansion, so that they can mine farther and lay more tailing out,” Joe Zuboff said.

Zuboff is a Juneau resident originally from Angoon. He said people in his hometown worry that Juneau’s annexation could simplify Hecla’s expansion. That’s something many in Angoon don’t want.

“The delegation is in town is just now banding together to hopefully put a stop to annexing any more land,” Zuboff said. “Admiralty Island is a national monument. We don’t need to throw more tailings all over the place.”

The predominately silver-producing mine is within Admiralty Island National Monument but outside the monument’s designated wilderness area, which restricts development. Any new lands annexed by Juneau would be within this wilderness.

“We do not have any ability to develop on the surface in that area,” Mike Satre said. Satre manages government and community relations for Greens Creek Mine.

So no surface mining in wilderness areas. But what about under wilderness areas?

“We … potentially could follow our existing extra-lateral rights from our patented claims if they happen to trend that way,” Satre said.

The other tracts in the annexation plan are largely uninhabited. They’re used by guides for bear viewing and hunting and fishing trips.

The tract around Funter Bay is also controversial. It has more than a dozen seasonal cabins whose landowners have overwhelmingly objected to being added to the tax rolls. Many of whom are also expected at the Juneau Assembly meeting tonight at 7 p.m.

Juneau city officials have said the annexation fits with state guidance on model borough boundaries, and that annexation would preclude other local governments from annexing it themselves.

Editor’s note: This story has been expanded with more background on Angoon’s opposition and comment from Hecla Mining Co.

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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