“Let Them Cut Wood” in the Forests of Western Alaska.
The legislative session ends today, but the fun continues right to the bitter end.
Residents of rural Alaska were interested to note that Rep. Mike Kelly (R) from Fairbanks (who won the election by one vote), is irritated with the idea of appropriating state energy assistance money to rural Alaska and suggested that people shouldn’t rely on state aid, but instead should “cut wood.”
If you are picturing the rural villages of Western Alaska with dwellings nestled among stands of large hardwood trees and dense foliage, you may now disavow yourself of that supposition. In places like Emmonak, which has a few scrubby alders, and vast areas of flat swampiness as far as the eye can see, they wait for flooding to carry logs down the river sometimes. Otherwise, it’s a long labor intensive trip via fuel powered snowmachine, lots of manual labor, and a bunch of time using a fuel powered chainsaw to get the wood, which has to be hauled for long distances by sled, ready to use. So all this wood ends up with a huge carbon footprint, lots of time, and needs a strong healthy person on the working end.
So why would Rep. Kelly say, in essence, “Let them cut wood?” It’s surely not to endear himself to rural residents that don’t have wood.
He said there are other programs for people who are needy and “not for any layabouts.”
“I’d rather tell the guy, go out there and cut your own wood or do something for yourself. … I don’t know how many of the 200-plus villages have a wood supply within a rock toss, but there’s a lot of them because I’ve been to a lot of them,” he said.
Guess all those elders (aka “layabouts”) in the unresearched number of villages that don’t have a wood supply, or can’t get to one are just out of luck? Rep. Woodie Salmon, a Democrat from the village of Chalkyitsik, angrily responded that there have been millions of dollars in state subsidies for urban energy needs.
“They spent millions and millions of dollars on a coal plant, transmission lines, then they retire off the system, and then they don’t help the rural areas,” he said.
And we learn a lesson about why it’s good, if you’re a legislator, to do research first before you open your mouth and say stuff. (Especially if you’re working on a one vote margin) And we also are reminded why it makes sense to be investing money into sustainable, clean energy solutions for rural areas.