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State Efforts Lead to Timber and Mining Jobs for Alaskans

September 28, 2010, Juneau, Alaska - Governor Sean Parnell welcomed the official opening of the Kensington gold mine 45 miles northwest of Juneau, saying the administration's aggressive strategy in initiating or intervening in lawsuits is having the desired effect of protecting resource development jobs in Alaska.

The governor also hailed a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess upholding the Forest Service's decision on the Slake and Diesel timber sales on Prince of Wales Island. That ruling, sought by the Department of Law, likely prevents the Viking Lumber Co. from being forced out of business.

"The opening of the Kensington mine, with the creation of hundreds of well-compensated jobs, and the favorable timber ruling demonstrate why the State of Alaska should not hesitate to intervene in cases that threaten to cripple our ability to develop our resources responsibly," Governor Parnell said.

The Department of Law played a key role in ensuring that the Kensington mine could open, intervening to challenge a lawsuit brought by environmental groups. The state and Coeur D'Alene Mines Corp. took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, after the federal regulatory agency with jurisdiction over the project declined to do so. The court ruled in the state's favor on interpreting the federal Clean Water Act.

The governor also noted the decades of work by Coeur D'Alene and the community of Juneau.

The state also fought environmentalists on the timber sales, which authorized the logging of 3,422 acres of forest and the construction of five miles of permanent roads and 17 miles of temporary roads as part of the project known as "Logjam." Judge Burgess rejected arguments that the federal government failed to adequately address wolf mortality and impacts on deer and the aquatic environment.

At stake was the future of the Viking Lumber Co., a family-owned small business that has been one of the largest year-round employers on Prince of Wales Island since 1994. More than 100 jobs in Alaska and Washington state were at risk.

The governor noted that the Southeast communities affected by these projects came together with a demonstration of support that included municipalities, tribal organizations and Native corporations, as well as business and civic groups.

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