A bill allowing a private Native corporation to pick choice lands in the nation's largest national forest is crucial to saving Southeast Alaska's timber industry, Sen. Lisa Murkowski told a Senate committee.

Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Wednesday that her bill conveying about 80,000 acres in the Tongass National Forest to Sealaska Corp. has seen 150 changes since 2008, and it's time to act on it.

"The timber industry in Southeast Alaska is hanging by a thread," Murkowski told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where she is the ranking member. "Without passage of this bill, Alaska will likely be forced out of the timber industry."

Sealaska is owed the acreage under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. What makes the Murkowski-sponsored bill controversial is that it would allow Sealaska, which has nearly 20,000 shareholders, to choose lands outside areas designated by the act.

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