Federal Government Has Failed to Keep ANILCA Promises
December 05, 2015
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called for the federal government to live up to the promises made to Alaskans in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).
In exchange for turning 104 million acres of Alaska into national parks and preserves, national forests, and national fish and wildlife preserves, including 50 million acres of wilderness designations, the 1980 act stipulated that Alaska would give “no more” and promised to maintain Alaskans access to the lands, and the state’s sovereign right to manage fish and game on those lands. A number of prominent Alaskans, including Governor Bill Walker, testified before the committee on Thursday that those promises have not been kept.
Governor Walker traveled to Washing to testify before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the implementation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980. During his testimony, Governor Walker provided the committee with the state’s perspective on the Act’s impacts, and talked about Alaska’s need to be self-sufficient by developing its natural resources.
“I thank Senator Lisa Murkowski and members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for inviting me, Senator John Coghill and other Alaskans to speak before them today on such an important topic,” said Governor Walker. “When Alaska became a state, we were told we would not get an I-5 or the kind of infrastructure other states had. We were told we must live off our resources. That was the deal we made. However, that was with the assumption that we would be allowed to develop our resources. The federal government has not upheld its end of the bargain.”
During his testimony to the Committee, Governor Walker said Alaska had not always benefited from two key provisions of ANILCA – balance and compromise. Section 1002 of the Act outlined a process by which the state could extract petroleum from the coastal plain of ANWR, an area that makes up only eight percent of the entire Refuge. Today, the state is seeking access to only half of the 1002 region, or just four percent of the Refuge. However, while the state has been eager to responsibly develop oil reserves in the region, it has been denied access by the federal government.
“When I deal with budget deficits, I look at not being able to fund certain things we have historically been able to fund in our great state,” Governor Walker said. “Onshore, there are potentially billions of barrels of oil that are within less than 50 miles of an existing oil pipeline that is three-quarters empty. It is very frustrating that we cannot have access to four percent of the 1002 area that was specifically set aside to be evaluated for resource development.”
Governor Walker also highlighted the importance of giving the residents of King Cove a road to Cold Bay Airport, as the very lives of community members depend on that access.
When asked by Senator Murkowski what the impacts would be if the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline was no longer in operation, Governor Walker told the committee it would be detrimental to the state.
“No longer running oil through our pipeline would turn our state into something we have not seen since prior to Statehood,” said Governor Walker. “And what a shame it would be, because it is not for a lack of resources, but a lack of access to our resources. I’m committed to working to ensure our people have access to all of our resources—whether it is oil, gas, minerals or timber.”
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, pointed out to colleagues that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) is a law with national implications and not only affects Alaskans.
At the committee hearing on Dec. 3rd, the 35th anniversary of the law’s enactment, Sen. Cantwell reminded colleagues of the implications nationwide of this important conservation law – be they economical, ecological or environmental.
These visitors come from all over the world, wanting to visit the national parks protected by ANILCA. These lands also provide important economic benefits via the outdoor recreation economy. In Alaska, outdoor recreation activities support more than 90,000 direct jobs and more than $9.5 billion in consumer spending said Sen. Cantwell/
The law also protects remote lands, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which safeguards intact, Arctic ecosystems, as well as fish and wildlife habitat and migration routes. The fish and wildlife are not only essential for subsistence, but produce opportunities for hunting and fishing. Many of the ecosystems protected by ANILA include streams and rivers that play a significant role in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, supporting 20,000 direct jobs and affecting the commercial fishing of the state of Washington, Sen. Cantwell said.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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