Federal Government Has Failed to Keep Promises Made in ANILCA

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called for the federal government to live up to the promises made in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), legislation that was signed into law 35 years ago that has helped protect many of Alaska’s most treasured lands.

Click photo to view video of Murkowski’s opening statement.

“The 35th anniversary of ANILCA is an opportunity to examine how the law has – and has not – worked for Alaskans and all Americans. This is also a perfect moment to reassert that the law must be implemented as it was written, not as federal agencies wish it were written. And that means the federal government must honor rural preference, protect subsistence rights, provide Alaskans with access to our lands, and allow us to responsibly develop our resources,” said Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

ANILCA protected over 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska, doubling the size of the country’s national park and refuge system, and tripling the amount of land designated as wilderness. Overall, the act designated roughly 57 million acres of Alaska as formal wilderness.

In exchange for withdrawing so much of Alaska, ANILCA included a lot of promises with respect to Alaska’s rights, to allow residents access to inholdings, and to provide continued use of federal lands for recreation, hunting, and the pursuit of economic prosperity. Unfortunately, Murkowski said, those promises have not been kept.

Click photo to view video of Murkowski asking Alaska state Sen. John Coghill about ANILCA’s broken promises.

Murkowski highlighted ANILCA’s “no more” clause, which prohibits the president from ever again using the Antiquities Act to create new monuments in Alaska without congressional approval, as just one of the broken promises.

“More than 40 million more acres of Alaska have been withdrawn or proposed for protection over the past seven years, including half of our National Petroleum Reserve and almost all of ANWR, clearly undercutting ANILCA’s ‘no more’ clause. Nearly 15 million acres have been removed from the timber base in our national forests, contributing to the demise of an industry that once employed thousands in Southeast,” Murkowski said. “It’s clear that the federal government, in ways large and small, is trampling state sovereignty over state lands and private sovereignty over private lands in Alaska.”

Murkowski convened Thursday’s oversight hearing on ANILCA to receive input from Alaskans and others with an interest in how the law has and has not worked. Witnesses underscored the federal government’s lack of balance in the law’s implementation and said the two greatest reforms were language guaranteeing no more land withdraws and access to existing conservation units.

“The federal government is changing its interpretations of ANILCA to suit itself, with bureaucrats seeking to apply the law as they would have written it, but not as it was agreed to by Congress and President Carter. As that happens, no one in Washington, D.C. ever seems to hear the Alaskans who are needlessly impacted by the loss of access, rights, and opportunities that inevitably follow,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski asked each witness at Thursday’s hearing what improvements Congress could enact that would make ANILCA work better for the people who actually live there. The response she received from Alaska state Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole; Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Rod Arno of the Alaska Outdoor Council, and other witnesses was an end to federal land withdraws and a guarantee of access to existing conservation units.

Click photo for video of Murkowski asking witnesses on restoring balance to ANILCA.

“My hope is that this hearing will serve as a starting point to make ANILCA work better for Alaskans, even as we protect our natural treasures and the subsistence rights of Alaska Natives,” Murkowski said.

Full archived video of Thursday’s hearing, as well as witness testimony, is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.

Click photo for video of Murkowski questioning Gov. Walker on federal implementation of ANILCA.

Click on the links for video of the opening statements from U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Gov. Bill Walker; Alaska state Sen. John Coghill; Rod Arno of the Alaska Outdoor Council; Joshua Kindred of the Alaska Oil and Gas Council; and J.P. Tangen.