ICYMI: Murkowski on the Great American Outdoors Act

Emphasizes Deferred Maintenance Backlogs, State-Side LWCF Program, Need for Offshore Revenue Sharing

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, earlier this week spoke on the Senate floor about the Great American Outdoors Act, which would help address deferred maintenance backlogs on federal land—including at National Parks and National Forests in Alaska—while providing greater funding for local recreational opportunities. In her floor remarks, Murkowski also highlighted the role of oil and gas revenue in funding conservation efforts and made the case for offshore revenue sharing to be incorporated into the bill.

Great American Outdoors Act Floor Speech 1

Click photo for video of Murkowski’s floor statement

On the “Great Outdoors” in Alaska: “I come from a state where we know a little bit about our great outdoors. I know we all like to advertise our scenery, the wildlife that we have – but, back in Alaska we have some pretty unrivaled scenery. We have the mountains. We’ve got the glaciers. We have some of our state’s most important natural features that have been conserved in some world-famous National Parks. From Katmai and Denali, to the Kenai Fjords, Wrangell-St. Elias, Glacier Bay, names that so many Americans know, and have visited or hope to one day visit.”

On Deferred Maintenance in Alaska: “In Alaska, the Park Service has about $106 million of deferred maintenance…$33 million of that is considered critical within Denali National Park. We have a pretty significant visitor center there, the Eielson Visitor Center, and the roof and the furnaces in various buildings need to be replaced. We’ve got a water treatment center at Wrangell-St. Elias headquarters that needs to be replaced…This current list of deferred maintenance does not account for some of the very major challenges that we’re facing in Alaska, like the situation with the Denali Road. It’s the only route in and out of the park. It needs substantial improvements, due to ongoing subsidence.”

On Oil and Gas and Conservation: “LWCF, and the fund that will help with our deferred maintenance, everything relies on oil and gas revenues. And so for as much vitriol as there may be out there and criticism as the industry takes, this might be a good time to recognize that oil and gas production generates federal revenues, and it’s these federal revenues that fund these conservation priorities. Priorities for dozens and dozens of members here on this floor, and priorities for hundreds of stakeholder groups.”

On the Land and Water Conservation Fund: LWCF’s state-side program recognizes the role that states play in facilitating recreational access, and leverages funds to build out those opportunities. We’ve certainly seen the benefit in Alaska. A few local examples: the state of Alaska has used LWCF matching funds to build ball fields in Utqiagvik, an accessible urban playground in Anchorage, a ski area in Cordova. But, I also continue to believe that LWCF’s ability to acquire new federal lands should be focused on the eastern states, where the proportion is dramatically lower. And I also believe that it is better, much better, much better to decide LWCF’s funding in the Appropriations process each year in the context of the rest of our nation's conservation and budgetary priorities, as opposed to mandatory funding.” 

On Her Desire to Offer Amendments: “I come at this debate from a very constructive place. I have some very common-sense ideas to expand the bill to include conservation-related priorities, priorities that make sense for Alaska, priorities that make sense for our states across the country…In states like Alaska, where we have significant federal lands already, it’s not that we need to be buying up additional lands…but we do need to help preserve those lands that we have now but that are subject to aggressive erosion. So, to be able to use funds from the LWCF accounts, to be able to deal with a coastal resilience initiative, is something that my colleagues from Louisiana, my colleague from Rhode Island, we’ve been talking about how we can help improve that. These discussions are not only timely, but smart policy.”

On Offshore Revenue Sharing: “I’d like to address the amendment that my colleague from Louisiana, Senator Cassidy, has filed and that I’m cosponsoring…It includes provisions that have been written by myself and Senator Sullivan to establish a revenue-sharing program specific to our state…Just like from onshore federal development, local governments and communities need to share in the revenues from offshore development. We’re the ones that host it. We bear the impacts. And the benefits the entire country derives from it simply wouldn’t be possible were it not for these host states.”

How Revenue Sharing Would Help Alaska: “We look specifically to the authorized purposes: coastal protection, conservation, and restoration. Assistance, including relocation for communities that are directly affected by coastal erosion, melting permafrost, and climate change-related losses. Another authorized use is mitigation of damage to fish, wildlife, and natural resources. Adaptation planning, vulnerability assessments, emergency preparedness to build healthy and resilient communities. The installation and operation of energy systems to reduce energy costs and greenhouse emissions, and then programs at institutions of higher education. If you support the Great American Outdoors Act, you will be able to support offshore revenue sharing and the significant environmental benefits that it would provide to the Gulf of Mexico and to the state of Alaska.”

Related Issues: Energy