Murkowski Applauds Senate Passage of Interior Appropriations Bill

Improves Health, Safety and, Livelihoods of Alaskans

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded Senate passage of an Appropriations Package for Fiscal Year 2021, which included the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill. As chairman of the Interior Subcommittee, Murkowski crafted a bill which invests in health and wellness, reduces regulatory burdens, increases economic opportunity, improves Alaskans’ abilities to respond to natural disasters, support for the arts and humanities, and more.

“Building on my long-standing efforts to address issues of public safety in rural Alaska, including the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women, additional funding is included to support the BIA. Full funding is included for the PILT program which supports vital government services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. The bill invests in mineral security, aids Alaska’s timber industry, and supports Alaska’s public lands. To improve the health and safety of Alaskans the bill includes support for a Zero Suicide Initiative, alcohol and substance abuse prevention programs, and village built clinics,” said Senator Murkowski. “Throughout my time as chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I’ve worked hard to ensure the needs of Alaskans are well-represented. This year, with the added health and economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fiscal security and stability this bill brings is as important as ever.”

Click here for a full list of FY2021 Alaska Interior Appropriations Bill Highlights.

Investing in Clean Air, Water, and Land

The bill increases funding for Targeted Airshed Grants to ensure communities like Fairbanks have the resources to continue to reduce harmful levels of PM 2.5. The bill provides robust funding to improve wastewater and drinking water systems in rural Alaska as well as funding for technical assistance, training, and guidance to sanitation operators and communities in Native villages. The bill addresses PFAS contamination through funding to support state-led cleanup and remediation efforts of PFAS contaminated water sources, water systems, and lands as well as increased funding for USGS for testing and mapping of PFAS contamination. Funding also is included to conduct preliminary appraisal and valuation related to potential future land acquisitions in the Bristol Bay ecosystem.

Supporting Infrastructure Development 

The Interior bill fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program which provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands that are not subject to state or local taxation. The revenue helps local governments provide vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. The bill prioritizes infrastructure improvements on our nation’s public lands, which is key to both local visitors and the tourism sector and implements the Great American Outdoors Act and funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill provides the National Park System with an additional $100 million to address critical operations in our nation’s parks. The bill also includes funding for Forest Service (FS) recreation access – including cabins, trails, and campgrounds – and provides resources to help expand recreation-based businesses to operate in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests in Alaska.

Improving Health and Safety

The bill provides dedicated funding for 105 (l) tribal lease payments and maintains support for Village Built Clinics. These clinics are the backbone of Alaska’s rural health program and are often the only source of medical care available to Alaskans in rural areas. The bill also includes substantial funding to provide support for infrastructure improvements through Small Ambulatory Clinics. To help address the disproportionate level of violence against Native American women and the lack of data on the number of women and girls who go missing, additional funding is included for Missing, Trafficked, and Murdered Indigenous Women initiatives. The bill also provides for domestic violence prevention initiatives, specific VAWA tribal court needs, and to help communities develop tribal court systems.

Preparing and Responding to Natural Hazards

The bill includes additional funding to address landslide concerns in the state of Alaska through the development of site-specific hazard assessments and the installation of monitoring equipment to surveil potential landslide motion.  This legislation includes funding for the earthquake hazards program, which will help states like Alaska develop and enhance earthquake monitoring capabilities. Funding is also provided for wildfire prevention and suppression efforts work to help reduce the risk of wildfires. In addition, the bill maintains funding for Alaska mapping initiatives.

The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee controls funding levels for federal agencies and departments including the Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and Indian Health Service (IHS), as well as National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Smithsonian Institution.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska, Health, Education, Budget, Spending, and the National Debt