Murkowski Convenes Roundtable to Spotlight Unique Public Lands Issues in Western Communities

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday convened a roundtable to discuss the unique issues of access and development associated with public lands in the western United States. 

The roundtable focused on ways to restore balance to the management of our federal lands. Participants discussed the importance of greater access for economic and outdoor recreation opportunities, water resources management, the installation of renewable projects, mineral and energy development, conservation, and how all of these can co-exist to promote healthy, sustainable rural communities. 

Energy Roundtable 03.07.19

Click photo for archived video of the roundtable discussion

“For many western communities, public lands drive economic development, job creation, and funding for essential community services,” Murkowski said. “Restoring balance between the multiple uses of our federal lands, specifically BLM and Forest Service lands, will help avoid the conflicts of more restrictive use that we have seen in recent years and give local communities confidence that the federal government can be a good neighbor.”

Murkowski and Sara Longan, the deputy commissioner of the State of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, spoke about the unique challenges facing Alaskans.

“Alaska is different. Resource development is part of our DNA,” Longan said. “There is still work to be done in order to catch-up from past management practices that have had a chilling impact on investments in Alaska and across the nation.”

“An issue that I frequently hear about is the need for more access to federal lands. We have some pretty significant administrative hurdles, the Roadless Rule specifically, which placed sweeping prohibitions on road construction and reconstruction that really do stand in the way,” Murkowski said. “For mining, the industry struggles to build roads to their exploration and project sites. For recreation enthusiasts in Alaska, and the more than one million tourists that we welcome to our state each year, there are not enough areas open or user days provided for such activities.”

Panelists stressed the importance and value of an attractive investment climate at the state and federal level. “It’s important to note that investment friendly does not mean lacking in protections to the public or environment,” said Patrick Malone of Barrick Gold North America.

Roundtable participants included:

  • Ms. Sara Longan, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources for the State of Alaska;
  • Ms. Laura Abram, Director of Project Execution and Public Policy for First Solar;
  • Mr. Bruce Hallin, Director of Water Supply for Salt River Project;
  • Mr. Brent Keith, Senior Policy Advisor for Lands for The Nature Conservancy;
  • Mr. Patrick Malone, Head of Legal and Regulatory Affairs for Barrick Gold North America; and
  • Mr. Jim Ogsbury, Executive Director of the Western Governors Association.

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of the western public lands roundtable discussion is available on the committee’s website.

Related Issues: Energy