Murkowski: Interior Appropriations a Boon for Alaskan Causes

Senator's Subcommittee Work Brings Results

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senator Lisa Murkowski today announced a number of funding priorities for Alaska reflected in the 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill working its way through the House and Senate – on areas ranging from resources to public health to recreation. Murkowski is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which, with her role on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, gives her authorizing and appropriating power over the Interior Department.

“Alaskans are a bottom line people, and this appropriations bill shows results where it counts: the bottom line,” said Murkowski.  “Since the Interior Department owns about two-thirds of our lands, we have larger and wider needs: our First People, natural resources – and job opportunities for Alaskans.”

Some key Alaskan provisions in the Interior Appropriations Bill include:

Fighting Federal Overreach

  • Yukon Charley – Prohibits the National Park Service from spending congressionally authorized funds to enforce regulations concerning boating on the Yukon River within the Yukon-Charley National Preserve.
  • Wildlands – Prohibits the use of congressionally authorized funds to implement, administer or enforce the Interior Secretary’s order that federal land management agencies administratively set aside lands in wilderness-like classifications.

Alaska’s Forests

  • Alaska Red Cedar –Language in the appropriations bill requires the U.S. Forest Service to offer profitable tracts of red cedar timber to Alaska mill operators for sale, and requires that Alaska and West Coast sawmills be given the first right to process the timber, to keep jobs in the United States.
  • Timber Harvest and Forest Roads – Keeps EPA from regulating water runoff from forest road construction projects, and keeps in place a 30-year practice of allowing forest road maintenance to be exempt from the Clean Water Act.
  • Forest Service Pre-Decisional Objection Process – Replaces the Forest Service’s current appeals regulation with a requirement that appeals be filed before a project receives final approval.
  • Forest Management Plan Extension – Extends waiver of the requirement that the Forest Service has to review its forest management plans every 15 years. Without the continuation of this provision virtually all forest activities could be stopped because the forest plans are out of date.

Alaska Native Health Care 

  • Barrow Hospital Construction – the agreement provides $62.1 million for completion of the IHS hospital.   
  • IHS Contract Support Costs – the agreement provides $472.1 million for the program, which is $74.5 million (19%) above the enacted level and $10.4 million above the President’s budget request.

Alaska Native Interests 

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Contract Support Costs – $220 million is provided, $24 million above the President’s budget request.
  • Alaska Native Villages – $10 million is provided for water infrastructure programs in EPA, equal to last year’s level.
  • BLM Alaska Conveyance Program – Provides $29 million for the conveyance of federal land owed to the state of Alaska, Native corporations and individual Alaska Natives, restoring cuts proposed in the president’s budget request.
  • Alaska Subsistence – $2.6 million is provided for Forest Service’s subsistence management responsibilities.

Alaskan Jobs and Opportunity

  • ANILCA Local Hire – Authorizes federal land management agencies in Alaska to resume hiring local residents through an excepted service program.
  • FWS Kenai Visitor Center – $7.5 million is provided to complete construction of a 6,457 square foot visitor center and to rehabilitate the administrative offices at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Public Safety

  • USGS Volcano Hazards Program – $24 million is provided to fund the Alaska Volcano Observatory.