Murkowski: Law Clear on No More Wilderness in Alaska

USFWS Conservation Plan Includes Three New Wilderness Designations in ANWR

WASHINGTON, D.C. ­ U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for considering forever locking up America’s oil resources contained beneath the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) by designating the area as “wilderness.”

“Despite claims to the contrary, the Fish and Wildlife Services’ efforts to designate new wilderness areas in Alaska is a violation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The law is clear: under ANILCA, section 1326(b), the administration lacks authority to even conduct wilderness reviews in Alaska without the express consent of Congress,” Murkowski said. “Congress has given no such approval.”

The ANWR coastal plain holds America’s greatest potential for a major oil and natural gas discovery. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the coastal plain has a 50 percent chance of containing 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, resources worth more than $1 trillion at current market prices.

“The coastal plain of ANWR holds valuable oil and natural gas reserves vital to our nation's economy, which is why Congress designated it for oil exploration more than three decades ago, and included language in ANILCA to ensure no further wilderness designations occur in Alaska,” Murkowski said. “Instead of trying to lock up our resources, we should be developing them as part of a balanced energy plan that creates jobs and bolsters our failing economy.”

As the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and ranking member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, Murkowski said she would strongly oppose any attempt to further restrict responsible development of Alaska’s natural resources.

“We have tremendous reserves, we have the technological know-how, and we have incredible public support. The only thing standing in our way is the federal government, but I’m hopeful that will change for the better as we really begin to evaluate our options for debt reduction,” Murkowski said.

“Allowing development in the non-wilderness portion of ANWR would help address many of our most pressing challenges - it would help us create tens of thousands of new jobs, generate hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenues, reduce our harmful dependence on foreign oil,  and improve our trade balance, which should help strengthen the dollar. Best of all, allowing more production doesn’t require money ­ just permission to do what we should’ve been doing all along. There’s a tremendous amount of money buried in the ground in Alaska, and it’s time to withdraw it.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking comments and holding several public meetings around Alaska on its proposed conservation plan, including three new wilderness areas. Murkowski strongly encourages Alaskans to attend the meetings and provide comment by Nov. 15 to the agency. Public comments may be submitted by e-mail to: ArcticRefugeCCP@fws.gov

or by post to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arctic NWR ­ Sharon Seim, 101 12th Ave, Rm 236, Fairbanks, AK 99701.