Murkowski: Public Land Users Have Been Hit Hard By COVID-19 Pandemic

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today chaired a hearing to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on users of public lands, forests, and national parks. The committee received testimony from witnesses representing the outdoor recreation industry, ranchers, water providers, state wildlife agencies, and a nonprofit foundation that partners with the National Park Service.

In her opening statement, Murkowski called attention to the 22 percent drop in visitation to national parks, which is hurting small businesses and neighboring “gateway” communities in Alaska and across the nation.

“I saw these impacts when I visited Denali and Katmai National Parks last week. I stopped in Talkeetna to speak with a local flightseeing company that has not been able to receive a loan and is worried they won’t make it through the end of the year,” Murkowski said. “While they normally operate upwards of 20 planes on any given day, they only have three in circulation right now.”

Murkowski also highlighted how the decrease in revenue from non-resident hunting and fishing licenses in Alaska, which is down 90 percent from last year, which will impact state programs that support subsistence hunting and wildlife habitat conservation.

Mr. Kelly Hepler, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, reiterated that point and said that state agencies need support.

“Hunting and fishing license sales, one of the primary sources of nonfederal match for apportioned federal grants and the lifeblood of state agencies, depend on open lands, water, and travel. License sales this year have varied across the states, with some facing stark downturns,” said Hepler. “Some state agencies are experiencing mandatory reductions in spending authority, some are seeing significant reductions in state general revenue that they would normally receive, and there are significant spending restrictions in place in many states.”

Murkowski is Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. An archived video of today’s hearing can be found on the committee’s website. Click here and here to view Murkowski’s questions for the witnesses.

Related Issues: Energy, COVID-19 Resource Page