Murkowski’s Appropriations Leadership Promotes Alaska’s Fish, Forests and Public Safety
FY2014 Interior Budget Deal Addresses Key State Natural Priorities and Needs
Senator Lisa Murkowski today is pleased to share the results of her negotiations with Congressional Appropriations Committee members on the newly-released 2014 Interior Appropriations bill, fighting off a number of funding threats to Alaska priorities and protecting core Alaska concerns like fisheries, land management and the suicide crisis among Alaska Natives.
With the Department of the Interior managing a majority of Alaska’s lands, forests and waters, Murkowski leveraged her position as Ranking Republican on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to protect Alaska’s priorities and concerns, including fisheries, land resources and uses and public safety from natural disasters like wildfires and volcanoes.
“One of the reasons I welcomed the bipartisan budget deal in December was that it allowed appropriators to do our jobs and address current realities and needs, instead of maintaining the status quo through continuing budget resolutions that kept funding going at previous levels,” said Murkowski. “I am proud that my work on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee can bring tangible relief and benefits to Alaskans. The appropriations process provides me the opportunity to listen to Alaskans who know their needs understand them better than a federal bureaucrat or appointee.”
AK Subsistence and King Salmon Stock Assessments – Senator Murkowski was alarmed by millions in cuts the President proposed to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s budget for the Alaska Subsistence program. Through negotiations, she was able to increase the current level of spending for the program and included language to prioritize federal programs for improved stock assessments.
Blocking Coastal Marine Special Planning (CMSP) in Alaska – Alaskans are against CMSP in our waters, and Senator Murkowski was told by then-acting Commerce Secretary Blank earlier this year that “states that do not want to participate [in the program] will not have to.” To make certain that this is the case, Murkowski supported language in the budget prohibiting Interior Department funds from being used for CMSP in and around Alaska.
Listening to States on Fish and Wildlife Data – Rather than proceeding with a top-down approach on federal land management policies, Senator Murkowski supported language urging the Department of the Interior and Forest Service to first take into consideration and incorporate state fish and wildlife data before rendering a land use, land planning and related natural resource decision.
Lands and Forests
Land Conveyance – The federal government’s conveyance program of land owed to Alaska and Alaska Natives is mandated under the 42-year-old Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act (ANCSA). However, the Bureau of Land Management has once again proposed such a deep cut that the proposed funding level would require another 80 unacceptable years to complete the land conveyance work. Senator Murkowski was able to negotiate a 30% increase over BLM’s proposal to provide the state, Alaskans and Native Corporations final title to lands selected under the Alaska Statehood Act.
Alaska Red Cedar – Murkowski included language in the budget requiring that timber sales in Alaska be economic and for the U.S. Forest Service to use an appraisal system best suited to the unique needs of Alaska.
Tongass Mining Access – With mines like Bokan hindered because operators have difficulty getting access to resources, Senator Murkowski added language to the appropriations bill re-stating the Forest Service’s obligation to provide reasonable access for mining. (This is already mandatory, as required by the 1872 Mining Law.)
Alaska Native Suicide – Alaska has the highest suicide rate in the nation, with Alaska Native men being most vulnerable. Senator Murkowski held an Indian Affairs Committee field hearing on the matter in 2011 at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention and secured a fifty percent increase in the Indian Health Service’s budget for mental health and suicide prevention programs.
Volcano Monitoring – Earlier this month, higher activity levels were detected at the Cleveland volcano in the Aleutians. The Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) is vital to detecting threats from volcanic activity to life, health and the state’s economy. Senator Murkowski included language in the Interior bill to ensure that the monitoring devices used by the AVO are in sufficient working order to ensure the safety of residents and international air traffic.
Wildfire Prevention and Response – Being mindful of wildfires throughout Alaska and the lower 48, the Committee provided an additional $50 million for programs at the Department of the Interior and $105 million at the Forest Service, which were cut in the President’s budget, in an effort to reduce fire risks particularly around local communities. These funds are also designed to protect lives and lower the cost and size of future fires.
Alaska’s National Parks
Wrangell St. Elias National Park Improvements – With the Department of Interior having jurisdiction over the National Parks, $1.85 million is budgeted for safety repairs and construction at Wrangell/St. Elias National Park. The project will make safety repairs to historic mining structures on the site.