Sen. Murkowski Grills Nominee Suh over Interior’s Lack of Respect for Alaskans

Senator Questions Nominee’s Qualifications, Department’s Misguided Direction

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today firmly pressed the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Fish Wildlife and Parks, Rhea Suh on the Interior Department’s disregard for the needs and concerns of the people of Alaska.

Murkowski questioned Suh about whether the department was doing anything to ensure the safety of the people of King Cove after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell rejected, on Dec. 23, a proposed a life-saving road that would have connected the isolated community to an all-weather airport a few miles across the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.


(Click photo for video of Sen. Murkowski’s comments)

After Suh had no answer, Murkowski said her growing frustration with Interior goes well beyond just one issue.

“This is about more than just a 10-mile road,” Murkowski said. “This is about how many Alaskans feel this administration is treating us when we are far away at the other end of the continent and out of sight, out of mind.”

Tuesday marked the second time Suh, who if confirmed, would oversee the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service; has appeared before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Murkowski, the energy panel’s top Republican, called for a second hearing after being disappointed in Suh’s responses at her initial Dec. 12 hearing.

“I have serious reservations about not only what I perceive is your lack of knowledge of western lands issues, but also with your unfamiliarity with Alaska’s most pressing issues and unique governing statutes,” Murkowski said to Suh. “I’m not being overly parochial here – we have more than 70 percent of the National Wildlife Refuge System and two-thirds of the National Park System located in Alaska, so when you indicated in our meeting that you were not prepared to discuss any of my state’s issues in any detail – that concerns me.”

Murkowski pressed Suh on the development of the Arctic, King Cove, reform of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to address the national parks maintenance backlog, subsistence reform in Alaska. 

“I firmly believe that the Fish and Wildlife Service is headed in the wrong direction and has lost sight of its responsibility to the American people,” Murkowski said. “This problem is most recently highlighted by the service’s role in the fundamentally flawed review process and rejection of the life-saving King Cove road, but it’s not limited to that single decision. My view is that the Fish and Wildlife Service is simply not considering the impact of its decisions on people across our country. That needs to change.”

After the hearing, Murkowski cast doubt on whether she would support Suh’s nomination, citing ongoing concerns with the lack of detailed answers to questions she has posed to Suh.

The complete video of Tuesday’s nominations hearing is available on the energy committee’s website. Additional information on King Cove can be found here