In this Feb. 19, 2019 photo, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, delivers her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature as Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, looks on. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this Feb. 19, 2019 photo, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, delivers her annual speech to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature as Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, looks on. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Sen. Murkowski: Lands package will deliver real benefits for Alaskans, all Americans

Bipartisan lands bill is the result of good process and extensive negotiations.

  • By SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI
  • Friday, March 29, 2019 7:00am
  • Opinion

Earlier this month, I joined Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate at the White House with President Donald Trump for the signing of major lands and conservation legislation.

The “John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act” is now law after years of effort. As chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I worked to combine more than 120 lands, resources and water measures — including many that will help resolve long-standing issues for Alaskans.

One of the provisions of which I am most proud will provide equity to Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam War to finally receive their land allotments. Sponsored in the last Congress by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, this provision will provide an estimated 2,800 veterans with a chance to receive the lands promised to them decades ago by the federal government. Due to their service, many missed the application deadline imposed by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Previous programs have had a rejection rate of up to 75 percent, which led us to create a new program that will work better for everyone.

[Opinion: Sen. Murkowski continues her role as outdoor recreation’s fiercest advocate]

Other provisions within my lands package will provide new opportunities for economic development. For example, the new law will provide routing flexibility for the gasline project in Denali National Park and Preserve. A separate provision repeals a prohibition that prevents the Kake Tribal Corporation from exporting unprocessed logs harvested from its lands. Another requires the Department of the Interior to convey sand and gravel resources within and contiguous to the Barrow Gas Field to the Ukpeagvik Iñupiat Corporation.

In a state with 224 million acres of federal lands, we encounter more than our fair share of land management issues. To address one in the southcentral region, we require the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a study to identify the effects that federal land acquisitions have had on Chugach Alaska Corporation’s ability to develop its subsurface estate and identify options for possible land exchanges.

We also restore the claims of four Alaskans who wrongly had their placer mining operations taken by the government over a decade ago due to bureaucratic discrepancies. Now that this bill has been signed into law, those miners will finally have relief. Their claims will be reinstated and they will able to go back to business.

[Southeast pink salmon forecast cause for concern]

My lands package also includes national policies that will benefit Alaska. We extended a geologic mapping program for five years, which will help us understand our world-class mineral base and highlight new opportunities for mining in our state.

By modernizing and expanding our nation’s volcano early warning and monitoring capabilities, we will keep communities and travelers in Alaska safe.

The permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a significant national conservation achievement that also now includes a requirement that at least 40 percent of its annual funding go to the popular state-side program, which supports the Alaska park system and local recreation sites.

I am also proud of the provisions we included that relate to access to federal lands for sportsmen and women. We direct federal agencies to expand and enhance opportunities for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on public lands, in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. “Open unless closed” will now be the standard for Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands to ensure that closures are justified and provide for public notice and comment.

[Support for Roadless Rule extends through state, country]

We also agreed to include a number of conservation-related provisions specific to the Lower 48. Our lands package designates new federal wilderness in states such as New Mexico and Utah. We created new wild and scenic river segments in Oregon, Massachusetts and Connecticut. And we established five National Monuments the right way — with Congress in the lead — in California, Kentucky, Mississippi and Utah.

Our lands package is the result of good process and extensive negotiations. It took us years of regular order in the committees of jurisdiction to process its components. Following that, we spent months engaged in bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to reach agreement on its exact scope. We struck a careful balance between the need to provide for economic development and the desire to protect treasured landscapes. And we ensured that every provision — especially those related to conservation — enjoyed strong state and local support.

The result is a sweeping package that drew 92 votes in the Senate, 363 votes in the House and the support of hundreds of stakeholder groups all across the country. That’s a rare occurrence in an era where partisan division and gridlock often prevail. And while much work remains, our lands package will deliver real benefits for Alaskans and all Americans.


• Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, is Alaska’s senior senator. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Quality of treatment at Bartlett Regional Hospital is excellent

I recently experienced a relatively serious chest injury and received treatment at… Continue reading

Passengers of the Norwegian Bliss look out across downtown Juneau as they wait to disembark on April 17, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Juneau’s economy is not on the line — Ship-Free Saturdays is about better balance

Judging by the “Save Juneau” posters one would think that Juneau’s economic… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Feb. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Sullivan sinks to a new low

Last week, Sen. Dan Sullivan mimicked Donald Trump’s endless stream of baseless… Continue reading

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign. I feel it is time to speak up about… Continue reading

Juneau School District Superintendent Frank Hauser provides an overview of restructuring options being considered during a Community Budget Input Session at Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Smearing school board members and the superintendent is vindictive and destructive

A school consolidation plan announced by the Juneau School District (JSD) has… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Gloomy predictions for ship-free days are a misleading scare tactic

“What? Only one day a week ship-free? Can’t we have Sundays too?”… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: A day of rest from cruise ships is good for Juneau

A lot has been said about the Saturday free day from large… Continue reading

Most Read