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Legislature Says ‘No’ to Federal and International Overreach

Senator Giessel’s SJR 15 opposes international land designations in Alaska

JUNEAU- Today, the Alaska Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 15, a resolution sponsored by Senator Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage Hillside/Turnagain Arm/N. Kenai). SJR15 urges the Federal Government to stop pursuing the creation of the Beringia International Park or any other international designations identified through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

This Bering Strait-region proposal is currently progressing via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) written by representatives of the Russian government and our then United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, present Secretary of State John Kerry and the National Park Service. The Beringia Transboundary area, spanning from eastern Russia over to northwestern Alaska, bonds Russian and northwestern Alaska cultures together.

“While I embrace the cultural, historical and archaeological bonds between people in the Bering Strait area, what I don’t support is another layer of federal bureaucracy and regulation that will come along with the possible creation of an international site,” said Senator Giessel. “Russia and Alaska are already participating in common cultural activities. We don’t need an MOU for that to continue.”

Alaska’s United States Senator Lisa Murkowski, Congressman Don Young, as well as Governor Sean Parnell, have all outlined their concerns regarding the implications of the MOU to no avail or consideration. Consequently, the MOU continues to move forward without regard to or input from Congress or the State of Alaska.

“The denial of the Izembek Road is a prime example of federal-international overreach,” said Senator Giessel. “It was designated as an international Ramsar site in the 70’s and was used by Secretary Jewell as one of the criteria used to deny the people of that area a life-saving road. In that situation, the Black-Headed Brandt and fields of eelgrass were deemed more important than human lives.”

SJR 15 strongly urges the federal government to pause this process and consult the State of Alaska on this MOU and any further federal or United Nations designations in the future.  It also requires if any land designations are made, both the U.S. Congress and the Alaska State Legislature have to approve them.  

Representative Eric Feige (R-Chickaloon) carried SJR 15 on the House Floor and was instrumental in its passing.  As Co-Chair of the House Resources Committee, he understands the implications this MOU could have on the state’s ability to develop its natural resources.  “I’m concerned that this MOU is a primer for an international park designation which would impede the state’s ability to manage its lands without interference.  This designation would surely limit economic opportunities for rural Alaskans in that region, and could complicate future easement negotiations for the Red Dog Mine road, which runs through Cape Krusenstern National Monument,” said Representative Feige.

SJR 15 will now be transmitted to the Governor by the Senate Secretary. The Lieutenant Governor will permanently file the resolution and distribute copies to President Obama, members of his cabinet, and the Alaska Congressional delegation.

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