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Governor Denounces Decision on Alaska ‘Wild Lands’


January 27, 2011, Juneau, Alaska - Governor Sean Parnell expressed grave concerns about a recent decision by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to evaluate 87 million acres of federal land in Alaska as potential “wild lands.” That designation would effectively allow the federal government to create more wilderness in Alaska without congressional oversight.

In comments submitted to the Department of the Interior, Governor Parnell said Interior’s wild lands designation will diminish access to federal lands and cost jobs.

“Putting such a sweeping initiative in place overnight, with no congressional direction and no advance consultation with affected states or the public, is unfathomable,” Governor Parnell said. He noted that Alaska lands have been repeatedly studied, with large areas placed off-limits to resource development.

“Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980, which studied public lands in Alaska and set aside 57 million acres as wilderness. Nearly every Interior secretary since ANILCA was passed has chosen not to conduct further discretionary wilderness inventories in Alaska, and has recognized the importance of a public process and discussion with state leaders. I will not allow such disregard for Alaska and its citizens to stand unchallenged.”

In addition to the flawed process, the governor noted specific concerns:

· “By designating ‘Wild Lands,’ Order 3310 usurps congressional authority where Interior improperly acted as an administrative surrogate for congressional designations of wilderness;

· “In Alaska, where most of BLM’s 86 million acres retain their wilderness values, the heavily weighted default protection of wilderness characteristics could easily render most BLM lands de facto wilderness areas, absent BLM’s multiple-use direction. This would have a devastating effect on Alaska’s people, economy, and land use and access. Thus, the order directly conflicts with the “no more” clauses in ANILCA and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA);

· “The order is, for all practical purposes, an end-run around ANILCA, which I predict will lead to egregious social and economic consequences for Alaskans. Without the explicit provisions of ANILCA that apply to conservation system units, BLM Wild Lands will likely be managed more restrictively in Alaska than ANILCA-designated wilderness managed by the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, or Forest Service;

· “The order purports to seek ‘balance’ between responsible resource development and protection of wilderness characteristics; yet there is a strong presumption in favor of wilderness-style protection. For that reason, this order will have a severe chilling effect on future proposals designed to create jobs in resource development once an area is designated Wild Lands. This approach also contradicts BLM’s multiple-use mandate under FLPMA;

· “BLM managers’ discretion to determine where and when ‘impairment’ of wilderness characteristics is ‘appropriate’ is subject to undue scrutiny and approval in Washington D.C., where decisions tend to be political and knowledge of local conditions, issues, and needs is diluted, at best; and


· “BLM has no authority whatsoever to apply this policy to the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska because it is not subject to FLPMA.”

A copy of the governor’s letter and comments are available at: http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell_media/resources_files/012611_ltrtosalazar.pdf

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