Think About It……. May 25, 2012
In 1959, the federal government recognized that Alaska belonged to its people. Alaskans soon ratified a constitution that specifically recognized our ownership of waters, land and resources to be managed by the state in trust for the benefit of we Alaskans. For the next ten years, we governed ourselves, united in a common desire to live the Alaska lifestyle, free from unwanted federal government interference.
Then we found oil. So, in 1980 Congress approved the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, a federal law that added over 53 million acres to national refuges, 25 rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, over 3 million acres to national forests and almost 44 million acres to its national parks.
All at once we were inundated by thousands of federal bureaucrats coming north to our state. Now, not counting the military, there are some 18,000 federal employees living in Alaska. They built huge office complexes and started making rules. We welcomed Uncle Ted’s federal spending but didn’t understand that when the federal agents became bored with regulating half of Alaska they now already owned, they would feel compelled to take over as much of the remainder as they could.
First, they started buying private property surrounding the 106 million acres they already controlled. Then they took over management of subsistence hunting and fishing on federal land, then of all things, they started coveting out rivers and streams.
State ownership and control of navigable waters and the fish that swim in them was uncontested until a federal judge declared that federal agents could indeed manage those rivers in order discriminate when allocating the fish.
Then came along a real loser, Governor Tony Knowles. He promised Alaskans that he would appeal that decision as a matter of state sovereignty, knowing that no other state had ever given up their ownership and control of navigable waters . Fourteen other governors of other western states filed briefs in the Katie John case in an effort to protect their own rivers and streams. Knowles broke his promise to Alaskans and ceded control of all our navigable waters to the federal government. Knowles had dealt, to Alaskans, one of the worst possible devastating blows, for sure.
So, the Feds immediately started hiring more rangers and buying new jet boats.
Now, over ten years later, we still can’t seem to effectively resist the ongoing federal takeover of our lands, resources and waters. Governor Sean Parnell has recently asked the Public Access, Assertion and Defense Unit in the Department of Natural Resources to begin to fight back. But it is probably too late.
The thousands of federal agents in Alaska are now dealing with Alaskans with a heavy fist. A federal judge ruled, the other day, that shotgun-wielding federal agents had authority to arrest Alaskans who fail to register a boat operating on a state-owned river. Armed federal BLM agents refused last fall to recognize a gold miner’s right to access his state mining claims on a state owned public road. Three armed federal agents ran a jet boat up the Nation River and ordered an Alaskan moose hunter in a hovercraft to turn around and leave the National Preserve because Park Service rules now prohibit operating on a state owned river, even to access state land clearly outside the preserve. Federal agents threatened to confiscate the air boat of an Alaskan operating on state owned waters of Lake Clark and forced him off the lake, simply because the federal agents decided they didn’t want any Alaskans operating a similar boat on the lake.
It’s a sad situation in Alaska. We are losing our state, bit by bit. Our economic dependence on federal funds has fostered a culture of conciliation and deference to federal claims of authority. Those of us who value individual and constitutional states rights need to demand that our state government get off of their collective butts to vigorously defend what few rights we still cling to.
Think About It! JCD 5-23-12