September 12th, 2012

Think About It……                                                                  September 12, 2012

Over 60% of all the land in Alaska is owned and controlled by the Federal government, so when the Federal Management Agencies have their way the opportunities for access to public lands in Alaska will always be very limited.

Take a look at a BLM draft Resource Management Plan covering lands in interior Alaska from the Bering Sea west to the Canadian border. In every area the Feds all recommend limiting non-local public use on all roads.

As the State attempts to create new access routes to resource development projects Alaskans are wondering who will be allowed to travel on those roads?  It’s the “Who” to which most Alaskans are objecting.

Traditionally, in other states, roads, airstrips and boat launches used to access public lands and waters have been made available by resource development companies, but that is not the case here in Alaska. The haul road to Prudhoe Bay goes through millions of acres of public land but “no access”. Same for the Donnelly Creek Mine and the Red Dog Mine roads……Closed to the public.

So why is the practice of allowing public access to public lands been derailed in our state? It’s because of ANILCA, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act passed by Congress in 1980. This law gives priority use of public land to local people and thirty years of federal management decisions base on ANILCA makes it very clear.  No actions that may increase competition for local residents to public resources will be adopted by the Feds and state leaders are powerless to act.

Obviously, ANILCA overrides the U. S. Constitution. Also, the fear of competition for resources from outsiders, people who live outside of local villages and towns across the state, cause the feds and some state agencies to continually adopt restrictions that restrict access for any of us who want to enjoy public lands in Alaska.

Sadly, that ANILCA mentality has rubbed off on some Alaska state agencies, especially our Department of Fish and Game. For instance, if you are a non-local village resident who wants to hunt a bull moose with no antler restrictions, you are required to go to that distant area of the state and apply in person to get that special permit. No phone calls. No internet. Permits are available only in person, even though its hundreds of miles away.

When it comes to the Federal agencies blocking public travel on roads developed through public lands, often “safety” is the reason used by the Feds.  However, their draft Management Plan makes it clear, it’s all about objecting to non-local travel.

It is mandatory that we as Alaskans, who enjoy the outdoor opportunities of public lands and waters, continually remind our Governor and Legislators that their most important duty is to protect Alaskans’ access to public lands and waters for recreation, subsistence and other traditional uses. Fighting to prevent and circumvent federal roadblocks to all Alaskans who wish to utilize all roads constructed on public lands will be a never ending battle.

Think About It!     JCD    9-12-12

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