Why do some Alaska politicians continue to promote the tired old myth of federal duplicity about Alaska lands, when the truth is so obvious? The latest example: in their ADN commentary (April 23), Sens. Click Bishop and Josh Revak whined about the federal delay in implementing the Native Vietnam veterans land allotment program.
Under the sub-head “Broken promises,” they dreamed up the following whopper: “Alaska has contributed more than 60% of its lands to the federal government for conservation purposes. And yet, after 60 years, the federal government continues to break the promises it made to Alaskans in exchange for that land.”
To the contrary, the state of Alaska did not “contribute” or “exchange” any of its lands to the federal government for the conservation system units established or enlarged by Congress in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The lands involved in ANILCA were entirely federal lands, owned by the United States following the Treaty of Cession with Russia in 1867. These lands had never been owned by the state. Thus, there was no ANILCA land “exchange” with the state, and no claimed “promises” broken in that regard.
Sens. Revak and Bishop conveniently disregarded the promise that the federal government has made to Alaska, and which it has to date almost entirely fulfilled. In the 1959 Statehood Act, the U.S. made grants of federal lands to the state that totaled nearly 104 million acres, selectable by the state in its discretion from the federal public domain in Alaska. The sheer total size of these land grants, and the freedom granted the state to choose the land it wanted, was a federal largesse unprecedented in American history. These land grants compose, in acreage, a quantity of land almost equaling the size of California (at 104.8 million acres) and include, among other lands, the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.
Why do political figures such as Sens. Revak and Bishop make a public spectacle of their predisposed, mythologized and erroneous recollections? Of course, we should not hold our breath for any retraction, correction or explanation from either of them.
— Thomas E. Meacham
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