There was an odd disconnect in former Gov. Bill Walker’s plea for fewer lawsuits against “federal overreach,” and more dialogue (ADN, Feb. 13). He pointed out that the “statehood compact” — Gov. Wally Hickel’s favorite phrase — which is arguably embodied in the 1959 Statehood Act, clearly expected that Alaska would finance its existence as a state through the development of resources found on and under the lands conveyed to Alaska in the federal government’s generous and unprecedented 102.5-million-acre Statehood-Act land grant.
As Walker correctly wrote, “we were given certain ownership rights in the statehood compact because we were expected to live off our resources.” The state-owned lands at Prudhoe Bay are a perfect example.
Yet there is a pesky fact of land ownership, which the state continues to ignore when it incessantly whines “federal overreach” after each federal land management decision. The lands involved in these decisions are not the lands granted to Alaska, free and clear, whose purpose was to finance the new state. The subject lands were not granted to Alaska at statehood, at all — nor were they expected to be.
They are instead the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, or NPR-A, the Tongass National Forest and similar federal reserves that were not made available for state land selection because they had been withdrawn or reserved for the benefit of the nation as a whole, before statehood. This fact was clearly understood at the time of statehood. Notwithstanding that these lands reserves were unavailable for state ownership, Alaska continues to ignore the purpose of the Statehood Act lands granted to it, and instead demands — and litigates — that these federal, national land reserves must be managed solely or primarily for Alaska’s benefit.
Alaska’s grasping, “gimme” position on this issue ignores the overriding national land interests. It must appear to folks Outside that Alaska may never become mature enough to wisely develop its own unprecedented 102.5 million acres, but instead will incessantly demand that the feds manage more, more, more federal lands for the state’s benefit.
— T. E. Meacham
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