WASHINGTON — Gov. Mike Dunleavy called President Donald Trump a “strong partner” to Alaska after the pair met Thursday at the White House and Dunleavy discussed the possibility of opening portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with the Trump administration.
“The President understands that Alaska is America’s natural resource warehouse,” Dunleavy said, according to a statement distributed by the office of the governor. Dunleavy was one of several newly elected governors from both parties who attended the sit-down, according to the governor’s office.
“Our state’s vast reserves of energy and minerals can power the nation’s economy, creating new jobs, prosperity for Alaskan families and, new revenue at the state and federal level,” Dunleavy said in a statement.
Among those attending Thursday were Florida Republican Ron DeSantis, Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, Illinois Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Wisconsin Democrat Tony Evers.
White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Doug Hoelscher had said they'd be discussing "shared priorities," including workforce investment, prison reform and combating the opioid epidemic.
Dunleavy also met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the two discussed “the process underway to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to environmentally responsible oil exploration." The two also discussed the state’s pursuit of potential land transfers from the federal to state government, the statement said.
“Next month will mark the 60th anniversary of statehood and Alaska is still waiting to receive all the land it is entitled to under the Statehood Act. It is time to complete the transfer of land, so Alaskans can have access to the land and decide the best uses for it, not the federal government,” Dunleavy said.
Asked if Zinke made any commitments regarding a future land transfer, Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said he did not know how the Interior Secretary responded as of Thursday afternoon.
The White House says since the midterms, it has reached out to a long list of newly elected state and local officials of both parties “to open lines of communication and begin a dialogue.”