Brett Huber, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s former director of policy and communications and who managed his 2018 campaign for governor, will return to the governor’s office to focus on land rights and state sovereignty in disputes with the federal government, Dunleavy announced.
Dunleavy is now appointing Huber to serve as his senior policy advisor for what the governor is calling the “statehood defense initiative,” according to a statement from the governor’s office. The initiative will push back “on attempts from President Joe Biden’s federal agencies to overregulate Alaskans,” the statement said.
“Over decades, federal law passed by Congress is clear, and even the Supreme Court has been clear, that Alaska’s lands and waters are fundamentally different than the rest of the United States,” Dunleavy said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, those in power in Washington, D.C., see our state as another parcel to be managed like a park. To fight those attempts to rollback our Alaskan way of life, we need a high-level, focused effort, and Brett brings that to my administration.”
Disputes between Alaska leaders and the federal government date back decades, especially during Democratic presidential administrations like the current one.
The state is facing off against the Biden administration on multiple fronts, though the Interior Department has agreed with the state in a few key areas, like taking legal action supporting a major oil prospect in the National Petroleum-Reserve Alaska.
The Dunleavy administration has taken steps to defy the federal government’s effort to prevent drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The governor has condemned several of the Biden administration’s actions, including efforts to restore Clinton-era protections against logging in the Tongass National Forest.
The governor’s office last week announced it was suing the Interior Department over the agency’s two-year delay of orders issued during the Trump administration that sought to open 28 million acres of land in Alaska to development.
Huber, in an interview on Monday, said that delay will be one initial area of his focus.
He said he’d work with the Biden administration when there are opportunities for agreement, but will draw the line if it overreaches into the state’s authority.
“You fight where you have to and work together where you can,” said Huber, 58.
Huber will coordinate efforts across multiple agencies “to preserve Alaska’s ability to manage its land and water resources for its people,” said Lauren Giliam, a spokeswoman for the governor.
Huber declined to provide his salary, saying he would leave that up to the governor’s communications team to disclose.
The governor’s office did not immediately disclose Huber’s salary.
The Legislature’s operating budget for the new year includes Dunleavy’s request for $4 million to help pay for litigation for the “defense of rights to develop and protect the state’s natural resources, to access land, and to manage its fish and wildlife resources.”