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This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Alaskans can kill two birds with one stone.

Here’s an opportunity to reduce government spending and actively support economic development in Alaska by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish and Wildlife is seeking comments in regard to three possible new wilderness designations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Alaska’s elected leaders strongly oppose not only such designation, but also the expense of considering it.

The agency will be holding public meetings around Alaska as well.

The outcome could be the feds make the oil resources contained beneath the coastal plain of ANWR off limits to development.

This is a violation of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, says Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “The law is clear: under ANILCA, section 1326(b), the administration lacks authority to even conduct wilderness reviews in Alaska without the express consent of Congress. Congress has given no such approval.”

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the coastal plain might contain as much as 10.4 billion barrels of oil and 8.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, resources worth more than $1 trillion at current market prices, according to a Murkowski press release.

Sen. Mark Begich agrees, noting that “only Congress can designate new wilderness areas in ANWR ... The vast majority of ANWR is already off limits to development ... Congress specifically set aside 1.5 million acres along the coastal plain for oil and gas exploration.

“Spending limited federal dollars on a review of new wilderness designation in the (ANWR) is a waste of time and money,” Begich says.

Fish and Wildlife is behaving as if it cares little about the nation’s, much less Alaska’s, well-being. It doesn’t seem to understand the wealth of oil resources Alaska has to offer the nation.

Clearly, its officials don’t seem to care whether it prohibits oil development in one of the nation’s richest reserves when the volatility in countries where the United States acquires its oil leaves many questions as to whether that supply is reliable for the short or the long term.

The same officials also must not be aware of or affected by high oil prices, which could be reduced by tapping into ANWR and other domestic resources. It’s a fairly callous attitude considering what most Americans are dealing with in terms of rising costs to fuel their motor vehicles and heat their homes.

As for the effect on Alaska, imagine not having oil royalties, 90 percent of the state’s revenue, the Alaska Permanent Fund or the dividend program. If Alaska had not been allowed to develop Prudhoe Bay, none of that would exist.

Nothing lasts forever. Alaska’s natural resources need to be available not only to Alaskans, but to all Americans.

If Alaskans want to know what the future is like when natural resource development and manufacturing isn’t allowed or they are exported overseas, then look at the state of the economy. Americans produce less and less, and that translates into fewer jobs and an anemic economy.

It’s worth it to take the time to write to Fish and Wildlife against new wilderness designations in Alaska.


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