Resolution opposes United Nations 'Beringia' designation

Posted: Sunday, April 24, 2005

JUNEAU - State Rep. Jim Elkins, R-Ketchikan, says the United Nations has gone too far in considering designating the Bering Sea and other parts of Alaska a World Heritage site.

Elkins said the state should give permission before any such designation is made.

"It's a state's rights issue," he said.

The U.N. designation aims to "encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity," according to the U.N. World Heritage Web page.

Other World Heritage sites in the United States include Yellowstone National Park, the Statue of Liberty, Monticello and the Grand Canyon.

A resolution by Elkins opposes the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designating parts of western Alaska, eastern Russia, the Bering Sea and Glacier Bay National Park as a marine biosphere known as "Beringia."

Many designated sites include private property and holdings, or buffer them, said Jennifer Baxter, an aide to Elkins. Designated land could block commercial activity, including pipelines, highways, railroads and power transmission lines, she said.

The resolution states: "Animal rights activists could use these international designations to generate pressure to harass or block harvesting of marine mammals by Alaska Natives or the commercial harvest of fisheries."

Elkins and Baxter presented the bill Friday to the Senate Resources Committee, which approved the resolution without debate.

"It always disturbs me when we see an organization like the United Nations that can't even take care of their own internal affairs want to take care of everybody else's," said committee chairman Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai.

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