It's an awful sight to watch Republican legislators walking single file like school boys with fingers stuffed in their ears. What else can you call the refusal to listen to unanimous red hot voter opposition, including mayors and entire municipalities in Southeast, to HB 130/SB 96? What else can you call the deaf ear turned to extremely effective funding options proposed by fellow legislators, Republican and Democrat? But there's still time for one of them to pick up the torch to seriously aid the university, and prevent the mindless rape of 250,000 acres of public lands.
Rep. Eric Croft proposed a privately admired plan to grant the university state owned and controlled Point Thompsen lands for $130 million a year income in gas and oil profits. This is deep and handsome university support when compared to 1 percent of funding by 2020 the lands bill provides. Also, legislators from Southcentral encouraged replacing the giveaway of sensitive Southeast lands with Southcentral lands where constituents are hungry for more roads and development. The silence in House hearings was deafening to these excellent ideas.
So HB 130/SB 96 accomplishes nothing good. Legislators still have to scrape up the $500 million plus annual university budget. The only "change" is the pointless loss of the quarter-million acres of priceless public lands that disproportionately come from Southeast. The university land grant is the one and only legal vehicle to trash DNR land management plans and protections, and quietly allow ungoverned road building and development with no public or municipal oversight.
I have heard directly from many legislators and aides from both parties that they regard HB 130/SB 96 as, to quote several, "a stinker." The candor was good but, along party lines, did not translate into action. On this point congratulations must go to Rep. Peggy Wilson for the leadership to work hard and save some of the most sensitive Southeast lands. On the other hand, no one has proven more deaf to his constituents than her district partner, Sen. Bert Stedman.
There is still time to pick up the phone, write that e-mail asking for more withdrawals from SB 96, especially Sitka Sound lands, Lisianski Peninsula, Thom's Place and the tiny historically important Sumdum parcel. We will live with the loss of our lands forever if we don't.