Murkowski bill cuts public discussion

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, November 23, 2003

If you think coal bed methane exploration in the Matanuska Valley is a problem, just wait until you see Sen. Murkowski's new Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act. This bill takes the public out of "public process" for land management in Alaska. It would allow a vast array of individuals, entities and corporations - from the University of Alaska to Sealaska Corporation - to negotiate outstanding land claims settlements with the Secretary of the Interior, most likely without involving affected parties or allowing the public to comment on the impact to our communities.

This bill is an unruly beast. It includes numerous questionable claims that promise to impede the resolution of legitimate ones. It also attempts to resolve a host of outstanding lands claims identified under ANCSA and goodness knows what other pieces of legislation, but could then slam the door forever, making it impossible for individuals or Native villages to come forward with new, legitimate ANCSA claims.

Alaska certainly has a lot of land allotment issues to resolve, but Murkowski's land grab has no hope of settling them. Sen. Murkowski needs to slow down, withdraw this piece of legislation and take the time to think of a sensible, fair alternative to her current bill.

Tom Lee


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