Senator Murkowski's 70-page Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act of 2003 (S.1466) would substantially change the rules by which national forest and national wildlife refuge lands are transferred out of public ownership. The bill would also authorize the Secretary of Interior to open or close certain federal lands to various uses without providing an opportunity for public notice, public comment, environmental review or judicial review.
This denial of public process would be a serious setback to the progress made over the past 30 years in allowing citizens to play meaningful roles in major public land management decisions. Federal lands in Alaska are essential for subsistence, commercial and non-commercial use by all Alaskans, and people need to be able to influence these decisions.
The consequences of S.1466 are so complex and far-reaching that it would change land grant agreements reached in federal laws such as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and Alaska Statehood Act. Senator Murkowski should be encouraged to divide S.1466 into smaller and more focused bills that are easier for the public to understand and comment on during congressional hearings on the legislation. The senator can be reached by phone at (202) 224-6665 or by fax at (202) 224-5301. The bill can be read at http://thomas.loc.gov/ by typing in S.1466.
Bruce H. Baker