- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2015

There’s fury brewing in Alaska. The Obama administration’s plan to designate 12.2 million acres of the state’s public land as pristine wilderness sounds nice, but the vast parcel also happens to contain Alaska’s richest oil and natural gas prospects on the Arctic coastal plain. While environmentalists celebrate and Interior Dept. Secretary Sally Jewell calls the gorgeous land “one of the nation’s crown jewels,” the state’s Republican lawmakers and governor are not disguising their disgust. The decision, they say, will have long lasting impact on Alaska’s economy and energy security.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski calls the plan “a stunning attack on our sovereignty,” adding, “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan calls it all “outrageous,” later observing, “It is just one more example of President Obama thumbing his nose at the citizens of a sovereign state - and will put Alaska and America’s energy security in serious jeopardy.”

And from Rep. Don Young comes this comment: “This callously planned and politically motivated attack on Alaska by the Obama administration is akin to spitting in our faces and telling us it’s raining outside. As if on command from the most extreme environmentalist elements, this president and his team of D.C. bureaucrats believe they alone know what’s best for Alaska, but this brazen assault on our state and our people will do the complete opposite.”

Gov. Bill Walker has his say as well. “Having just given to Alaskans the State of the State and State of the Budget addresses, it’s clear that our fiscal challenges in both the short and long term would benefit significantly from increased oil production,” Mr. Walker observes. “This action by the federal government is a major setback toward reaching that goal. Therefore, I will consider accelerating the options available to us to increase oil exploration and production on state-owned lands.”

Some are delighted by the plan, however.

“We applaud and thank President Obama for adopting a conservation plan that for the first time proposes to designate a large portion of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness to protect it from exploitation and development. We call on Congress to follow the President’s lead,” says Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, and advocacy group.

“Known as ‘The Sacred Place Where Life Begins’ to Alaska Native communities and teeming with rare wildlife, this is a place of incalculable beauty and value, to be protected like Yellowstone and Yosemite, not turned into another polluted oil patch,” he adds.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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