Utah Official Advocates Land Transfer In Alaska
Alaska is not alone in its conflicts with the federal government over land management. Leaders in some lower 48 western states want Alaska to join an effort to gain control of federal lands within their borders. "All of the states need to dialogue with one another and to expand the conversation so that we have a coalition of states that have a voice in Washington," says Kathleen Clarke, director of Utah’s Public Land Policy Coordination office.
Clarke, a former National Director of the Bureau of Land Management, was in Fairbanks Friday at the invitation of Alaska’s Citizen’s Advisory Commission on Federal Areas. Clarke says Alaska has a lot in common with Utah and other western states.
"What we perceive to be overreach of federal government, and the challenge of getting some balance in that management that respects local citizens, tradition, culture, economics and all of those things that contribute to a good quality of life," she said.
Clarke provided the state commission with an update on an American Lands Council initiative supported by Utah and several other states, aimed at getting some BLM property turned over to them.
"If we work together and transfer title and ownership, it would free the federal government of a whole lot of burden and expense, as well as allowing the western states to, for example, contribute to the issue of national energy security, so I think there's a lot of positive that could come," she said.
Clarke said the effort does not target national parks, refuges or other wilderness areas. Clarke and fellow land transfer advocate Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder cited economic studies that show states making money by managing BLM lands for resource development.
Citizen’s Advisory Commission on Federal Areas Chair, Alaska State Representative Wes Keller says the commission regularly hears about federal overreach from Alaskans, and emphasized the broader issue is not unique. "We have a tendency, I think, in Alaska to think we're the only one, but other western states are experiencing the same thing, so I see it as just a sharing of information and getting together with other states," he said.
Keller was clear that the state of Alaska isn’t formally supporting land transfer at this point, and the commission is just gathering information.