Statehood Is Only As Good As Those Protecting It
On July 7, 1958 Congress passed the Alaska Statehood Act whose provisions of economic vitality turned on natural resource development.
Predating that action were initiatives by the citizens of the Alaska Territory to create a model statehood constitution, approved on February 5, 1956 and ratified by a citizen plebiscite on April 24th. Article VIII of the constitution confirms the state’s dependence on natural resource development, requiring that development to be managed for the, “…maximum use consistent with the public interest”. (See our commentary: “Intergenerational Inequity”)
President Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act into Law on January 3, 1959, triggering activation of the earlier adopted constitution.
As Chairman of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in 1989-90, your writer had the pleasure of forming an Eisenhower Alaska Statehood Monument Commission, Chaired by the Alaska Railroad President, Coast Guard Commandant (Ret.), Admiral Dick Knapp. To this day, citizens and visitors alike can visit the monument in Downtown Anchorage, overlooking the Port of Anchorage.
Hopefully, those viewing the monument today, will also appreciate what statehood meant in that 5th decade of the 20th Century.
The Statehood Act conferred to the new state only 104 million acres within its borders. We can say “only”, because the federal government retained nearly ¾ of the total for itself, about 360 million acres. We know that our friend, Governor Walter J. Hickel, and several other Alaska statehood advocates–in retrospect—regretted later not fighting for at least half of their great land to fall under state sovereignty.
In 1971 Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act transferring over 40 million acres to Alaska Native Regional and Village corporations, along with nearly a billion dollars to extinguish further land claims (Sec.5). That act led to a very narrow approval, in 1973, for construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). TAPS, at its zenith in the early 80’s, contributed 20% of the nation’s domestic oil.
Alaskans were, accordingly, generally elated with statehood. Why? Because now they would directly control over a quarter of the state and still enjoy traditional uses of the federal lands for economic survival. See Alaska Historical Timeline. (Additional reference: 2/29/12 speech)
Had they known what was coming in the late 70s and beyond, with a juggernaut of environmental laws and rules developed by those having no memory of the basis for statehood, they may well have opted for a continuance of Territorial status. After all, without the ‘guarantees of resource development’ — both stipulated and implied by the statehood compact — the people might as well have continued in a status of Territorial, indentured servitude to the federal government.
The Alaska Constitution based the economic survival of the state on ‘natural resource development’. The natural resources providing greatest opportunity to the young state were: Oil & Gas, Mining, Timber and Commercial fishing on both state and federal lands.
Miners could develop mineral resources on state and federal lands with few bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. Oil and gas could be developed on state and federal lands with similar freedom. A vibrant timber industry employed thousands, directly and indirectly, primarily in Southeast Alaska.
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The new state’s private sector focused on its own priorities and challenges in coordination with what was evolving from a fair-minded federal regulatory bureaucracy and Congress, to a federal anti-natural resource development bias.
This bias–stimulated by environmental activists and the voting constituencies and campaign contributions they controlled—worked against the interests of the young state whose constitution, citizens and government depended on natural resource development anticipated by the very statehood act approved only a score of years prior.
The state’s own policies of excessive public spending, entitlement expansion and overtaxing industry certainly have a negative effect on natural resource related investment and employment. And frankly, some of Alaska’s own special interest activists have opposed the very resource development activity that enables them and their neighbors to economically survive.
However, the greatest damage to Alaska’s Constitutional reliance on natural resource wealth production has originated in Washington. We could offer many analogies illustrating what has happened over the last five and a half decades, since Statehood.
In our 15-year-old Northern Gas Pipelines website commentary, we have called the trend of declining land access and economic opportunity, “death by a thousand cuts”, 10-8-09, 12-8-09). We have shown that the Interior Department’s oversight of Alaska is like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. We have thought of Alaska’s plight resembling the hundreds of small straps, binding giant Gulliver helplessly to the ground (8-9-13). We’ve characterized the situation as a live frog or lobster being placed at the time of statehood in a pan of cool, refreshing water; then, being slowly poached as over time the temperature grew more and more unbearable (2-25-15).
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Courtesy of Michael Tadeo in U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office we have this memory of both U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski attempting to reclaim the state’s proper access to the Arctic National Wildlife Range (ANWR).
We use the word “reclaim” intentionally. For ANWR at the time of statehood was open to multiple uses – including oil and gas exploration, development and pipeline transportation — when, in 1959, it was designated, “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”. Therefore, citizens who voted for statehood, expected that ANWR and other multiple use areas would play a role in sustaining Alaska’s economy.
(In that video, we also hear Senator Boxer making an erroneous statement claiming that President Eisenhower designated ANWR to be a ‘Refuge’ rather than the ‘Range’ it actually was.)
In a later term of office as Alaska’s governor, Walter J. Hickel sued the federal government on the grounds that it had overreached its authority and denied Alaska the wealth generating access to natural resources that was both given and implied by the Alaska Statehood Compact. You may view a video describing that valiant but unsuccessful effort here: “Broken Promises”.
More recently, entrepreneur, radio and television personality, Dan Fagan, produced an important three part trilogy documenting how the federal government is denying Alaska its natural resource development birthright. You may view his work here: “Alaska Under Siege”.
All of these documentaries should be important not only to all Alaskans but to all Americans. Alaska makes America an Arctic nation. The greatest future reserves of oil and gas resources remain to be harnessed from Arctic areas.
Russia and other arctic nations are moving fast to claim their share of the Arctic pie.
In order for the United States to preserve both its natural resource development and environmental protection options it must have an active presence in the Arctic.
So far, our country has treated the Arctic only as an environmental playground and not seriously considered it as strategically important to America’s national security, to world transportation, to enhancement of Alaska’s contribution to the nation’s economy, to wealth production as well as to the environmental values we all hold dear.
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In closing, we believe our readers may experience a growing optimism in Alaska and in throughout the United States – and that it can evolve from two sources.
· We believe that a new generation of courageous, principled and dedicated leaders in Juneau and Washington can understand and properly use and conserve Alaska’s enormous resources in ways that protect the nation’s security, the state’s economy and our childrens’ future.
· We also firmly believe that the nation’s culture and the ethic that made it great was based on the God-given beliefs and principals set forth in America’s early documents: the Declaration of Independence, President Washington’s and President Lincoln’s communications, among many others.
Our optimism for the future, therefore, flows not from the hope for unearned wealth, but from the certainty that if Alaska is properly managed on a sustained yield basis and for maximum benefit of the people as the state’s constitution says – in ways reflecting the values given us by our predecessors — the country and its people will be well served and continue to thrive.
Yes, we appreciate the leadership of Senators Stevens, Senators Frank and Lisa Murkowski, Congressman Don Young and Governor Sean Parnell and some others. They have faced the barrage of federal overreaching jurisdictional issues with intelligence, historical perspective, courage and energy.
But it has not been enough. All that effort has not been enough partly because citizens have asked for too much. Everyone in the state is responsible for securing a sustainable future, not just the ones who make headlines.
So now we look forward to new combinations of leaders, disciplined citizens, strategies and tactics capable of protecting the promise of statehood, saving Alaska’s economy and propelling Alaska’s contribution into the mainstream of America’s economic, employment and national security future.
Maybe our leaders could still be fêted and feasted for routine activity when money flowed in surplus; now — with the challenge of shortage — the jig is up and “routine” doesn’t work.
Alaskans look, in short, for results — not merely for activity or good intentions, and they must look not only to their leaders but to the person in the mirror.
After all, when family survival, state fiscal strength and national security are at stake how can “results” not become the preeminent value?
Dear reader: we sometimes like to remind our friends that we are imperfect. Moreover, we KNOW we need all the help we can get! This means that we solicit factual corrections. As far as opinions, feel free to register one on our new site, both soon and often. We do not accept all submissions but have found over time that our readers are among the most astute anywhere, certainly about the many energy and related issues affecting the northern part of this continent. -dh
Here is a general timeline of Alaska’s history. Below is a timeline of events that have contributed to overreaching federal government emasculation of Alaska’s sovereignty, since President Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act on July 7, 1958 and then his celebrated statehood proclamation on January 3, 1959.
1-20-16. John Sturgeon’s case against federal overreaching authority to hinder citizen access to Alaska lands.
4-22-15. In August 2013, law enforcement agents — wearing bulletproof vests, waders and side arms — hopped on all-terrain vehicles and aircraft for a journey into the Alaskan wilderness. The team from U.S. EPA, the Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation was on the lookout for Clean Water Act violations at a small gold-mining outpost….
10-31-14. Federal government wants too much of ANWR. Map dispute.
1-23-14. Federal government violates constitutional guarantee of due process, further erodes the ‘rule of law’ in America.
4-16-13. Is Congress Fiddling While Its Authority Is Being Stolen?, re: using a presidential Executive Order to “zone the oceans” around America, further restricting multiple use and increasing consumer prices — all without Congressional support. (12-16-09. Council on Environmental Quality Interim Framework for Marine Spatial Planning – Ocean Policy).
8-22-13. Federal government opposes state funded ANWR exploration plan. Governor Parnell letter.
8-9-13. Our Commentary re: government overreach, “Historic Days for Alaska”. 8-9-13. Posting of 1980s era documentary. Governor Wally Hickel’s, Broken Promises”, re: the federal government stripping away Alaskan rights over first 30 years of statehood. The Statehood compact guaranteed Alaska royalty income from development of natural resources on federal land; but the federal government has subsequently made millions of acres of federal land – the majority of the state, a size equal to the size of Texas — unavailable for resource development needed to fund the state and its economy.
7-15-13. Federal overreach, “Let me count the ways”. “Defending the rule of law”
6-13-13. Federal Hypocrisy. Wilderness Society Doesn’t Support Federal Cleanup Of Federal Drilling Messes In Alaska – New Interior Secretary Opposes Responsible Nearby Exploration.
11-13-12. Alaska Under Siege Trilogy, Dan Fagan. The State of Alaska sued the Secretary of the Interior in U.S. District Court to overturn the federal moratorium on offshore drilling in Alaska’s OCS, on grounds that the Obama administration violated federal law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
9-3-10. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited Anchorage (i.e. as environmental allies cheered) and other cities to conduct hearings on the Minerals Management Service (MMS, now BOEM) five-year Oil & Gas leasing programs. The 2007-12 and 2012-17 programs presented no new opportunities for exploration, only orders from the Secretary to cancel programs, conduct more studies and deny access by rejecting permit applications. Secretary Ken Salazar (NGP Photo-R) applied deep water Gulf of Mexico exploration moratoria to Alaska’s shallow waters without Federal Register or other public notice, without notifying Alaska’s Congressional Delegation or Governor or lessees who paid over $2 billion in good faith to that agency for leases to explore. Meanwhile its bureau head, Mike Bromwich (NGP Photo), was proclaiming that no actual or de facto moratorium applied to Alaska.
5-14-12 (Item 2). The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the DOI’s US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is the size of North Carolina and mostly inaccessible wilderness. Federal law permits oil and gas development on a small sliver on the coast (i.e. “1002 area”), with Congressional approval. Exploration would occur in the winter when migratory species are absent. In the adjacent Prudhoe Bay area, a different caribou herd has thrived and more than quadrupled, due partly to human protections. Though Congress once granted approval for ANWR coastal plain development, President Clinton vetoed the bill in 1995. The current Administration has not recommended Congressional approval and continues to consider making that coastal sliver, off limits. Alaska has objected to USFWS steps to seek wilderness designations for the 1002 area within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 19 million acres that would prevent development of up to 16 billion barrels of oil.
5-14-12 (Item 5). The Parnell Administration vowed to fight “…Improper listings and critical habitat designations with sound science and cost data,” referring to efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to designate 187,166 square miles as a critical habitat for polar bears when the population of the bears is not declining. It is a Federal overreach that Alaska and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation believe will cost Alaskans hundreds of millions of dollars in economic potential.
3-15-10. Governor Sean Parnell’s (NGP Photo) Battles with the Federal Government.
12-23-09. Sullivan and Young Fight Beluga Designation
12-16-09. Council on Environmental Quality Interim Framework for Marine Spatial Planning (Ocean Policy).
12-08-09. Alaskan and American Consumers are Endangered Species (MMS approves Shell Chuckchi’s plan but EPA evades granting of air quality permit).
10-8-09. Administration uses the EPA to delay or stop Alaska OCS development on leases sold by the federal government years ago to companies trying to supply America with billions of barrels of oil that could reduce foreign dependence and gasoline prices while injecting scores of thousands of jobs into the economy over a 50 year period.
8-21-09. A White House Ocean Policy created by President Obama via Executive Order – without Congressional authority or funding — would have the effect of “zoning the oceans and Great Lakes” and would even give bureaucrats authority to restrict human behavior in areas of the country touched by rivers and streams leading into the oceans and Great Lakes. Since about ¾ of America’s coastline surrounds Alaska — and since Alaska has about 3 million lakes, rivers and streams — one could envision the last vestiges of free enterprise in the Last Frontier being snuffed out by bureaucratic manipulation of new ocean policy restrictions.
2001, and earlier. At 16.8 million acres, the Tongass is the largest component of the national forest system. It was the center of a battle in the 1990s between the timber industry and environmental groups …. The initial Clinton-era rule, issued in 2001, prohibited logging roads in 9.5 million acres of the forest. The Bush administration’s partial reversal potentially opened 2.3 million roadless acres to logging trucks. Although the Chugach and Tongass were established as working forests with multiple use mandates, today both are being managed like national parks, despite an annual sustainable harvest level of 520 million board feet set for the Tongass under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). Over the past 20 years the forest industry has suffered repeated blows – many of them at the hands of the federal government. Federal policy changes were described in the 2012 Timber Jobs Task Force report to Governor Parnell. The Task Force found that “Federal policies and management practices fail to provide sufficient timber supply for Southeast Alaska’s timber industry” and that “Environmental groups have exerted undue influence over USFS policy and direction related to national forest management in Alaska.” Federal policy, including the Obama administration’s reluctance to honor a settlement agreement to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, is killing an industry that only several decades ago was a cornerstone of the Southeast Alaska economy. In 1990, 473 million board feet of timber was harvested from the Tongass National Forest, but today the annual cut has fallen to only 21 million board feet. In 1990, there were more than 4,000 jobs in the forest industry and its support sector, today there are less than 1,000. Meanwhile, approximately 94 percent of the Tongass remains closed to timber harvesting and no commercial harvests are taking place in the Chugach National Forest, the nation’s second largest.
4-6-00. Senators Stevens (1 & 2) and Murkowski fight anti-ANWR amendment (Note: courtesy of Michael Tadeo, Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski).
12-2-80. Adoption of Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). “No more clause”.
Please note: We are grateful to the Resource Development Council for Alaska and the Alaska Support Industry Alliance for their inspirational leadership within the Alaska community and for some of the research material and insight contained herein. -dh