Republican News

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Frank H. Murkowski made the following statement today regarding a number of bills during a hearing held by the Subcommittee on Forests and Public Lands Management of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on pending bills. “More than 200 million acres of federal forest land are at risk for fire. Unchecked growth have left fuel conditions ripe for yet another massive fire, threatening land, homes, and most of all, the lives of the people who live there and the fire fighters who will be called to respond. Mechanical fuel removal is critical to protecting these lands from fire risk. In Alaska alone, there are about 1 million acres of bug-killed timber just waiting to erupt in catastrophe. On the Kenai Peninsula, more than 600,000 acres of dead trees stand on Federal land. This is a situation of great concern to not only the agencies responsible for protecting our public lands, but to the thousands of Alaskans who call these regions home. Implementing the Western Governor’s Collaborative 10-Year Strategy for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks are timely actions and should be pursued. “We must respond to the critical situation facing the village of Newtok in western Alaska. The Ninglick River is eating away its banks at a ferocious rate, threatening the village of 300. S. 2016 provides for a simple, equal value land exchange that is the first step in providing the villagers the means to save their homes and their community. My staff has worked with the Department of the Interior to develop a solution and a substitute bill has been crafted that addresses the concerns expressed by the Department about the original S. 2016. Time is running out for the people of Newtok. I ask the Committee to help us get this issue resolved during the present session of Congress. “S. 2587 establishes a Joint Federal-State Commission to expedite the resolution of a long-standing problem in Alaska. The Commission would facilitate determinations of the navigable status of lakes, rivers, and streams in Alaska. Under the Equal Footing Doctrine and the Submerged Lands Act, every State gains title to the submerged lands that underlie navigable waterways within its borders upon entering the Union. Since Alaska became a State in 1959, only 13 of its more than 22,000 rivers have been determined to be navigable, and the status of well over one million lakes has been left in question. Currently, there is no mechanism by which the State and Federal governments can reach pre-agreement on waters that need classification, leaving litigation against the United States the only recourse available to Alaska. S. 2587 will eliminate the need for litigation over the status of those waterways where agreement can be reached by the Joint Commission. “The State has already done its part to make this Commission a reality. It passed legislation this year to authorize the State’s side of the Commission. Congress should act quickly to establish the needed Federal authority by passing S. 2587 and help end the continued, unfair treatment of Alaskans.” ###