This land is your land…
The federal government is the largest landowner in Alaska. The feds own about 60 percent of Alaskan land, an area of 222 million acres. This includes National Parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, military installations and the North Slope Petroleum Reserve.
Yes, so what? you say.
Here is what: The Dept. of Interior is on a new mission under direction of Donald J. Trump’s administration to roll back conservation efforts and to open up public lands to energy production under Trump’s America First energy strategy.
Public lands, according to reports from the New York Times and Bloomberg, are seen as resources to be exploited. The NYT reports that Trump’s DOI appointees come from the oil and gas industry, with insider knowledge of what the industry wants to see happen on public lands and waters.
DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke filed a legal proposal this week rescinding the nation’s first safety regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that were formulated by the Obama administration.
They want to loosen safety rules on underwater drilling equipment put in place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
In keeping with Trump’s campaign promise to bring back coal mining, the DOI works on rolling back the ban on coal mining on public lands and also delayed implementing regulations to control methane emissions of methane from oil and gas wells.
According to a story by Bloomberg, the new mission of the Interior Dept. is to generate cash, by changing the way federal lands are managed. This includes the presidential directive to rewrite a five-year offshore leasing plan that under the Obama administration banned drilling in the Atlantic Ocean and parts of offshore Alaska. Yes, right here in northwestern Alaska.
We here on the Seward Peninsula stand much to loose if the DOI decides to check out what can be exploited at the 2.7 million acres of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Let’s hope the don’t pay attention to this most remote national park gem of the nation that is located in our backyard. Instead of being a steward of national parks and monuments for the enjoyment of all Americans, Sec. Zinke is seeing to it that public lands are being turned over to the highest bidder for maximum profit. That’s sad. So sad. —D.H.—