Senators use Trump meeting to target Alaska lands and waters

Stepping up their attacks on public lands and the Arctic Ocean, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan met this week with President Trump and new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to make the case for more oil drilling in the Arctic.

The senators used their hour in the Oval Office to give Trump and Zinke their version of Alaska issues, using maps and economic statistics to argue for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and weakening President Obama’s protections against offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Arctic Refuge has long been a symbol of America’s public lands heritage, and we have a moral obligation to protect it for future generations. The Wilderness Society is committed to defending the refuge from congressional attempts to sell it to the highest bidder.  

The meeting also included discussion of Murkowski’s ongoing effort to build a road through designated wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, part of her effort to takeover public lands and put them under state control for development projects.

During a recent address to the Alaska Legislature, Murkowski described her desire to obtain greater access to public lands and to reduce federal regulation, and cited the proposed road between the communities of King Cove and Cold Bay.

For years, proponents have claimed the road is needed for emergency medical access to the airport in Cold Bay, but in her speech to Alaska lawmakers, Murkowski portrayed it differently.

“Our first task is really to restore access, to restore access to our lands and waters,” she told lawmakers. “King Cove is probably the first example of that.”

The federal government has repeatedly studied a proposed land swap and road through the refuge, and consistently rejected the project because of its negative effects on the ecological resources and wilderness values of the refuge. TWS will continue to oppose this damaging road proposal and work to protect the Izembek refuge’s extraordinary wilderness and wetlands values.