In what a cynic could conceivably view as “no real surprise,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) wants to open 27 million acres of United States lands to mining and drilling – after pocketing $590,631 from the fossil fuel industry.
On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on Murkowski’s amendment to the Keystone XL bill, which would open country lands in Alaska and throughout the Lower 48 to industrial development. According to Think Progress, these areas would include almost 15 million acres of land managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and over 12 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
It should be noted that Murkowski’s amendment to sell off the country’s unspoiled wilderness comes mere days after her scathing comments to President Obama for proposing a permanent wildlife refuge in Alaska.
On Sunday, the White House announced that the President will seek Congressional approval to designate 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness. In the words of the The New York Times, this would offer the region the “highest level of protection the government can confer on public land,” permanently barring it from from fossil fuel exploration and development.
This area has long been coveted by the fossil fuel industry for its untapped reservoirs of oil. Sen. Murkowski’s father, a former Alaskan senator and governor, attempted to open the area to drilling throughout his political career.
Following the President’s proposal on Sunday, Sen. Murkowski called the wildlife designation “a stunning attack on [Alaska’s] sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive.”
But Sen. Murkowski was not finished. “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory,” she added. “The promises made to us at statehood, and since then, mean absolutely nothing to them. I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska. But we will not be run over like this. We will fight back with every resource at our disposal.”
Murkowski’s amendment to open up millions of American acres to drilling and logging does not include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but it does include public lands in Alaska, as well as its coasts. The Senate will vote on the amendment in the same session that it votes on its ‘No National Parks’ bill, which would strip the President of his ability to protect public lands and establish marine protected areas.
Think Progress reports that the bill is not expected to attain the 60 votes needed to pass, as states currently receive about $645 billion from its current outdoor recreation economy.
“Efforts to undermine public land protections are completely out of step with public opinion, which shows an overwhelming support for managing our country’s public lands and waters in a way that sustains local economies,” said Carrie Hamblen of the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.