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Alaska legislator proposes state constitutional amendment denying federal land control

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 4:58 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A proposed amendment to the Alaska Constitution hopes to give the state full rights to its land, waters and resources.

The amendment, House Joint Resolution 17, was proposed by Representative Christopher Kurka. It would change or repeal parts of Article 12 dealing with conditions of Alaska statehood.

According to Kurka, Alaska is in a better position than the East Coast to act as steward of its land.

Kurka says federally owned lands and parks were not envisioned by the Constitution. “It should be a very bipartisan issue. It should get broad support from Republicans and Democrats and Independents. It’s an Alaska rights issue. It’s an Alaskan states’ rights issue. It’s not about how we want to develop our land. It’s not about what we open and what we close. It’s about self-determination of the state, and the full rights of the state,” he said.

The bill says Alaska and its people “dispute, do not recognize, and otherwise reject federal ownership to any property, natural resources, subsurface rights or waterway in Alaska currently under the control of the United States,” except as provided by the U.S. Constitution.

It is the latest in a series of measures asserting Alaskan control of its resources.

Last month, Governor Mike Dunleavy indicated that the state would assert control of its navigable rivers and lakes; and since January, Alaska’s congressional delegation has decried the Biden administration’s moratorium on oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Representative Grier Hopkins says that while he cannot support or oppose the measure at this point, it raises questions about its impact. “Whether it’s going to be our national park system, an absolute treasure for our nation and incredibly important for Alaska history, tourism, and why we all live in Alaska would be a big question. What would happen to those parks? I wouldn’t want to see them go away,” Hopkins said, adding, “What role will the interests of Alaska’s original landholders and land users, our indigenous populations, what role would they have in deciding whose land goes where, considering they’ve been using this land for thousands of years as well.”

The bill, which was heard Monday, has been referred to the Resources, State Affairs, and Judiciary Committees.

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