On December 4, 2018, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) placed S. 785, the "Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act," on General Orders in the Senate. If signed into law, S. 785 would give away an estimated half-million acres of federal public lands — which could include national wildlife refuges and designated Wilderness areas — to private hands.
The fear right now is that S. 785 could be attached to any must-pass bill in the current "lame duck" session of Congress, so please write your senators and representative today!
Of particular concern to Wilderness Watch is the fact that S. 785 makes ALL national wildlife refuge lands (except the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), including within designated Wilderness, available for privatization.
These ecologically sensitive lands are afforded the most protected status available under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and should never be offered for privatization. This is especially true where, as in S. 785, there is no requirement for showing any prior use or actual connection to the land to be privatized.
Congress created a limited opportunity under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that allowed Native Alaskans to select "allotments" on public lands, which then became their private lands. Congress re-opened the allotment program in 1998 to allow Native residents who had served in Viet Nam (and who had missed the earlier opportunity) the chance to select lands. The re-opened program specifically prohibited selections within Wilderness areas and also restricted selections with established pubic campsites. S. 785 drops these restrictions, leaving Wilderness and national wildlife refuges vulnerable to privatization, and appears to be a blatant effort by Alaska's notoriously anti-wilderness Congressional delegation to degrade the conservation values of refuges and Wildernesses.
Take action to protect Wilderness and National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska from privatization!
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