Legislature(2013 - 2014)BUTROVICH 205
02/08/2014 09:00 AM RESOURCES
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SB 109-ADVISORY COMMISSION ON FEDERAL MGT AREAS 9:51:40 AM CHAIR GIESSEL announced SB 109 to be up for consideration. SENATOR JOHN COGHILL, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of SB 109, said this measure is an extension of the sunset date for the Citizen's Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA). He said the federal government owns 60 percent of Alaska's lands going from productive land to wilderness and preserves; Alaska shares the remaining 40 percent with Alaska Native Corporations. He explained that the focus of federal lands generally goes from conservation to preservation and the land in Alaska goes from the need for production to the need for conservation, which travel in different directions. So, there must be a way for Alaskans to speak up on how they want to work with the federal government in both areas. The Statehood Compact, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) provide the rules to play by. SENATOR COGHILL said there is always a need for ongoing education and Alaska has to speak up for itself. Another issue is that the personnel turnover in the federal management areas that are generally conservation units to wilderness areas is very high and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is often operated from Seattle and is often overruled in D.C., which is why Alaska often resorts to the courts. Citizens who have to navigate through the complex set of rules and regulations and their modifications need to be alert and this citizen's advisory commission is one way to bring these issues into the light and provide an avenue to our delegation in Congress. When ANILCA was first instituted it had a high level commission made up of both federal and state officials who could make policy calls, but that went away. This is one way to get input from people at the community who just navigate on a river. He said the federal government can take people to court and they have unlimited access to legal instruments that quite often the citizen who is just trying to guide on a river doesn't have. He said the Senate Majority felt so strongly that they hired someone to help them work with the Citizen's Advisory Commission and Congress on things like the Izembek Road. CHAIR GIESSEL thanked him for his work adding that he is a great asset on CACFA. 9:59:45 AM CHAD HUTCHISON, staff to Senator Coghill, sponsor of SB 109, said CACFA does very important work holding hearings regarding land management, resource development, and access issues, and it makes recommendations for public policy to the State of Alaska; he said members should have received its annual report. CACFA's intent is to protect the state's interests relating to resource development and land management. It provides the Alaska Land Update that allows them to focus on particular resource development issues related to the Pebble Mine, Izembek, the proposed Beringia National Park, and the Wrangell St. Elias National Park. It is an entity that allows them to articulate issues to the general public and allows them to make comments as necessary. Most folks have little understanding as to what the federal government is continually doing around the State of Alaska and that is why CACFA is so important. 10:02:44 AM CHAIR GIESSEL said she appreciated the annual report as she would be bringing up topics in committee about some of them. 10:03:18 AM STAN LEAPHART, Executive Director, Citizen's Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA), supported SB 109. He said the commission has a lot of work to do in the next few years and that Senator Bettye Fahrenkamp from Fairbanks was the initial sponsor of the commission in 1981, shortly after passage of ANILCA. Now 30 years later we are still fighting to make sure it's implemented in the way Congress intended and that the federal agencies live up to the promises and compromises that are in that bill. He said review of some major management plans was coming into focus and that the BLM is undertaking two: the Central Yukon Plan and the Bering Sea Western Interior Plan. The Tongass National Forest is considering revising its management plan with issues ranging from the roadless rule to transitioning from old growth harvested timber to second growth harvested timber and a lot of other wildlife and fisheries management issues. The Chugach National Forest is also revising its management plan and has issues related to access and public use. MR. LEAPHART said he had been asked to be a member of a subcommittee put together by the BLM to look at their new placer mining policy. It's of considerable concern to the mining industry, in particular the small miners. The policy will probably impose some pretty significant and regulatory burdens on them. The subcommittee is a good approach, because it will involve people from the industry, state and federal agency people, other regulatory people, the Alaska Miners Association and people from the Forty-mile mining district. He said they have had similar experience working with the BLM's subcommittee through the Resource Advisory Council on a trapping cabin policy, which turned out quite well and that included people from the trapping community. 10:07:15 AM MR. LEAPHART said the annual report didn't clarify that the recommendations in the main report are not all the recommendations they heard at the August 2013 Summit. Those are listed in the summary that is attached to the annual report and weren't all necessarily endorsed by the commission. He said the next step is for a group of commissioners to meet next week in Anchorage to refine the list of recommendations and develop strategies on how to implement them. Those will be forwarded to the legislature, the governor's office and the delegation. CHAIR GIESSEL said the Anchorage summit was amazing; it was highly attended and had great input. She said the commission is made up largely of public citizens who remain mostly invisible and asked him to identify them. MR. LEAPHART said they are a 12-member commission with two legislative members: Senator Coghill and Representative Keller, who is currently the chairman; Rod Arno (also the executive director of the Alaska Outdoor Council), Teresa Hanson from Fairbanks (her family operates a small placer mine), Kathleen Liska from Anchorage (she has great interest in federal land issues), Susan Smith (an in-holder in Wrangell St. Elias National Park living a subsistence lifestyle with her husband), Mike Meekin from Palmer (an air taxi operator), Ron Somerville from Juneau (retired ADF&G biologist and an early warrior in the ANILCA battles), Mark Fish from Big Lake (maker of Black Powder Rifles), Charley Lean from Nome (has worked in many places in Alaska), Warren Olsen from Anchorage (active in fish and game issues for his whole career), and Frank Woods from Dillingham (commercial fisherman and sits on several boards related to subsistence and trail use). He said it is a very active group and they almost always have a full slate of members in attendance at their meetings. CHAIR GIESSEL thanked them for their volunteer labor on behalf of the state; she then opened public testimony. 10:13:34 AM RON SOMERVILLE, CACFA member, Juneau, Alaska, said he was a commercial fisherman with his father in Craig and got a Master's degree in wildlife management from the University of Montana and came back to work for Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) for 24 years. A lot of his career was spent on these types of issues, as well as tagging bears. He had lived 74 years in Alaska and watched as the entitlements Alaska was supposed to get at statehood have been compromised in Washington. Because of his travels around the state for ADF&G Mr. Somerville said he was interested in what was happening to the small communities that get inundated with bureaucratic paperwork. Plans are constantly being redone and things are snuck into them that violate a lot of agreements that were made in ANILCA and the Statehood Act. Things happening in the Interior could affect Southeastern and groups can hardly keep up with forest planning efforts in Glacier Bay National Park and some of the other conflicts that occur. This has a significant detrimental impact on land issues in Alaska and CACFA fills that role. MR. SOMERVILLE said for example that for 40 years the Territorial Sportsmen built cabins on Admiralty Island, provided boats and chopped wood, and maintained the cabins, not only for people to enjoy but because they were important for providing shelter and safety to people in the wilderness. He was in the committee room when ANILCA was passed and the Forest Service promised that Admiralty Island would be a wilderness area, but they wouldn't treat it like the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in Montana. Thirteen exceptions were made to wilderness management in Alaska and yet the Forest Service today is trying to make Admiralty Island exactly like the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. They no longer allow the Territorial Sportsmen to use chains saws in order to cut wood for the cabins or to use power equipment in the spring to maintain and improve them. He agreed to serve on the Commission because its work is so important in helping people to fully understand what the overreach of the federal government is like. "You would not believe it!" MR. SOMERVILLE related that Alaska has about 22,000 rivers and about 1 million lakes that could qualify under any definition of navigability, yet the navigability issue has been resolved on less than 25 rivers. The state has to prove in court the river was navigable at the time of statehood and the federal government is forcing adjudication of every river in the state. The unfortunate part is that at statehood Alaska received title to 60 million acres of submerged and tidelands and at this rate, we will lose that entitlement, because everybody who used them for that purpose is dead. It will have a phenomenal negative impact on this state. He said that one of major reasons we got statehood was to manage our fish and wildlife and now it's a mess. Something needs to be done to improve the fish and wildlife management problems. If we don't take care of them the federal government will preempt us. CHAIR GIESSEL thanked him for his service. 10:22:11 AM SENATOR MICCICHE thanked him for service and for remaining active. SENATOR BISHOP echoed those sentiments and added that he would like to break bread with him before leaving Juneau. MR. SOMERVILLE said it would be a pleasure. 10:23:01 AM CHAIR GIESSEL finding no further questions or comments and closed public testimony. SENATOR DYSON moved to report SB 109, version A, from committee to the next committee of referral with attached fiscal notes and individual recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered.