Later this year, the 25th anniversary of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act will be marked by various people and groups proclaiming its significance. Of course, it will be proclaimed as a significant achievement by some and a significant abomination by others.
But an anniversary there will be, regardless of those divergent points of view.
And what an anniversary present for Alaska it might be if by then President Bush has signed legislation that allows the opening of a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to much-needed oil exploration and development.
ANWR was established in 1960, though it was known by another name at the time, and was expanded in 1980 under terms of the Alaska lands act. The act, in its primary purpose, allowed Congress to transfer 100 million acres of Alaska land, including the additional acreage for ANWR, to the federal government.
But in return for agreeing to passage of the lands act, Sen. Ted Stevens secured a provision permitting the oil exploration, on subsequent congressional approval, of the refuge's coastal plain, known as the 1002 area in reference to the section of the lands act containing it.
The 1002 area is about 1.5 million acres in size and constitutes about 8 percent of the present-day refuge. The actual acreage proposed for oil drilling is but a fraction of that acreage in the coastal plain.
Yet for nearly 25 years Congress has refused, declined, been afraid to whatever words you like to give the final go-ahead.
At long last, however, and to the eventual benefit of Alaska and the nation, a successful end to the years of waiting may be at hand. Congress last week took ANWR over what is likely the final political hurdle toward opening the coastal plain to the necessary development.
Now maybe Sen. Stevens will throw away the piece of newsprint he has reportedly been carrying in his wallet since the days after passage of the Alaska lands act back in 1980.
That piece of paper, according to a story a few weeks ago in The Washington Post, is a newspaper advertisement with the message ''Come home, Ted.'' The ad was placed by people upset at the senator's ''traitorous'' cooperation in passage of the lands act that gave so much of Alaska to the federal government.
Maybe now, with the president's signature once the bill eventually reaches him later this year, the promise of ANWR will finally be giving something back.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,
The sometimes moronic debate over whether Alaska should purchase or lease a small jet for the Department of Public Safety has reached a point so low, so ludicrous that it begs the imagination.
Those opposed to a new business-class jet for the department want it blocked at any cost. Why? So that Gov. Frank Murkowski will not be able to use it. In essence, they are saying that denying the governor occasional use of a jet is worth endangering Alaskans' lives.
Welcome to Alaska's kindergarten politics.
Many of the recent objections, we note, come from Anchorage Democrat Rep. Eric Croft, mentioned more than once as a possible gubernatorial candidate next year, and the usual suspects on the left.
A jet only makes sense. This state is 20 percent the size of the entire United States. It has the longest distances and lousiest weather of any state in the union. Many of its farthest-flung communities have no police, no troopers, no real emergency services. It takes time for help to arrive.
Presently, the state uses two Beechcraft King Airs for longer flights, and hauling prisoners or emergency personnel and gear. One was built in 1978, the other, in 1980, with 1960s technology.
A turbojet aircraft would be more cost-effective and have a longer range 1,700 to 1,900 miles rather than the King Airs' 1,000 miles providing an added measure of safety for flight crews. Pilots must not only be able to land at a destination, but be able to fly to an alternate landing site if that is not possible. A turbojet's longer range increases the safety margin.
As for the specious argument that a turbojet cannot land on some rural runways? Well, neither can the King Airs. They fly to regional hubs, and public safety personnel fly out to villages in smaller aircraft.
It is a shame when politics takes precedence over the safety of Alaskans in rural areas of the state. It is a shame when politics becomes so petty.
Murkowski says he will not back down. He should not. Those who are turning their backs on rural Alaska for political gain should be ashamed.
Voice of the Times,
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