Resource Development Council

RDC Letter:
HJR 31 - Designate Central Park as Wilderness

January 31, 2012

Representative Eric Feige
Co-chair, House Resources Committee
Alaska State Capitol
Juneau, AK 99801

Re: HJR 31, Urging the federal government to designate Central Park a Wilderness area

Dear Representative Feige:

The Resource Development Council is writing to encourage the House Resources Committee to pass HJR 31, urging the federal government to designate Central Park in Manhattan a federal Wilderness area.

RDC is an Alaskan business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska's oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism, and fisheries industries. Our membership includes all of the Alaska Native regional corporations, local communities, organized labor, and industry support firms. RDC's purpose is to expand the state's economic base through the responsible development of our natural resources.

HJR 31 calls on the U.S. Congress to place Manhattan’s Central Park into federal Wilderness. The resolution draws a striking comparison between Central Park and potential resource development opportunities on federal lands in Alaska. For example, Central Park comprises about six percent of heavily developed Manhattan, which is less than 23 square miles in size. The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which is the subject of a current bill in Congress, makes up about eight percent of the 30,000 square-mile-refuge.

The author of the resolution targeted Manhattan because it is the epicenter for wealth and for social and environmental movements. It is in the heart of where there is a lot of opposition to Arctic energy exploration and development.

Obviously, the resolution is not intended to be taken literally. It is a piece of political satire pointing out the hypocrisy of East Coast interests, such as wealthy tax-exempt foundations, that heavily fund efforts to block oil and gas development in a small portion of ANWR. Joined by their allies in Congress, these foundations and other non-development interests routinely work against development of Alaska’s resources on other federal lands in our state, while their economy is supported by multiple use development activities across federal and state lands throughout the eastern U.S.

Representative Kyle Johansen’s resolution is attracting considerable media attention in the Lower 48, which was his major objective in introducing HJR 31. Now it is up to the Alaska House to follow through with an overwhelming affirmative vote on HJR 31. Passage of this resolution will send a strong message to members of Congress, who need to look in the mirror when they work against Alaska’s efforts to sustain its economy through responsible resource development, while turning a blind eye to past and present development activities across their own regions. Alaskans are frustrated with the many federal impediments to resource development, which is the foundation of our northern economy. HJR 31 expresses this frustration and its passage will direct public attention in the Lower 48 to the issue.

We must not forget that Alaska statehood was largely based on congressional intent – that through the responsible development of its natural resources, the 49th state would be able to sustain its economy and not become a ward of the federal government. Early statehood bills failed, and ultimately it was the discovery of oil that convinced Congress Alaska could sustain itself as a state.

Perhaps HJR 31 may remind federal lawmakers and others of the congressional intent in establishing the “1002 area” of ANWR and Alaska statehood.

RDC commends Representative Johansen for introducing HJR 31, as well as cosponsors Representative Anna Fairclough, Representative Kurt Olson, Representative Charisse Millett, House Speaker Mike Chenault, Representative Mike Doogan, and yourself. RDC encourages the committee to pass the resolution.

Resource Development Council for Alaska