JUNEAU, Alaska (Aug. 29, 2016) – The federal government just stole an area of land the size of New Mexico from the state of Alaska, and the state didn’t blink an eye. But it could fight back it if wanted to.

On Aug. 3, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final ruling removing 77 million acres from State of Alaska wildlife management practices. Must Read Alaska put it this way.

“The final ruling came yesterday from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The State remained silent as it yielded the sovereignty it was guaranteed at Statehood to federal control.

“By taking management of fish and wildlife away from the State, the federal government broke another of its Statehood Act promises, and rural Alaskans lost even more access to subsistence.

“The State of Alaska stood by and kicked at the dirt.”

Just a few months before, the U.S. Park Service took another 20 million acres. And the Bureau of Land Management took yet another million acres in the Fortymile Area in July. That represent 100 million acres yanked from state management in a six-month span. On top of that, last October the Park Service overrode Alaska regulations pertaining to fish, wildlife – specifically to predator control.

Federal control over vast tracts of land not only violates the Constitution, it violates current federal law. Provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) left comprehensive management of fish and game to the state.

But state officials haven’t done anything to challenge this latest federal takeover of Alaskan land. Gov. Bill Walker has gone mute on the issue. As Must Read Alaska notes, he didn’t even issue a press release.

“The reason Gov. Walker is silent is simple: He needs the cooperation of these very agencies to get federal permitting for the gasline he is attempting to build, which crosses vast areas of federal land. He cannot afford to irritate the Washington bureaucracy that will rule on his access.

“And so, with the gasline as the No. 1 priority for Walker, Alaskan hunters and subsistence users are watching federal control encroach into the majority of our fish and game management areas, because our governor is too fearful to challenge Washington, and too obsessed with his one big plan for Alaska.”

What could Alaska do about this federal land grab? It could certainly take legal action. But that would likely falter in federal courts. But that doesn’t leave the state without options. It could just simply refuse to enforce federal regulations. It could make it clear that it will not make any effort to effectuate federal policy. Let the feds try to police 100 million acres on their own.

Of course, they can’t.

Other states have take similar approaches. Last year, the Tennessee legislature legalized the killing of black buzzards, a destructive bird that happens to be federally protected. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill in April 2015. It not only repeals state laws protecting the black vulture, it also prohibits the state from providing any cooperation with federal enforcement of its law. Repeal of the state law protecting the birds will make it extremely difficult for the federal government to enforce its laws.

Alaska could take a similar approach on the recently federally seized lands. State officers could enforce only state laws. Let the feds try to enforce their will with no state resources or cooperation. This could potentially nullify the federal takeover in effect.

If the governor won’t act, the state legislature should. As Must Read Alaska  put it, “Alaskans expect their government to defend State’s rights. They expect a maverick like Gov. Walker to throw down the gauntlet and actually engage in civil disobedience himself to stand for State’s rights.”

Alaskans need to hold their state officials accountable, both in the legislature and the governor’s office.

Mike Maharrey

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