The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

President Biden Gives Janus a bad name

Like the Russian effort to encircle Bakmut, Alaska is now under siege, at risk of becoming an American administrative oblast North of 60 Mining News – April 7, 2023

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980, as every Alaska school child should know, was a great compromise, engineered by Senator Ted Stevens and supported even by then-Senator Joe Biden.

In a 1980 speech on the Senate floor, Senator Biden said, "This legislation will protect some of the most beautiful and pristine lands in the world. It will provide for the wise use of our natural resources. And it will ensure that Alaska's economy will continue to grow and prosper."

In juxtaposition, when leveraged into allowing the Willow Oil Project to proceed with drilling in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), he said, "What I really want to do ... is conserve significant amounts of Alaskan sea and land forever." Apparently, the 104 million acres of Alaska lands preserved by ANILCA were not "significant."

All I can say is that what I really want to do is preserve 104 million acres of land and sea in Delaware forever. Unfortunately, there are only 1.2 million acres in Delaware to work with, but I would settle for that.

In Roman mythology, Janus was a god with two faces who looked to the past and future. The term "Janus" has also been used as a metaphor for someone who is two-faced or deceitful. In the current parlance, I suppose, the proper reference is "political."

President Biden has elevated being political to a new high.

Unfortunately, the "best" is yet to be.

We must assume that the provision in ANILCA that forbids the establishment of any new conservation units in Alaska is dead meat. Once again, it is incumbent on our Congressional delegation to attempt to apply the brakes on the Administrative State.

BLM has just proposed a rule that would amend the existing regulations regarding Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in Alaska "to better ensure that the BLM is meeting the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA)'s command to give priority to the designation and protection of ACECs."

The regulatory changes would emphasize ACECs as the principal designation "for protecting important natural, cultural, and scenic resources" and establish a more comprehensive framework for the BLM to identify, evaluate, and consider special management attention for ACECs in land use planning.

The proposed rule emphasizes the role of ACECs in contributing to ecosystem resilience by providing for ACEC designation to protect landscape intactness and habitat connectivity.

This draft is currently out for public comment.

There are over 160 ACECs in Alaska, said to exceed 22 million acres, each of which is subject to a plan that identifies the resources and regulates allowed activities.

The lengthy change in the ACEC rules was authored under the supervision of Laura Daniel-Davis, President Biden's nominee to be Assistant Interior Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. Ms. Daniel-Davis most recently was Chief of Policy and Advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of ANILCA in the draft regulations.

There is no evidence that access across federal lands for the future development of the isolated areas of the State will be guaranteed. Roads to remote locations, such as mines, are not provided for.

It is a given fact that most people employed by the Department of the Interior know very little about Alaska or anything else west of the Potomac. That has been the case for decades. However, now it seems that the current administration cannot see anything west of the Delaware River which is well east of the Potomac.

How, one may ask, will this new rule "ensure that Alaska's economy will continue to grow and prosper"?

From a legal point of view, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), upon which the proposed regulation relies, was enacted before ANILCA. Therefore, ANILCA logically should be a filter through which FLPMA is implemented in Alaska.

Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit and, by extension, the Alaska Federal District Court have never been persuaded to see things that way.

Sometimes, when you see a proposed rule like the one on the table, you are reminded of the snowy cornice on a nearby mountaintop. You know that an avalanche is coming, and you need to identify a safe place to hide.

As long as Alaskans are willing to risk trying to survive under the threat of cumulative encroachment, such as this proposed rule, our bureaucrats will continue to close the loop.

You have 75 days to weigh in on the Daniel-Davis amendment.

Complain, object, speak out. Let the Bureau of Land Management know that this is not the right thing to do. Let every public official, from your mayor to the President, know that you object. Write a letter to your Senators and Congresswoman. Speak to your State legislators.

Forty-odd years ago, we fought for the compromise we call ANILCA. Don't let that struggle be in vain.

 

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