Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young today welcomed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke back to Capitol Hill to testify before a House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal. Young, who continues to emphasize Congress’ responsibility and authority to implement a budget and set spending, took the opportunity to question Secretary Zinke on his broader philosophy for land management within Alaska.
Young Questions Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke During House Natural Resources Committee Hearing (click here to watch).
“Our job is to write this budget and I know the Secretary knows that. He’s presented a balanced budget to us and our job is to write the budget. We can stand here and beat him up all we want, but the reality is it’s the job of the Congress, not the job of the President – it’s his philosophy,” said Congressman Don Young. “I know, having served with the Secretary for many years that he has some requirements – that’s why he’s the Secretary for the President, and he’ll follow through with those. Our job is to try to make sure the money is spent where we want to spend it… I happen to agree Mr. Secretary with you reassigning certain people out of the agency because it got stagnant. It was a stagnant agency and they were forgetting, very frankly, the people they serve. I commend you on that.”
In a question raised to the Secretary, Congressman Young highlighted backdoor attempts by the previous administration to lock away Alaska lands.
“The prior administration refused to listen to the people, especially in Alaska, and they locked up land in Alaska behind Congress’ back under the pretense of Area of Critical and Environmental Concern (ACEC),” Young stated. “The land was then managed as Wilderness, circumventing the ‘no more clause’ in my state. Out of curiosity, what is your direction in those lands that were designated as critical habitat and then managed as Wilderness – circumventing the law?
Secretary Zinke very clearly stated he would follow the law, and understands that Alaska must be viewed through a unique lens.
Secretary of Interior Zinke Responding to Questions on Alaska Land Management (click here to watch)
“Mr. Chairman, I follow the law. Alaska is unique. When it came into the Union, there were certain provisions on Alaska that no other state had. On wilderness, on management of wildlife, on surveys …[of] land that’s supposed to be surveyed and transferred into the state. That is unique. I recognize the uniqueness of Alaska and I certainly look forward to working with you and Lisa Murkowski on it. Part of my job is to go up to Alaska and look at it. You learn a lot as a Secretary. I think my position should be out in the field – asking the right questions…On your example with Alaska, I view Alaska as unique and I follow the law.”
In closing, Congressman Young reiterated his frustration for land management decisions and failures that have for too long plagued the Department of Interior.
Young Discussing Land Management Failures in Alaska (click here to watch)
“I have great fondness for Wildlife Refuges, Preserves, etc, but I do not appreciate agencies that set the policy against the law and do not allow access. And that’s one of my biggest complaints,” Congressman Young said. “They have this idea that the land belongs to the agency. It does not, it belongs to the people. They have insisted upon conducting themselves as the lord and master, and the lord would not let the peasants come on the land without their permission. That is not a way to operate a Park or Refuge, or any other area that’s owned by the public. This doesn’t mean we’re going to rip and ruin and rape the lands, we’re going to take and actually visit. Not inside of a building, but we’re going to see the beauty and the grander of the land. Experience the stars above us, not from inside a building. That’s been my frustration – actually under my administration it was just about as bad. The last eight years has been a horror dream.”
For more information on today’s hearing, click here.