Let's win assault on Alaska together

Most of us remember where we were when we first learned of some momentous event that seemed briefly to freeze history in time. 

Like many Alaskans, I’ll never forget where I was on 9/11. Many of us will never forget where we were when we learned that Sen. Ted Stevens was in the plane crash that took his life, or when Gov. Wally Hickel passed on.

And I will never forget where I was when I heard that President Barack Obama was once again going to attempt to lock up millions of acres of Alaska land, thereby taking what could be billions of barrels of oil off the table, perhaps permanently.

I was heading to Ft. Lewis-McChord, Washington, to train with my Marine Corps reserve unit when I got the news. The disconnect between what I was hearing on the phone and what I was preparing for couldn’t have been greater.

It was all the more surreal because the announcement itself seemed completely divorced from reality, almost as if the president and a small group of insular advisers were trying to make up for their failed policies by enacting more job-killing failed policies, at the expense of all Alaskans and working families across the country.

Here I was, about to train with some of the bravest young Americans our country has produced — willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedom and security of our nation in an uncertain world — and the president of the United States was announcing that he was in the process of stripping a state’s sovereignty, a state’s freedom, a state’s economic engine that also keeps our nation secure.

I said then that President Obama’s actions are tantamount to declaring war on all Alaskans. That was not hyperbole.

Many of you have heard about the impending land grab. But let me emphasize what’s at stake: If Obama gets his way, an additional 12.3 million acres of oil and gas rich land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be designated as “wilderness,” which prevents responsible oil and gas development and even could prevent motorized vehicles. That acreage constitutes the last sliver of hope to drill in ANWR, and it will be taken off the table, perhaps forever.

He’s also taking millions of acres of offshore leases off the table, and is trying to render uneconomic ConocoPhillips’ project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an area specifically set aside for oil and gas development.

The president is robbing the state and the country of a future for our children and grandchildren, as well as national security, by stepping outside of his legal authority. Only Congress, not the president, has the authority to designate “wilderness” areas. But the president, through executive fiat, and without consulting the state, has said the area will be managed as wilderness anyway. This action clearly disregards the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, where the government promised no more land lock-ups without congressional approval.

It’s not the first time that the president has used dubious legal authority to lock up Alaska lands. He took much the same action when he took half of NPR-A off the table in 2012.

It’s wrong. The president is overstepping his constitutional powers. The Constitution is not a mere suggestion. It is the foundation for the structure of our government and our individual liberties.

I was speaking from the gut when I used the war metaphor. I wasn’t speaking as a Republican, or as a Marine, but as an Alaskan, who has as much at stake in the rise or the fall of our state as any one of us, who has three teenaged Alaskan daughters, an Alaskan wife, and a bevy of Alaskan relatives.

And I’ll say this as your senator: I will fight with everything I have and do everything in my power in D.C. to stop President Obama’s assault on our state.

I’ll do my best as your senator, but I need your help. Your whole congressional delegation, as well as your governor, your state legislature and its officials, all need your help.

To be sure, we have significant power with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, Rep. Don Young’s seniority, Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s position as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and my committee assignments, including chair of the Fisheries, Water and Wildlife subcommittee. And we’ll make full use of that power.

But in the end, our power is only as strong as the people who voted us into office.

In the coming weeks and months, you’ll be hearing more from me on ways you can get involved.

I’ll be sharing those plans with you by all means available, including regular entries on my Facebook page.

Alaskans have been in tough battles before. We will win. We have to, when they take our land, they take security, our sovereignty and our soul.

Remember: It’s our Alaska.

By:  Senator Dan Sullivan