In retaliation for the Obama administration’s proposal to set aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski has threatened to cut the budget of the Department of the Interior. The wilderness designation would prevent any chance of oil exploration in the area, which would infuriate many Republican politicians.
Four agencies in the DOI employ large numbers of wildland firefighters — the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Land Management. If Senator Murkowski is able to impose a large cut in the DOI budget, perhaps hundreds or thousands of employees could lose their jobs, with some of them being firefighters.
But the Senator says “jobs are transitory”.
Below is an excerpt from an article at Alaska Public Media:
…But as chair of the Energy Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski has some level of oversight over the Department of the Interior. Murkowski says Secretary Sally Jewell will appear before her twice in the coming weeks.
“She will be before my energy committee on the Tuesday next, as she presents the budget,” Murkowski said. “And then I will have her in front of my Interior appropriations subcommittee on March 4, so I’m going to have plenty of opportunity to engage with her.”
Murkowski notes she is in a position to affect the Department of Interior’s budget.
“If budgets are reduced and people lose their jobs, that is an outcome. Right now, what people in this region seem to be concerned about is losing their land. A job is transitory,” Murkowski said. “This Secretary is going to have this job for just two more years, this President is going to have this job for less than two years, but the land – the land – that’s what I’m here to protect. This is what we need to be fighting for. I’m not going to be fighting for some short-term job for a bureaucrat.”
In response, Jewell says she is “hopeful” that there will not be retaliatory cuts, and notes the Department provides aerial mapping of Alaska and monitors earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the state.