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WASHINGTON, April 25, 2018 — The House Natural Resources Committee will consider a bill Thursday to allow more than 500,000 acres of public land to be swapped with a private corporation in exchange for lands the company owns in Alaska.
Under H.R. 211, sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the Chugach Alaska Corp. could frack, mine or log pristine public lands in the lower 48 states in exchange for Alaska acreage. These private lands in Alaska would become public lands. The bill does not disclose which public lands in the lower 48 would be turned over to the company and does not allow any public input on that.
“Young’s massive land grab would destroy public lands and wildlife in other states to benefit a private corporation in his state,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s disturbing that Alaska’s congressman wants to sacrifice wild places that belong to all Americans, but won’t even tell the public what we’d lose. People have a right to know exactly which public lands would be lost to the fossil-fuel and timber industries.”
Under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the federal government transferred tens of millions of acres of public lands in Alaska to private corporations. These companies, including the Chugach Alaska Corp., were established to settle aboriginal land claims and provide economic benefits to native communities in Alaska.
“Young is helping special interests abuse the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to enrich themselves,” said Spivak. “It’s absurd for the federal government to retake possession of lands this private corporation was given years ago and then hand the company vast tracts of public land in other states to log, frack and mine. This kind of backdoor land swap is exactly why people don’t trust government to act in their best interest.”
Since January 2017 Republicans have introduced more than 120 bills that attack public lands, weaken environmental safeguards on those lands or turn over control to states and local governments. These attacks come despite the fact that the vast majority of voters across political parties support protecting and maintaining forests, national parks, monuments and other public lands and waters.