Alaska senator swings at Obama Arctic wildness plan but misses

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From left to right: Committee ranking member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and committee chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) listen during a session of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
From left to right: Committee ranking member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and committee chairman Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) listen during a session of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill January 8, 2015 in Washington, DC.
(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday failed to land her first counterpunch at the Obama administration’s new Arctic conservation policies.

The Senate rejected an amendment that would’ve put a time limit on wilderness study areas. Only Congress can permanently designate land as wilderness. But as Murkowski explained on the Senate floor, once the president recommends wilderness status, the government manages the land as wilderness anyway.

“In fact many areas have been managed as de facto wilderness for decades, because the Congress has not acted,” she said.

The amendment she proposed for the Keystone pipeline bill would’ve removed that protection if Congress didn’t approve a request within a year. The amendment would’ve started the clock on the 12 million acre wilderness area President Obama proposes for the Arctic Refuge. It also would’ve affected a wilderness study area inside the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and other areas in a dozen Western states.

Fifty senators voted for it, but it needed 60 to pass.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Land dispute causes development ban in southern Nunavut, Canada, CBC News

Finland:  New environment minister blocks peat bog protection, Yle News

Sweden: Prospecting Boom Squeezes Sami Land, Radio Sweden

United States: Arctic Ocean may be next as Alaska officials seethe over ANWR move, Alaska Dispatch News

 

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Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

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