Following is an excerpt of Sen. Frank Murkowski 's address before the Alaska State Legislature on Jan. 22.


The challenge for the Legislature is to come to a resolution on subsistence before the moratorium on the federal government's take-over of our fisheries ends.

The federal government is already managing game on federal lands in Alaska and they intend to control our fisheries -- and more -- by year-end.

This Legislature has the opportunity to provide me with recommendations on amendments to ANILCA.

As chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, my intention, after Alaska lawmakers complete their work and make their recommendations, is to conduct hearings and to legislate any additional changes to ANILCA.

However, a full repeal of Title 8 is politically unrealistic, because it would face a certain presidential veto. The Legislature has a decision to make if we are going to avoid the federal takeover of our fish and return management of our game to our state.

We all have a fundamental responsibility to the people of Alaska. The time to act is now! Do not, Do not -- by your failure to act -- allow Secretary Bruce Babbitt on Dec. 1 to take control of our fish and game. We fought hard to become a state. Do not, by your inaction, turn the clock back 40 years to territorial days.

Indian Country

Last month, the Supreme Court heard the state's appeal of the Venetie decision. What is at stake is whether tribal governments will replace the authority of the state on over 40 million acres of Native lands. If the lower court decision is not reversed, what will follow is a resurgence of the authority of the BIA and other federal agencies that will become intimately involved in the lives of Alaskans.

How this is resolved is fundamental to our future.

While we wait for the court's decision, we need to act on the needs of rural Alaskans. Clean water, safe sanitation, education and economic opportunities, health care, law enforcement -- all are in need of vast improvement. Residents of Upper and Lower Kalskag are entitled to the same life opportunities as residents of Anchorage or Juneau.

You know that a state is only as strong as its communities, and the best way to make Alaska's rural communities stronger is to increase the amount of control local residents have over the decisions that affect their lives. We need to empower village Alaska with more self-determination -- morally, legally, and economically.

Whether it be greater local powers to handle misdemeanor offenses, setting educational curriculum, control of alcohol, or encouraging job training and economic development, a workable government structure must be set in place in rural Alaska with emphasis on real jobs that use the latest technology for resource development in their areas.

Also, we must hold the secretary of Interior accountable for his trust responsibility for the welfare of Alaska Natives. This secretary has an on-going conflict between his desire to appease environmentalists and his responsibility to enhance the welfare of Alaska Natives through the development and preservation of their lands.

This has been evident in the secretary's aggressive attempts to use the Exxon - Valdez oil spill fund to acquire Native-owned lands and put them under the control of his department. Already, more than $380 million of the available $900 million has been committed to buy up to 750,000 acres of Alaska land -- more land than the entire state of Rhode Island!

Future generations of Alaska Natives have lost their land heritage as a result of these sales with no guarantee that they will benefit from these cash payments in the future.

Alaska resources at crossroads

Today, I see our Alaska economy in a state of transition -- a transition that blends our gift of abundant natural resources with the skills, discipline, and scientific capabilities of our hard-working people.

Soon we will be dedicating the new international Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, a partnership with the government of Japan, that will study the planet and our global environment as never before.

We're building a spaceport in Kodiak that could become the Cape Canaveral of the North for commercial satellites. We have built air cargo transshipment points in Anchorage and Fairbanks that are the gateways between Europe, the Orient and North America.

These are new and exciting opportunities for our future. But Alaska cannot ignore its traditional base for economic development -- energy, mining, timber, fishing and our growing tourism industry. Our great strength is the development of our abundant natural resources.

And in Alaska we have shown that with the application of science and advanced technology, we can do it right -- preserving and protecting our natural bounty for our children and future generations. I have the greatest faith that the people of Alaska can meet any challenge and overcome what others may think are near-impossible obstacles.

I share with you a vision of Alaska where every child can grow and prosper without the fear of abuse, neglect or the scourge of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Where a mother does not fear for her child's health because she lacks proper sanitation, safe drinking water, or health coverage.

* An Alaska, where every citizen has the opportunity for a first-class education that enables every Alaskan to get a good job and build a family. Alaskans must come first. "Local hire" is the watchword.

* An Alaska where Alaskans make decisions for themselves; not let far away bureaucrats dictate our lifestyles.

You in the Legislature know the issues that you must address this year. I know you will put aside your differences and provide the leadership that all Alaskans expect of you.

Be informed! Don't allow yourself to be snowed by CARA.

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