Legislative Roundup: Participation and protections at risk

Written by Katie Rooks

January 24, 2024

The Alaska Legislature has been in session for just over a week and we have concerns. There’s an alarming trend in both bills and executive orders: stifling public participation, especially when it comes to protecting our home. 

Alaska seems to favor murky political waters over clean water — SB 72, if made law, removes the option to nominate Outstanding National Resource Waters — waters to be protected — putting the process entirely in the hands of the Legislature and codifying the state’s commitment to ignoring Alaskans — five such nominations from Tribes have already gone ignored. 

This isn’t a new push. Last year we were focused on HB 95. In 2019> we were fighting SB 51, which required a nomination to have three agency recommendations to be considered by the Legislature, a seemingly impossible feat. 

More to Monitor

HB 143 Advanced Recycling

HB 50 and SB 49, Carbon Storage

HB 177 and SB 118 Critical Minerals Plan and Report 

HB 169 Fisheries Rehabilitation Permit Bill- “Bucket Biology Bill”

SB 69 Geothermal Resources

Just how difficult SB 72 would make such a designation remains to be seen, but if history is any indicator, it won’t be anything short of impossible.

SB 156 and HB 217 would eliminate the Ocean Rangers statutes (AS 46.03.476). The voter initiated program placed highly trained observers onboard cruise ships to monitor for environmental threats. These bills also eliminate the separate Alaska Cruise Ship Program, by which the Division of Water regulates the activities of cruise ships while in State waters, and remove the ability of citizens to sue to protect the environment.

HB 104, the Expedited Timber Sales Bill, would let the state fast-track timber sales, bypassing public process and allowing the Division of Forestry to log any size parcel if they can claim it is “threatened” by wildfire, insects or disease – the main problem is it would allow timber logged via this mechanism to be excluded from the Annual Allowable Cut — the State’s only nod at maintaining a sustainable timber harvest level.

Forest fact

Wildfire just isn’t a big issue in Southeast — less than a fraction of 1 percent of the Tongass, the National Forest covering nearly 17 million acres of Southeast Alaska, burns annually.

Stifling the voices of Alaskans seems to be a popular move, not just for some legislators, but the governor as well. 

Governor Mike Dunleavy released several executive orders, which the Legislature has 60 days to undo. 

In EO 134, the Governor gets rid of Recreation River Advisory Boards, which include representation from communities and a variety of stakeholders. Making calls and seeking input would be at the discretion of the Department of Natural Resources.

Similarly, in EO 132, Dunleavy does away with Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve Advisory Council, again transferring functions to AKDNR. Tom Morphet, the mayor of Haines and an advisory board member, called the move “kind of boldly anti-democratic” in an interview with the Chilkat Valley News. Not only does the advisory committee save the state work, Morphet pointed out, it also provides “crucial local knowledge and perspective.” 

Your voice, our home — they matter to us. We’ll fight for them.

Obviously, a list like this becomes outdated just about as soon as it’s published, but you know we’ll continue to track, analyze and act. Keep up with us on email and social media.

Want to keep track of important bills on your own? Here’s a video we created showing you how to use the AKLEG.gov Bill Tracker!

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