By Alexandra Gutierrez
This week, Alaska lawmakers and government officials are meeting in Anchorage to discuss what they see as "federal overreach."
The two-day summit is being put on by a Department of Natural Resources advisory commission, and organizers say the goal is to examine points of conflict with the federal government over land management, resource development, access issues, and fish and wildlife policy.
Gov. Sean Parnell opened the summit at the Dena'ina Center Monday morning, describing federal overreach a "disease that afflicts our nation."
"Now, in Alaska, federal overreach looks like -- one -- harassment of Alaska Natives harvesting sea otter, blocking King Cove residents from access to health and safety personnel, failure to hold timely lease sales and delayed permitting decisions, attempting to add new and more onerous designations on land our citizens that we're already blocked from accessing and utilizing for our benefit," Parnell said.
The federal government is the largest landowner in the state, controlling about two-thirds of its acreage. But it puts a lot of money into the state, too -- nearly $10 billion a year. Parnell acknowledged that this tension makes the issue of federal overreach controversial.
"Now, I know you've taken some criticism for even daring to have this summit," he said. "One newspaper opinion writer said she took offense that on the one hand, we would complain about parts of the federal government overreaching, while with the other we accept federal dollars under federal law."
The governor dismissed that line of criticism, saying that was like faulting someone in an abusive situation at home for complaining about a "controlling and manipulative" provider.
While he had many strong words for the federal government, Parnell noted that the state's relationship with Washington was not always oppositional. He said there were some lawsuits where the state had sided alongside the federal government, and that litigation against it should be a last resort.
The summit wraps up Tuesday with a round table and an address by Alaska's congressional delegation and a former assistant secretary of the Department of Interior. No officials currently with federal agencies were invited to present.