Could Joe Miller Really Force the Federal Government to Hand Over Denali National Park to Alaska?
Alaska's latest political upstart, Joe Miller, wants to go Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal one better. While Governor Freudenthal had threatened to sell state lands within Grand Teton National Park to the highest bidder, Mr. Miller wants the federal government to turn over all national parks to the Alaskan government.
Of course, Mr. Miller, a favorite of the Tea Party, has a long way to go to see his dream come true. First he has to beat U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for the Republican nomination for the seat -- something he seems en route to doing, what with a 1,600-vote lead at last check. Then he'd need to win the November general election race against Scott McAdams, which perhaps is no sure thing.
Still, he's got moxie!
In an interview with Alaska Dispatch, Miller said if elected to the Senate, he will fight for state control of vast swaths of Alaska currently under federal ownership. Promoting resource development on those lands would help Alaska pay its own way and break its dependence on federal money, he said.
On Miller's list of federal lands that the state should control is Denali National Park -- Alaska's equivalent of Yellowstone National Park. Denali, a pristine park with only one road, is home to Mount McKinley -- the nation's tallest peak -- as well as grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep and other animals.
"If there's a significant resource in that park that we could get at in a responsible way -- and the state decides it's appropriate to extract it -- let's create jobs from it," said Miller, adding that he moved to Alaska because he loves hunting and fishing and doesn't favor anything that despoils the wilderness.
Of course, talking about such a land deal and making it happen are two very different things, especially when Mr. Miller envisions either the federal government going bankrupt and voluntarily relinquishing its holdings or a change in the U.S. Constitution that would give states the upper hand over the federal government.
Perhaps Wyoming's governor should have been so bold. All Mr. Freudenthal did was suggest he would put two square-mile sections of state land that are surrounded by Grand Teton on the market if Interior officials didn't make a reasonable offer for the land. Well, apparently that offer was made last week. After meeting with Tom Strickland, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, and Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, the governor told reporters that "we put together a transaction."