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OPINION

Governor Mike Dunleavy: Invest in Alaska to Save the Environment

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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After winning a second term in office, Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) wants to make his case for Alaska in the Lower-48. 

A natural salesman, he wants Americans to visit The Last Frontier and bask in her natural beauty. His most effective pitch came in a 2021 Travel Alaska ad campaign.

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"To me, it's an amazing place," Dunleavy said during our recent interview. "I grew up in Pennsylvania—in Scranton, Pennsylvania—and left in 1983 to go to Alaska right out of college, and I thought I died and went to heaven."  

He continued, "It's a place where even today I still say to myself, 'I need eight lifetimes to see the entire state and understand it.'"

The Alaska model of balancing natural resource development with conservation stewardship has worked for decades. But the model is now threatened by radical preservationist policies emanating from the White House.

"We have tremendous resources," stated the 12th Alaska governor. "Alaska was probably the only state in the country in which its admittance into the Union as the 49th state was predicated upon its ability — and a compelling argument — that they must develop their resources. The irony today is that the federal government is doing everything possible, from our perspective, to stop that view [and] that approach to resource development from occurring." 

During our conversation, Dunleavy showed me a binder containing all federal government directives to devastate vital Alaska industries. Since January 2021, the Biden administration issued over 40 executive actions undermining energy and natural resources development opportunities under the guise of "fighting the climate crisis" and "protecting the environment." 

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These directives have incurred severe economic consequences, from placing a drilling moratorium in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to reinstating the 2001 Roadless Rule on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. These actions, in Dunleavy's view, are harmful to Alaskans. 

"It's really an anti-individual, anti-person agenda," the governor said of President Joe Biden's environmental policies.

Dunleavy wasn't shy about criticizing the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) movement— the pernicious ideology discouraging investment in oil and gas exploration.

"I think what really goads a lot of folks in Alaska is when we're talking about this ESG approach to the world," he continued. "And some of your larger banks would like you to believe that they are noble and they are saving the world."

He added, "Many of them are investing in places in which the environment is being destroyed. The political situation is horrible. Child labor issues and minority issues are being exploited. So you really want to save the environment? Invest in developing America and Alaska because we do it better than anybody."

I then asked him about Alaska Natives—a key constituency of his comprising over 20 percent of the population–and how President Biden's policies are impacting them. 

The Biden administration has touted consulting Tribal interests in all policy areas but is quick to dismiss their input supporting resource development. 

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"I can put you in contact with hundreds— if not thousands— of Alaska Natives that believe in resource development [and] that believe in responsible resource development," Dunleavy continued. "The Biden administration is talking to a select few that don't necessarily want resource development in their area. But I can tell you, overall, the vast majority of Alaska and Alaska Native people want resource development— responsible resource development—because of what it provides. It provides a future for their kids." 

Even a pastime like hunting isn't safe from the Biden administration. For example, Alaska's Federal Subsistence Board, a subsidiary of the Department of Interior, recently closed off 60 million public land acres to hunting access. Unsurprisingly, the anti-hunting Interior Secretary Deb Haaland fails to commit to a "no net loss" policy to maintain existing hunting and fishing access on federal public lands. 

The avid sportsman expressed his dismay with the decision and assured me he vows to fight it. 

For his tireless defense of wildlife conservation, Safari Club International recently bestowed him with their prestigious "Governor of the Year Award" at their annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee. 

"If you're a hunter, we're one of the Meccas to go to," he explained. "We're the only state with the three bear species: polar bears, brown bears (grizzly bears), and black bears. We have enormous herds of caribou, musk oxen, plains bison, and we're the only state with wood bison, which are the largest bison on the planet."

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"One of the reasons I went to Alaska right out of college was I wanted to be part of the outdoors," the governor stressed. "I want to be part of the wilderness, and it hasn't disappointed me. And, you know, I've gone on a hunt on a regular basis—whether it's caribou or moose." 

Despite all that's transpiring, Governor Dunleavy insists his state can sustain itself and be a model for actual conservation practices elsewhere in the U.S.

"Alaska is ground zero because there's a lot of folks that can be duped into thinking that if they support no activities in Alaska, then they're saving Alaska," the former school teacher continued.

"You're not saving Alaska. To be honest with you, Alaska is doing well saving itself right now by itself." 

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