Murkowski-Young-Stevens Move Against Park Service "Pirates";
Introduce Glacier Bay Bills Seeking Damages for Crabbers

Resource Committee

Washington -- Saying they were outraged by the National Park Service's actions last week to remove tanner crab fishermen from Glacier Bay, Alaska Sens. Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens, and Alaska Congressman Don Young, unveiled legislation to reopen most of the bay to commercial fishing and to compensate tanner crab fishermen injured by recent irresponsible Park Service actions.

In a separate letter, Senator Murkowski also urged Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles to file suit against the federal government's takeover of marine resources in the navigable waters of the state.

"It was outright piracy to deprive crabbers from earning a living in the bay when the Park Service knew they had no authority whatsoever to throw crabbers out this winter. It was inexcusable for gun-toting rangers to kick crabbers out of the park," said Murkowski.

"The Park Service continues to push for more and more restrictions on commercial and subsistence fishing, and it shows no sign of stopping. We won't stand for the malicious and irresponsible actions of the Park Service. The fishermen weren't harming this renewable resource in any way. They were simply fishing like they have for the past century," said Murkowski.

"The Park Service is out of control in Alaska," said Alaska Congressman Don Young, the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Resources, which has jurisdiction over national parks and federal lands. "From violating ANILCA in its effort to keep snowmachines out of our massive parks to this latest fiasco in Glacier Bay, the Park Service has confirmed that it is nothing more than a puppet for the national environmental organizations.

"As the chairman of the authorizing committee for the Park Service's annual budget, they are now going to have to justify every dollar of spending in Alaska -- every penny. It's quite apparent that the agency has too many employees with too much time on their hands, if this is how they're allocating their resources," said Young.

"The Park Service has a serious problem on its hands now, and they're going to have to come up with some answers -- honest and complete answers -- very quickly," said Young.

"Last year I authored an amendment to block the Park Service's proposed regulations that would ban commercial fishing completely in many areas of Glacier Bay and would have allowed others to continue fishing for only 15 years," added Sen. Ted Stevens.

"In the face of a threatened Presidential veto, I crafted a proposal to force the Service to allow most fishermen to continue fishing for the rest of their lives and to compensate others who were adversely affected.

"Enactment of Senator Murkowski's bill to reinstitute most commercial fishing in the bay will be an uphill battle given the Park Service's opposition, but as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, he is in the best position to make it happen. While his Committee works on this long-term solution, I am working on amendments to last year's legislation to help fishing families, processors, and local communities during this interim period," said Sen. Stevens.

The legislation, which the three members plan to introduce early next week, will reopen most of the bay to commercial fishing, with the exception of crabbing in upper Dundas Bay and the Beardslee Islands, for which a compensation plan for fishermen is already underway. It also will make up to $2 milllion per year in additional monies available to compensate fishermen or others injured by irresponsible Park Service action.

"The Park Service's haste to implement a fishing ban in the absence of regulations, using armed personnel in a so-called 'education effort,' was inexcusable. The fishermen should not be penalized a significant portion of their income for the year solely to make the Park Service happy. It is the Park Service that needs to be "educated," said Murkowski, who said he is demanding a meeting with the head of the National Park Service to protest the incident.

"It's like the old story of the scorpion who hitched a ride across the river with the frog, then stung the frog in the middle of the river. Knowing they would both drown, the frog asked him why, and he replied, 'It's my nature.' The Park Service is Alaska's scorpion, spreading its non-use, total-preservation philosophy farther and farther. First it's Glacier Bay, next it will be Lituya Bay and the outside waters of the Fairweather fishing grounds. This attack on Alaska's commercial and subsistence fishermen has to stop now," said Murkowski.

Early last year Murkowski sought a moratorium to give more time for fishermen, environmentalists and the Park Service to reach a compromise that would have allowed commercial fishing to continue in the park, but would have closed the Beardslee Islands and Upper Dundas Bay to crabbing after the next generation of crabbers retired.

The Park Service rejected both the compromise and the moratorium and pushed legislation that called for the immediate buyout of all crabbers and a rapid phase-out of other fishing in the park.

The Alaska members said the Park Service has no justification for ending fishing inside the park, noting fishing has been carefully managed by the state and has never affected marine resources in the bay.

"There is no justification for a closure of the bay except the Park Service's cockeyed fear that commercial fishing constitutes a commercialization of the park. Given the few boats involved, compared to cruise boats and all the tour boats in the bay, it doesn't affect visitors in the least," said Murkowski.

The Park Service earlier this month boarded 11 of 14 fishing boats in the park asking crabbers to leave certain areas. The boats likely lost thousands of dollars because of the lost fishing opportunities during the brief winter tanner crab season.

For more information, please check the House Committee on Resources Home Page at


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