Imagine you have inherited a piece of property so big and valuable you cannot even hope to visit – much less explore most of it in your lifetime! Imagine the mixed emotions of ecstasy over your good fortune and the realization that as “owner”, you have the responsibility to care for it! Despite the incredible feelings of wealth, this realization could easily own you because of the tremendous scope of the task. Fortunately, you have also inherited a huge ‘property management system’ that has been functioning for over 60 years — designed to provide stewardship for owners. Unfortunately, you see evidence of predictable “mission creep” in this management system with a drift towards watching out too much for the benefits/needs of the managers instead of the “owner”, you. The original management mission is stated in the paperwork: to provide for your “use, enjoyment, and welfare”. The managers are paid from property assets, but they exist to serve the owners.
This analogy is your situation IF you are a legal resident of Alaska of voting age! The inherited property is the entire State of Alaska originally purchased from Russia for a mere 7 million dollars! The “management system” structure is laid out in the highest law of our land (the State Constitution). Approximately two-thirds of the property was kept by the federal government, but the remainder belongs to us.
The management system is very broad and comprehensive but consider just one part of it aimed specifically at property management: the Alaska Division of Parks and Recreation. Art 8 of the Alaska Constitution explicitly declares, “The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, [including parks] for the maximum benefit of its people.” Like it or not, the legislature is the only avenue for your owner oversight! Any rule or fee that may keep you from reasonable access to your parks is only official if you allow the legislature to make it so! The stated “missions” of all Divisions are “official”, published and amended as needed by legislative action and approval. Also, no management (administrative) law can be written without legislative approval. Legislators, by American design, are meant to be THE tools in the hands of grass-roots voters. The stewards hired to manage the “use, development and conservation” of our priceless property are indirectly governed by you, through your legislators, ultimately under your control! Alaska’s Constitution provided handsomely for this management system by approving a full 80% of all money we generate from use of natural resources to fund our government, including Parks administration, with the remaining 20% supposedly restricted from direct use. This is a radical and staggering “tax” revenue source that should forever eliminate any other Alaskan Tax!
So long as “We the People” are the sovereigns who empower the Constitution, the time to engage in reviewing Park land use rules (and all management policies) is always now! Stewardship of our staggering wealth should be a fundamental element of your vote. Remind candidates to make sure the rules favor you, the owner! It stands to reason anytime stewards or managers are left unmanaged, it allows them to think they are the property beneficiaries instead of you. We are sovereignly responsible for the managers we have put in charge of managing our property for our best interest – in both Alaska State Government and the US Government. The abysmal voting turnouts over the past years is an ominous sign voters are not taking their responsibility seriously enough.
There are about 3 million acres in the Alaska State Park system — more acreage than some entire states! The Alaska Legislature has approved the “mission statement” for our Division of Parks: to “provide outdoor recreation opportunities and conserve and interpret natural, cultural, and historic resources for the use, enjoyment and welfare of the people.”
Next time you contemplate if you can afford a trip to a park, consider the cost of the permits, insurance, and per visitor fees – these have been added on top of the 80% natural resources revenue we’re already paying. If you find the cost or unwarranted restrictions are keeping you off your property, explain what you want or need to your legislators and get them to make changes — or replace them with someone who will. While most public employees are genuinely sincere about their job descriptions and grateful, some of them just don’t get it!
I encourage you to go to the informative state parks website and relish your inheritance! We “own” our fabulous parks and want to pass them to our kids (and other new Alaskans) including an honest, effective management system while fully enjoying them ourselves. Take time to read park “land use plans” for your favorite park and consider your options – they are yours to maintain!
This was also submitted as an article to The People’s Paper.