The PJ Tatler

Alaska Senator Smacks Down Fellow Dem and his 'East Coast Values'

Two Democrats are tangling over what one considers interference in his state by a congressman who doesn’t “understand that East Coast values do not always apply to other parts of the country.”

It started when Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is running in the special election to fill John Kerry’s vacant Senate seat, asked Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to stand by a Fish and Wildlife Service decision to reject a proposal to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

“I, like you, believe we should respect the judgment of our scientists and leave politics out of this decision,” wrote Markey, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “We must continue to protect our nation’s most beautiful and precious wilderness. Not construct an unreliable and potentially dangerous road through the heart of it.”

Fish and Wildlife claimed the road would hurt vital habitat for grizzly bears, caribou, salmon, shorebirds and waterfowl.

But Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) today told Markey to butt out, stressing the 25-mile road from King Cove to Cold Bay is a potential life saver for rural residents in case of medical emergencies.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Democrat, Begich expressed “great frustration” with Markey’s interference in the plight of rural Alaskans “who are being denied access to basic life and safety needs because of federal ignorance about our way of life.”

“I’m especially irritated you didn’t bother to reach out to me and try to gain a real understanding of the dire situation facing residents of King Cove, Alaska.”

In 2009, Congress approved a one-lane gravel road through just 206 acres of the 315,000-acre refuge in exchange for Alaska adding 60,000 of protected land. King Cove residents were never allowed to personally make their case to Salazar during the years-long environment review until only recently, Begich said.

“Your letter is typical of those from national Democrats who fail to understand the needs of Americans who live in the West, especially in some of the most remote and extreme parts of our nation such as Alaska. Life is especially challenging in these communities where the nearest hospital is an expensive airplane, boat or snow machine ride away. Yet these Americans deserve the same opportunities for basic health care and public safety as those who live in Boston or elsewhere in our country.  While the habitat values of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge are indisputable, the residents of King Cove have taken good care of this area for generations,” Begich wrote.

“In the future, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the unique challenges facing residents of my state so you can better understand that East Coast values do not always apply to other parts of the country.”