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Alaska state lawmaker urges more than talk in pushing back against federal government

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JUNEAU, Alaska — One Alaska state senator is advocating an act of civil disobedience against the federal government and another referenced Alaskans "packin' heat" at the end of a poem skewering federal actions.

The pushback against federal overreach continues at the Alaska Capitol, days after President Barack Obama proposed that most of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge be protected as wilderness, including the refuge's potentially oil-rich coastal plain. That proposal likely faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and chair of the Senate energy committee, has said Obama is "going after something that is not possible in this Congress. But I think that this president doesn't care."

It is that feeling — that the federal government is dismissive of what Alaska wants, and the state's rights — that is helping fuel the furor coming from state political leaders, who see the refuge proposal, even if symbolic, as another example of the feds overreaching and trying to restrict the ability of the state to develop its resources.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, said in an interview Friday that the state needs to do more than issue proclamations. "And what will that be? We're working on something," he said.

The legislature has been on the record in the past, endorsing oil and gas development from the coastal plain. A resolution opposing wilderness designation of the coastal plain was introduced in the Alaska House this week.

Dunleavy said the state should begin surveying a road through a wildlife refuge to connect King Cove to an all-weather airport at Cold Bay, a road the Interior department rejected. The lawsuit over the department's decision is pending.

"I'm not willing to wait much longer; I'm not willing to wait any longer, actually," he said. "I say we call their bluff. And if they want to throw the governor and a couple of us in handcuffs, let's see how that goes over with a bunch of our friends in the Western states, a bunch of our friends that believe that the government in D.C. has gotten out of control."

Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said people are upset, and lawmakers don't want to let the issue die.

"I don't know if we're going to go to civil disobedience yet, but there are some people who would like to go there," he told reporters.

During a floor session Friday, Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, delivered a takedown of federal actions in Dr. Seuss style. "You bow to greenies, these are facts," he said at one point. "Environmental East Coast whacks."

"Just one more thing before I go, there's something, Uncle, you should know. The line's been crossed, we've had enough. You shouldn't really call our bluff," he said. "'Cause we Alaskans might seem sweet, but chances are, we're packin' heat!"

Bishop said later that it was just a poem and an attempt at levity. He choked up in describing the importance of the issue to him.

He said he wants to protect Alaska's resources for all Alaskans. He said he plans to do more, to "myth bust."

"I just want equal time and an honest debate, that's all," he said.

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