Alaskan state legislators are tired of interference from East Coast environmentalists into their state's affairs. Hoping to make a point with what Republican state Rep. Kyle Johansen calls "political satire," legislators have introduced a bill that would declare New York City's Central Park "to be a wilderness area and to prohibit any further improvement or development of Central Park unless authorized by an act of Congress."
Johansen told the New York Times that he is trying to point out the "hypocrisy" of "those East Coast folks who write a lot of checks to shut down Alaska, while in their own backyard, Manhattan has been turned from a pristine wild island supporting an amazing Muir web of life to having only Central Park left as a green belt."
The bill, HJR31, was introduced into the Alaskan state legislature last week. It comes in response to resistance toward opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to oil development and drilling. Many Alaskan state legislators from both political parties support drilling in AWNR, which became a federally protected area in 1960 and was later expanded in 1980. Congressional approval is required for oil development in the 29,687 square miles of ANWR's "Area 1002."
According to the bill's sponsors, Area 1002 represents 8 percent of Alaska, while Central Park represents 6 percent of Manhattan, so it's a fair trade.
The bill digs deep into Central Park's history, pointing out that before Henry Hudson landed in Manhattan in 1609, the area was home to at least 1,000 species and 55 different "ecological communities, including 25 terrestrial communities, wetlands, pond and stream communities, and estuarine communities."
Interestingly, the Times also dug deep, revealing that candidates for New York's Senate seat really did debate handing Central Park over to the National Park Service back in 1976.
Central Park is currently protected as a New York state park, and it falls under the Public Trust Doctrine, which prohibits any non-recreation use of the park without prior state legislature approval, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told the Times.
The Times' readers had fun with the proposal. "Let them try and take it," wrote one commenter. "I know some guy's from the Bronx and Washington Heights who will meet up with them and give them a tour. Let Alaska go back to keeping an eye on Russia."
According to the official Central Park web site, the park is home to 25,000 trees representing 152 species. According to the official AWNR web site, the refuge is home to "42 fish species, 37 land mammals, eight marine mammals, and more than 200 migratory and resident bird species."