ANCHORAGE, United States: Alaska needs a publicity campaign to restore its image after battles over wilderness oil drilling and "Bridges to Nowhere" that have made the state a laughing stock, Governor Frank Murkowski said on Tuesday.
"Alaska has been held up to public ridicule by the special-interest extremists," Murkowski said in his state-of-the-state address in the capital, Juneau.
The Republican governor is an ardent advocate of controversial development projects including the proposed federally funded bridges and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, both of which the US Congress has balked at.
The bridges one to an island of 50 people and the other connecting Anchorage to a little-used port have been dubbed "Bridges to Nowhere" by critics of federal "pork barrel" largess and become fodder for late-night television comedians.
Environmentalists have waged a long battle against drilling in the refuge, also known as ANWR, which they view as a natural treasure.
Murkowski proposed a two-year public relations campaign, which he said was "long overdue" and would resemble successful campaigns conducted by groups like the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association.
"I believe that we must now develop a very thorough, professional national educational campaign to accurately portray Alaska in a balance. But we must start that now," he said.
The campaign should be launched while US President George W. Bush, a supporter of the drilling as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil, was still in office, he said. "It's appropriate that we solicit proposals for such an effort and to be prepared to adequately fund it," Murkowski told lawmakers. He did not put a price tag on the proposal.
He said that in addition to the ANWR drilling proposal, other development attempts also were stymied because "the nation's views of Alaska are sorely distorted."
Also hindered are the state's plans for increased logging in the Tongass National Forest, culling of wolf packs to increase moose numbers and other policies, he said.
After harsh criticism from budget hawks and environmentalists over the two bridges, Congress cancelled the US$452 million in funding earmarks that has been designated for them in a transportation bill passed earlier in the year.
Alaska will still receive the money, but it will be part of general transportation funding and not linked to the bridges. Murkowski has nonetheless asked the legislature to put about US$200 million of the funds in the coming fiscal year into the bridges.
Source: China Daily