Action Alert: Tribes & Tribal Leaders

50 million acres of subsistence lands, diverse wildlife habitat corridors and food security for over half of Alaska’s federally recognized Tribes are at stake with fast-tracked efforts to open these Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands across Alaska. Alaska’s Tribes are in a unique position with the Federal Government as they are open to and WANT to hear from Tribes. The Federal Government has invited Tribes into a government-to-government consultation regarding two actions:

  • The Vietnam Era Veteran Allotment Selection Program
  • The Opening of these lands to industrial development including potential massive new mining districts across Alaska

The Federal government is looking to Tribes to answer the following questions that will impact land management for decades to come: 

1. Which of the lands under reconsideration are most appropriate for selection?
2. Are there any areas that should not be made available for selection? (lands that are important for traditional and customary uses, hunting and fishing, berry picking, or environmentally sensitive areas?)
3. Are there any sacred sites and places of traditional religious and cultural significance which might be affected if the lands are opened for selection?
4. Are there any concerns for how this action could affect subsistence use?
5. Are there any BLM lands not currently part of this process that you would like to see considered for selection?
6. Are there any areas that should not be opened to the public land laws or the mining and mineral leasing laws? 
7. Are there any sacred sites and places of traditional religious and cultural significance which might be affected if the lands are opened to the public land laws or the mining and mineral leasing laws? 
8. Are there any concerns for how opening these lands to the public land laws or the mining and mineral leasing laws could affect subsistence use, including with regard to State top filed lands? 

This letter was sent to Tribal leaders and this press release provides more details.

COMMENT OPTIONS FOR TRIBES:
Call in to the government-to-government consultation session set for June 14, 2021 from 1:30-3:30PM AKDT. Dial 1-800-857-5055, passcode 6951606. 

Submit written comments by July 22, 2021 to:
Danna Jackson, [email protected], phone: (406) 442-9154
Byron Loosle, [email protected], phone: (202) 302-1442
BLM Consultation Contact, [email protected] 

Tribes can also request additional Tribal consultation. Tribes need to set up individual meetings (outside of the call-in meetings) with the National Director’s office. Tribes are in a unique situation right now where the Biden Administration is open to and wants to hear from Tribal leaders. Take advantage of this opportunity! Set up a consultation by contacting:

*It is recommended that Tribes DO NOT engage with the Alaska State Office at this time. It is best to go straight to the National Director’s office by communicating with Danna Jackson (info above) or Byron Loosle (info above). 

BACKGROUND:

WHAT’S AT STAKE  
The future of important subsistence lands, diverse wildlife habitat corridors, food security for over half of the state’s federally recognized tribes.

WHO IS INVOLVED
Under the Trump administration the  Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tried to aggressively open millions of acres of lands to mining. They signed documents in January 2021 eliminating 50 year-old federal land protections; millions of acres of BLM lands to mining, oil and gas, and industrial development. The current administration is trying to do the right thing and give Tribes a platform by which they can lead to the largest public land giveaway to private and foreign interests in contemporary American history.

WHO WILL BE IMPACTED
Alaska Native communities from the Canadian border to the Bering Sea are threatened by these giveaways. All affected areas include federally recognized Tribes and most of the land being opened to development is Tribal traditional land that Indigenous people have used to hunt and gather wild food for millennia. The Trump Administration tried to open these lands to mining and other industrial development practically overnight. With the change in Administration, BLM has paused the opening of these lands, and will review the decisions to further open them to large scale development.   Tribes have been deeply vested in BLM’s Resource Management Plan processes and are on the record with a unified voice telling BLM that clean water, wildlife, future generations and the wild food subsistence economy should be the priority use for these valuable lands. With the blanket lifting of the public land orders, these traditional lands will be open to mining activities without public notice or public process.  The BLM has invited Tribes to engage in government-to-government consultation  seeking input regarding the opening of BLM lands to selection under the Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program and further opening of BLM lands to mining, oil and gas, and other industrial development.  

Diverse, intact, ecosystems are at risk along with:

  • Customary and traditional use areas for local Tribal communities
  • Most of the major rivers in the state such as: Yukon, Kuskokwim, Nushagak,  Kvichak, Koggiling Creek, Copper, Gulkana and headwaters of Susitna.
  • Coastal estuaries and highly productive salmon streams.
  • Western Arctic Caribou Herd and Nelchina Herd calving and migration grounds, moose wintering areas and traditional reindeer grazing areas.
  • Nationally and internationally recognized Important Bird Areas.

Many Tribes across the state have engaged in this issue by speaking out for the protections of lands, waters and relatives since April, 2021. Tribes and Tribal organizations include the following:

  • The United Tribes of Bristol Bay whose members include Togiak Traditional Council, Twin Hills Village Council, Manokotak Village Council, Curyung Tribal Council, Ekuk Village Council, Clark’s Point Village Council, Aleknagik Traditional Council, Portage Creek Village Council, New Stuyahok Traditional Council, New Koliganek Village Council, Levelock Village Council, Nondalton Village Council, Pilot Point Tribal Council, Pedro Bay Village Council and Chignik Lake Tribal Council.
  • The Norton Bay Intertribal Watershed Council with representatives from the Native Villages of Brevig Mission, Elim, Shaktoolik, Unalakleet, Golovin and Shishmaref on the board. 
  • The following individual federally recognized Tribes: 
    • Native Village of Elim
    • Native Village 
    • Orutsararmiut Native Council 
    • Native Village of Eek 
    • Kasigluk Traditional Council
    • Curyung Tribal Council 
    • Levelock Village Council
    • Nulato Tribal Council  
    • Chinik Eskimo Community 
    • Native Village of Mary’s Igloo
    • Native Village of Shaktoolik 
    • Native Village of Shishmaref 
    • Chickaloon Native Village

Other Resources:
– Native Peoples Action 2019 Press Release
– Article that provides a detailed explanation of D1 lands 
– Audubon Alaska Blog Posts