Archive for the ‘alaska land issues’ Tag

Don’t Fence Us In   Leave a comment

For Western state citizens, who typically value freedom and the ability to leave our homes and breath fresh air, it is very frustrating that we are constrained by the federal government onto tiny plots of land in cities because we are not allowed to own most of the land in the states we live in.

Alaskan Fights for Liberty   Leave a comment

John Sturgeon encountered the typical federal government attitude that Alaska belongs to the federal government … not just the federal lands, but the state lands as well. Like so many of us, it made him angry. He decided to do something about it and now he’s before the Supreme Court. This coincides with our local newspaper finally returning to local ownership resulting in a change in editorial policy. I included the editorial in its entirety, but I also provided a link to an Atlantic article that manages to deal with the issue sanely … as apposed to the rest of the liberal press, like Outside magazine. If you want to understand why Americans have taken over a National Park Service building in Oregon, this is one example. If this case is decided wrongly, Alaskans will no longer be able to use the rivers of the state to get anywhere without federal permission. In a state where 80% of the communities are not connected to a road system, that could be devastating. Lela

News-Miner opinion: Today in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that will resonate thousands of miles beyond the nation’s capital. The case of John Sturgeon v. National Parks Service and Department of Interior, being argued this week, could have big impacts on state residents’ ability to traverse waterways within Alaska. While the incident in question isn’t particularly notable — a disagreement over use of a hovercraft on a river flowing through a national park — the precedent it sets will be. It will provide a legal answer to the question of who has authority over navigable waters within the parks: the state or the federal government?

It’s a question Mr. Sturgeon and many Alaskans thought was settled. The relevant passage in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act reads as follows:

“Only those lands within the boundaries of any conservation system unit which are public lands (as such term is defined in this Act) shall be deemed to be included as a portion of such unit. No lands which, before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act, are conveyed to the State, to any Native Corporation, or to any private party shall be subject to the regulations applicable solely to public lands within such units.”

Mr. Sturgeon, through his attorneys, makes a straightforward case. Based on established law, submerged lands under navigable waterways (in Mr. Sturgeon’s case, the Nation River) belong to the state, so state law is in force for those transiting them. As ANILCA states, state and private lands within the boundaries of the federal areas created by the act are not to be governed by the federal rules applying to the land surrounding them. If federal law were to apply on the waterways, the ability of Alaskans to access much of the land within the state — a land mass greater in size than the state of California — could be greatly curtailed. This is of particular concern for Alaska Native corporations with holdings adjoining such lands. Federal rule changes limiting transportation on waterways could isolate parcels and greatly hinder development, subsistence hunting and fishing or other uses for their land, directly contravening the stated purposes both of ANILCA and ANCSA.

The phrase “federal overreach” has been lobbed by state leaders and Alaska’s congressional delegation so often and loudly it has lost its meaning in some cases. But in the Sturgeon case, there’s no other way to describe what’s happening. In the language of ANILCA, Congress’ intent was clear. The law sought to strike a balance between protecting federal lands that would be governed under national laws and regulations and protecting the rights of Alaskans to use, traverse and transit private holdings and those of the state. By attempting to expand the jurisdiction of federal agencies, the agencies Mr. Sturgeon has sued are significantly endangering Alaskans’ rights in that regard.

Those with an interest in the balance of federal and state power should hope Mr. Sturgeon prevails and the rights of Alaskans to travel on state waterways are protected.

Company Pulls Out of Alaska’s Pebble Mine   Leave a comment

And gives its stock to two opponents of the mine…?

When I see something like this, it makes me go “hmmm????” There’s something about the EPA’s jumping the gun on the environmental report and this latest piece that just smells of manipulation. The question is … why?

Knowing the history of Alaska as I do, I suspect it is more American colonialism. Alaska is being spun in circles like the banana republics of old. Pebble will be developed eventually, but watch … the federal government and the Native corporations will benefit, not the people of Alaska.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposition to Pebble was always about Bristol Bay Native Corporation wanting a piece of the action.

— Global mining giant Rio Tinto is pulling out of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska, the latest blow to the controversial plan to build an open pit mine in the best wild salmon stronghold in the world.

Rio Tinto said Monday that it will donate its 19 percent share in the project to a pair of Alaskan charities, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation.

Rio Tinto’s decision comes as after the Environmental Protection Agency last month moved closer to blocking the mine. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the mine would “likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the salmon of Bristol Bay. She said her agency would decide on action to protect the salmon under the Clean Water Act, which could lead to a veto of the project.

The British mining powerhouse Anglo American pulled out of the Pebble project last year and now Rio Tinto is abandoning it as well. The company said Monday that “the Pebble Project does not fit with Rio Tinto’s strategy.”

“By giving our shares to two respected Alaskan charities, we are ensuring that Alaskans will have a say in Pebble’s future development,” Rio Tinto Copper Chief Executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a written statement.

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation said in statement that “Rio Tinto’s gift will benefit organizations that serve the people and communities of Alaska.”

Executive Director Greta Goto said the shares would help the foundation to support educational opportunities for shareholders in the Bristol Bay Native Corporation.

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation, though, has been among the most outspoken opponents of the mine.

“This gift provides an example of what open discussion and relationship building between stakeholders with differing views can accomplish,” said Bristol Bay Native Corp. President Jason Metrokin. “However, BBNC’s opposition to the proposed Pebble mine has not changed.”

A representative of the Alaska Community Foundation did not have an immediate response to the gift.

The Pebble mine ranks among the largest copper undeveloped copper deposits in the world. Project developer Northern Dynasty Minerals is vowing to push on despite the controversies and continual setbacks.

The pullout of Anglo American left Northern Dynasty without a needed partner to bankroll the development of the mine. Northern Dynasty is continuing to search for a new partner, and said it will work with the Alaskan charities that are now stakeholders.

“We look forward to meeting with the leadership of the Alaska Community Foundation and Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation in the days ahead to better understand their long-term goals and aspirations, and how their ownership interest in Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Project can make the greatest possible contribution to the people and communities they serve,” Northern Dynasty President Ron Thiessen said in a written statement.

Email:; Twitter: @seancockerham.

Alaska’s long road war   Leave a comment

This subject appears to have struck a cord with the American press.

Alaska’s long road war.

Alaska Needs Roads   Leave a comment

A comment on another posting caused me to want to revisit this topic.

FACT:  80% of Alaska’s communities are not accessible by road.

Stop to think about that for a moment! What would your state be like if 80% of the communities were inaccessible by road?

Yeah! Isolated, lonely, lacking opportunity ….

This is not to say that Alaskans want to pave our state. Most of those communities are accessible by airplane and they’re okay with that.

However, King Cove has proven that not having a road means your residents are in danger during a medical emergency. Nearly 1/3 of the year has such extreme weather that they cannot get out if they need to.

Economic development requires roads. Whether it requires the massive interstate system that exists in the Lower 48 is subject for debate. From an Alaskan perspective, I doubt that is truly necessary. On the other hand, Alaska has suffered from the lack of roads. What economic development we have is funded by the State of Alaska spending of royalty oil sales revenues and, I’m ashamed to say, federal revenue sharing. Most of our private jobs are oil-related or oil-support-related. Oil development has been slowing for a variety of reasons (no, we’re not running out of oil), but a primary limitation is lack of access to fields. One large oil deposit on State land is being held hostage because the federal government will not permit a bridge to cross the Colville River.

Governor Sean Parnell has made it a priority to start construction of several roads to resource sites. We’re not talking about an interstate highway web. We’re talking about a handful of narrow, gravel roads that lead to general areas where there are proven large mineral or petroleum deposits.

Alaska is asking for the right to build a basic transportation network that would still leave most Alaska communities without road access, but that would be fine because they could catch a plane to get to a job rather than have to leave the state entirely to make money.

For those of us who consider Alaska our home and our country, it is necessary to build for the future because we want our children to raise their children here. Building for the future does not mean we want to resemble New Jersey. It means we want to resemble Alaska with an actual economy.

Posted February 21, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Interior secretary puts lives at risk: Disagreement about a road proposal at King Cove should concern Alaskans – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials   5 comments

Interior secretary puts lives at risk: Disagreement about a road proposal at King Cove should concern Alaskans – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials.

The local newspaper does a very good job of explaining the Izembek road issue. The News-Miner is owned by an out-of-state cartel, so will not go as far as I will in saying that this is just another example of American colonialism and another brick in the wall that will eventually drive Alaska to secede from the union … hopefully peacefully.

Ultimately, this is a states rights issue, but more than that it is a human rights issue. The people of King Cove have a right to adequate access to the outside world, which cannot be provided by the airport and sea port alone because of the weather conditions that exist in the part of the state. The State of Alaska and the Native Corporation are willing to build the road and swap land to provide the right-of-way. The federal government absolutely refuses to budge. Yet, roads exist in many other refuges and some have been built recently. Somehow, Alaskans are a special class of American citizens who cannot be allowed to use federal land and build roads.

Pebble deserves fair evaluation – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives   Leave a comment

Pebble deserves fair evaluation – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Community Perspectives.

Yes, Roads Do Change Everything!   1 comment

I ran across this article by Peter Lehner, objecting to the “road to resources” potential road to Umiat.

He makes a lovely case for keeping the wilderness locked up safe from human beings and he insists he knows this is the best thing because he knows the area very well.

FACT: He spent a month there in 1976!

I was born and raised in Alaska. I think I might have a greater claim to knowing Alaska and what Alaskans need and want.

80% of Alaskan communities are not accessible by road. With all due respect to Mr. Lehner, the sort of isolation we’re talking about is simply not explanatory to anyone who hasn’t actually lived it. Milk is $7 a gallon in Tanana — it’s $3.40 in Fairbanks. If ship everything in via parcel post, which the US Post Service is trying to eliminate or make prohibitively expensive. You can’t have any sort of industry because to ship out metals would require parcel post or an airplane, so nothing will ever change your life circumstances. Village life revolves around growing a garden in th spring, hunting in the fall, cutting wood, hauling water and honey buckets, watching satellite television, smoking cigarettes, alcohol and cannibis abuse, sexual assault of women and minors, and repeating the same cycle year after year. Alaskan Native villages lead the nation in instances of fetal alcohol syndrome. Without industry to provide jobs, nothing will ever change in these villages.

What a difference a road makes. It provides access to resources and it provides access to the outside world. It makes it affordable to bring in food and to travel for medical care. It alleviates the isolation and unmitigated boredom that is life lived in an Alaskan village. And for those of us with connections in the village, it provides us with access to more easily visit friends and provide contact from the outside world. Teachers are more likely to volunteer for assignment in villages that are less remote and more likely to stay in those communities.

You really can’t know what a difference a road makes if you’ve never lived where there wasn’t one and then there was.

And, yes, it might change the environment a bit and it might mean having to adjust to a new reality. That doesn’t mean the world has to end. Lots of people living along the Denali “Highway” can tell you that an unpaved road that’s only open in the summer is more than manageable.

So, let’s be honest. Mr. Lehrer wants to maintain his private campground for his own private use and he doesn’t really care what Alaskans want or need.

Posted February 11, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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An Interesting Alaska Fact   1 comment

The square acreage of the United States east of the Mississippi River roughly equals the square acreage of Alaska.

There are 26 states, 244 Representatives, and 52 Senators representing that east-of-the-Mississippi area. That is 296 total voices in Congress to shout down our two Senators and one Congressman.

And, people wonder why Alaska feels like it’s not treated equally to the other States?

296 to 3.

Does that seem like a fair fight when the conversation is something like ANWR?

Consider this — if you live east of the Mississippi — would you like Alaskans to be able to decide how you should live?

Posted February 5, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Subsistence Priority = Racism   Leave a comment

Alaskans are caught between the history that we’ve been taught and the actual events that occurred. Ted Stevens is one of our cultural heroes, but as I’ve been showing, that image may be more propaganda than reality.

I’m not saying he was a bad man. Alaska has plenty of carpet-baggers and con men to add color to our history. Ted Stevens was not one of those. But, the actual history makes you wonder if he really had Alaska’s best interests at heart or if he was dancing to a tune played by a piper we weren’t meant to know about.

Although I find his involvement in writing the Alaska Statehood Compact and his inaction on ANILCA highly suspicious, I admit his “this is how sausage is made” argument could be viewed as politically savvy. We might be left guessing about Ted Stevens’ real feelings about ANILCA if not for the subsistence controversy.

According to Stevens (and I heard the man speak in person many times), he meant to protect subsistence Native hunting and fishing rights when he inserted into ANILCA a mandate that the state legislature grant priority to rural subsistence hunting and fishing in times of natural scarcity. The rural designation was critical, for in the new era of civil rights, race could never be permitted as a determining factor in preferential treatment.

Rural was not defined, either in the mandate or in the state statute. I live in the second largest community in Alaska, but I can be in real wilderness by driving less than an hour. What exactly is “rural”?

I don’t consider myself a rural resident, but my husband’s family (who are from New England) consider our community to be a small town, so by Lower 48 standards, I guess we’re “rural”. By the standards applied by the interpretation of ANILCA under US Fish & Wildlife regulations, rural is not Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Wasilla, North Pole, or any of the organized towns in the state. With very few exceptions, “rural” to them is a non-road system village peopled by majority Alaskan Natives.

I’ve had Alaskan Natives tell me that this is straight-up reverse racism. It’s also a violation of the Alaska Constitution. 

Alaska’s constitution has its own mandate that fish and game resources must be managed according to the principle of “common use”. All Alaska residents have a equal share in all of Alaska’s fish and game resources, regardless of the population density of the community in which we live. This was a standard agreed upon by Alaska Native leaders at the constitutional convention, who recognized that if Alaska were ever cut off from resupply through Seattle, “urban” Alaskans would be much more at risk of starvation than the villagers who live amid the resource. Thus, in the 1989 McDowell case, the rural priority was struck down by the Alaska State Supreme Court.

The Alaska Supreme Court was completely right in how they ruled, but ANILCA had already mandated what would occur if the state refused rural subsistence priority. The federal government would take over the management of fish and game on federal lands.

NOTE: No other state had ever been subject to that kind of control. Alaskans were told they could avoid this by amending the constitution, which was attempted in a special session in the summer of 1990, but it failed to acquire the necessary 2/3 majority of the legislature before sending it to the people as a referendum. The voters soundly rejected the referendum, most of us because we felt it was straight up racism. Federal subsistence boards were created in subsequent years, and Alaska became unable to hold final authority of its own fish and game upon the vast majority of its lands.

Are we a state or do we remain a colony?

It would seem ANILCA, when it locked away over 60 percent of our land mass and the resources upon it and under it, returned us to colonial status … unless, of course, we never actually were a state.

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