Village’s Concerns Should be Considered in Federal Land Management Discussion

When Alaska's U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan hold a joint hearing in Wasilla on Monday to discuss federal land management practices in Alaska, they will not be hearing from North Slope Natives concerned with protecting important subsistence resources, traditional cultural practices, and the welfare of a tribal community on the edge of planned oil drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska.

The joint hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife will receive testimony from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a variety of industry interests on federal mitigation requirements and interagency coordination related to economic development on federal, state, and private lands.

"No one is more affected by North Slope oil and gas development than the village of Nuiqsut because we are surrounded by development on state and soon federal lands," said Sam Kunaknana, the Native Village of Nuiqsut's tribal president. "We believe that the federal government and industry need to offset the adverse effects of oil and gas projects by protecting subsistence areas which are important to our community.

The village's sovereign tribal government is the only local Nuiqsut entity with explicit responsibility, as defined by the organization's constitution, for protecting subsistence resources, traditional cultural practices, and the welfare of the tribal community. The Native Village of Nuiqsut supports mitigation requirements that protect natural and cultural resources, and routinely provides comments and position statements with respect to industrial activities as well as land-management proposals and decisions. Native corporations, in contrast, are structured to maximize profits to Native shareholders.

The BLM has determined that the Greater Mooses Tooth One, the first commercial oil production permitted on federal lands within the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, will have significant adverse effects to subsistence resources. This finding included a requirement for mitigation to compensate for impacts from Greater Mooses Tooth One's development activities.

We need the state of Alaska and the Bureau of Land Management to take our concerns seriously and to include in the permitting process mitigation measures that consider, in a very serious way, the real human impacts on my community.

Martha Itta is tribal administrator and Sam Kunaknana is tribal president of the Native Village of Nuiqsut.

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