Indigenous group opposes inclusion of whaling zone in offshore leases

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Through Carey Restino, the arctic sounder

Updated: February 13, 2018 Posted: 12 February 2018

Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, the Indigenous group organized to provide unified representation and leadership of Indigenous Arctic interests to state and federal policy-making efforts, has raised an objection to the inclusion of critical hunting waters. the subsistence whale in a recently proposed gas lease project for the Outer Shelf mainland.

In a letter written to Home Secretary Ryan Zinke, the group expressed opposition to the proposed gas lease, which includes waters that have long been excluded from these lease proposals because of their importance for hunting. subsistence whale.

Voice in particular raised concerns about the Chukchi Sea 25-mile coastal buffer zone, Barrow whaling area and Kaktovik whaling area, which it believes should be preserved even in a project.

“We recognize that the balance between livelihood and resource development activities can and does happen because we have worked diligently to establish it, Voice Sayers President Tuzroyluk Sr. said in the letter. “For this reason, we have been alarmed that the areas of subsistence use, which are essential to the food security of northern Alaska and have been identified and accepted during previous planning processes, resulting in the exclusion of previous lease programs, were not maintained in Option 1 of the Proposed Draft Gas Lease Program.

Voice, which was formed in 2015, is a 20-member non-profit corporation representing Alaska North Slope Tribal Councils, municipal governments, Alaska Native Societies, a regional non-profit organization and the tribal college of the north slope. Some have criticized the group’s efforts, saying its pro-development stance is not universally supported by the region. Some questioned the group’s investigations, while others disagreed with the group’s support for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the rental and development of oil and gas. gas.

[Trump administration puts Arctic offshore lease sales back on the table]

The group said in their letter that although they had not yet taken a position on the development of the resources of the outer continental shelf, they were united in their belief that traditional knowledge should be taken into account in decisions affecting the region. .

“Meaningful consultation is the key to this balance and with regard to the announcement of the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf on the (Interim Gas Lease Proposal Program), we believe the concerns of local organizations have been ignored. and that disturbs us deeply, ”Tuzroyluk wrote.

Last summer, Zinke traveled to the Arctic from Alaska and spoke about the importance of Alaskan natives’ contribution to decision-making for the region, which led some leaders to congratulate the Home Secretary after decades of agenda-driven leadership that failed to consider the needs of those living in the region.

Voice has long called for responsible resource development in the region, but said such development could only happen when “the preservation of our way of life, our food security and our livelihood culture are most important. high priorities “.

The development of Prudhoe Bay was cited as an example of such a collaboration, where the Open Water Season Conflict Avoidance Act, which has been in place for decades, has led to a safe development that minimizes the impact on the activities of subsistence of local populations in the region.

Tuzroyluk wrote that several entities highlighted the importance of preserving the areas in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s request for information for the proposed lease program, which will cover oil and gas leases in offshore waters from 2019 to 2024.

“Decisions and activities in our region must be based on consultation, coordination and engagement with the natives of Alaska,” he wrote.

BOEM announced last month that the proposed draft program in support of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program will be the subject of a town hall tour in 23 cities, including a meeting of Anchorage February 21 at the Dena’ina Center from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Additionally, comments can be submitted online until March 9.


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