The Bering Sea-Western Interior Tribal Commission praises the passage of a resolution by the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) calling on the federal and state governments to meet their lawful obligations to consult, listen to, and incorporate the priorities of indigenous people in natural resources, land planning processes and permits.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and State of Alaska are currently opening public lands that are also Tribal Traditional lands to extractive development; conveying, permitting or planning projects affecting millions of acres of lands and critical watersheds in Alaska.
“Impacts to our customary and traditional use areas were not considered or evaluated seriously in the Bering Sea-Western Interior Resource Management Plan,” said Eugene Paul, Chairman of the Bering Sea Western Interior Tribal Commission. “Our communities will bear the entire impact burden and our request for input has largely been ignored. It’s a classic case of environmental injustice, and isn’t right.”
Since its initial meeting, the Tribal Commission has asserted that the Bering Sea-Western Interior planning process is fundamentally flawed. BLM previously agreed that Tribal nominations for conservation of critical watersheds are relevant and important. Contradicting that assertion, however, BLM rejected the Tribal nominations and opened those critical watersheds to mining in the preferred alternative of the Draft plan.
The goal of the Bering Sea-Western Interior Tribal Commission, formed to sustain traditional ways of life, is to ensure Tribal voices are reflected in the Bering Sea-Western Interior Resource Management Plan. The Tribal Commission recognizes that “though Tribes don’t own the land, we belong to the land and what happens to the land happens to us.”
The AFN resolution calls on the state and federal governments and agencies to meet their obligation to consult, listen to, and incorporate Tribal government priorities in land planning processes and permits.
The AFN resolution came during the 2019 annual meeting of the Alaska Federation of Natives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and was recently passed and affirmed by the AFN Board of Directors which works to enhance and promote the cultural, economic and political voice of the entire Alaska Native community.