Kuskokwim Tribes object to Kuskokwim Area Plan Changes

by ONC Staff

This morning (March 29th, 2019) Orutsararmiut Native Council, in coordination with other Yukon Kuskokwim tribal organizations, submitted another set of letters to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for continuing to issue permits and authorizations despite repeated requests for Government to Government consultation. DNR has not responded to the repeated requests from tribes for consultation.

The letters, submitted as official comments on the proposed Kuskokwim Area Plan Amendments, highlights the proposed amendments’ sweeping changes to the Kuskokwim region to allow for both the proposed Donlin Gold mine and other future developments to move forward with no consideration of the impacts these activities will have on the region as a whole.

“We are sovereign Tribal governments in the local area covered by the plan and where the supporting facilities and infrastructure would be located,” the letters state, “We have not been given the opportunity to work with the commissioner to develop these proposed amendments or provide input during the process, as required by law.”

This approach to area plan amendments stands in sharp contrast to other (amendments) DNR has carried out in other parts of the state. Similar proposed changes to Bristol Bay’s Area Plan proposed in 2013 were subject to a two-year public process. Then it included several public meetings in eight different communities, a 120 day comment period, two separate rounds of draft plans issued to the public, and significant collaboration between different entities including Tribes and both state and federal agencies.

In contrast, Kuskokwim Area Plan proposed amendments are distinctly not the result of a robust public process and there have been no opportunities for Tribes or the public to be involved aside from a short comment period.

“The fact that DNR seems to think this is a matter of paperwork and not a fundamental shift in policy that will have very tangible impacts on land, food, and culture is short-sighted and dismissive,” said Mary Matthias, ONC’s Natural Resources Director. “Why hasn’t there been a more robust public processing around these amendments like our neighbors in Bristol Bay were granted?”

The comment period for the proposed Area Plan amendments and an additional thirteen related permits ends on March 29th after only 60 days, half that of similar comment periods in other regions.

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