By: David Raskin, Friends Board President
The Arctic Refuge drilling proposal is front and center on the national stage, and the administration’s numerous assaults on the environment seem to be bogging down under the pressures of time, resources, and inadequate scientific studies!
There is continuing news concerning DOI plans to sell leases for oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. The Record of Decision (ROD) has been delayed for unannounced reasons, but is expected soon. A lease sale had been planned for December 2019, but the delay of the ROD and the necessary waiting periods after its release have pushed any possible lease sale into 2020. Also, there is no word about plans for seismic exploration which likely cannot occur before the 2020-21 winter, if at all. The longer it takes to try to sell leases, the better. Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue to hold successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many great pieces in various media. The campaign is now holding meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions to enlighten them about the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts. There is little doubt that there will be a number of lawsuits to stop the leasing program. We will win this latest in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!
There is no significant development in the August 7, 2019 suit filed in federal district court that names Friends as the lead plaintiff along with the previous eight conservation partners. King Cove Native Corporation, the Agdaagux Tribe, and the Native Village of Belkofski moved to intervene, and the plaintiffs did not object. We have not received any ruling from the Court, and we will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.
Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations
The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations have not been released, but we still expect them very soon. It is likely that the regulations will allow hunting of brown bears over bait, as well as loosened restrictions on hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and 4-wheel drive access to frozen lakes. It appears that there will be a 30-day comment period, but no public hearings. Friends and other organizations will be closely following these developments and will take action at the appropriate time.
The proposed 211-mile long Ambler industrial road was on an “unprecedented, extreme fast track,” according to a BLM official. The draft EIS was limited to 150 pages that lack details and fail to address anything outside of the road construction, e.g., impacts to the Dalton Highway or any mining actions. Trustees for Alaska assembled detailed, comprehensive comments on the DEIS that were submitted on behalf of numerous organizations, including Friends. As with the many hurried and poorly supported BLM assaults on public lands, this process seems to be slowing down.