June Advocacy Report: Friends coninues to make an impact.

by Mike Schantz, Friends Advocacy Committee

Arctic  Refuge
The federal lawsuit by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) and the State that challenged the moratorium on oil and gas development in the Coastal Plain continues. Friends, along with many conservation organizations and Tribal governments, have intervened on behalf of the Biden administration in this matter. AIDEA and the State filed their reply brief, and AIDEA requested oral argument, which is now scheduled for June 20, 2023

Izembek Refuge

On March 14, 2023, Secretary of the Interior Haaland withdrew the proposed Trump administration land exchange that authorized a road through the biological heart of the Izembek Wilderness.  This resulted in a motion to dismiss the appeal effort that resulted in the En Banc rehearing of the land exchange.

Subsequently on April 26, 2023, King Cove filed a motion in the Ninth Circuit Appeals contending the withdrawal of the land exchange was illegal and opposing the dismissal. This motion to dismiss was granted on June 15, 2023, with the Ninth Circuit saying that since the Secretary’s withdrawal of the land exchange, there is no action for the court to rule on. This ends just the latest chapter in our goal to protect the Izembek Refuge.

Going forward, our concern is that Secretary Haaland may propose an alternative land exchange now that the previous case has been dismissed. This concern is validated by the fact that a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to correct deficiencies in the 2019 land exchange process has been issued. One of the major deficiencies cited by the Secretary in the withdrawal was absence of impact on subsidence resources associated to the proposed land exchange. 

Friends and the entire Izembek coalition firmly believe that any manner of land exchange outside of a Congressional or Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) framework is illegal as it threatens both critical habitat on the refuge as well as the nearly 150 million acres of federally protected conservation lands in Alaska protected by ANILCA.  Accordingly, we are asking that non-road alternatives to address the needs of King Cove be strongly considere

Tetlin Refuge 
The Governmental Services Agency (GSA) conducted a scoping process this spring for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluating alternatives for a new Alcan Port of Entry facility on the Canadian Border adjacent to Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.  One of the prelimanary alternatives would remove 10 acres from the refuge eliminating a popular trailhead. Another alternative would move the border station four miles up the Alcan Highway from the actual US border putting the popular refuge recreation, subsistence and historical areas of Scottie and Desper creeks on the “wrong” side of the port of entry. This would no doubt impact staff, visitors and subsistence hunters’ use of refuge resources.  Friends provided comments on significant issues related to refuge impacts that must be addressed in the draft Environmental Impact Statement.  Progress of this project will be monitored carefully for impacts on the refuge.

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge
Over the past few years, Doyon Limited Corporation has performed shallow stratigraphic tests on Doyon and native owned land inholdings of the Yukon Flats Refuge.  The bulk of this testing activity occurred around the village of Birch Creek.  No results have been made public to date.  In the event Doyon advances oil and gas extraction activity in this area, we are concerned about impacts to the world-class wildlife and fisheries and subsistence resources in the refuge.  We will continue to monitor this situation.