March 2018 – Advocacy Update

March 2018 – Friends Advocacy Update, by Board President David Raskin

The U.S. Department of Interior has placed drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge on the fast track. Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Assistant Interior Secretary Joe Balash held closed-door meetings in Fairbanks and Anchorage to promote leasing and drilling in the Refuge. They have stated a goal of selling leases by 2019. These moves are strongly opposed by conservation organizations and many Alaska residents.

The Gwich’n people will be severely impacted by proposed industrialization of the Coastal Plain. Many describe this as a moral issue that violates their lifestyle and historical dependence on the caribou herd that uses the Coastal Plain to calve and raise their young. Opponents to the proposed drilling staged public demonstrations to express their concerns. Opposition to the government and the Alaska congressional delegation is spearheaded by a national coalition of conservation organizations. Planning and strategy meetings were hosted by the Alaska Wilderness League in Washington, DC last month, and further meetings will be held in Anchorage on March 28-29. This major effort to save the Coastal Plain is being organized across the nation.

Our lawsuit along with eight other conservation organizations opposing the Department of Interior land trade for construction of a road through the biological heart of the Izembek Refuge Wilderness was filed in federal court on January 31, 2018. It appears that proponents of the land trade and road will enter the lawsuit as intervenors to support the government. The Aleutians East Borough voted to enter the lawsuit on the side of the government. The Borough approved spending $61,875 to hire a law firm to help them join the case. That money will also help four other local entities trying to intervene on behalf of the federal government, the King Cove Corporation, The City of King Cove, the Agdaagux Tribe, and the Native Village of Belkofski. The State of Alaska is also expected to intervene on behalf of the government. These interventions must be approved by the court, and our attorneys at Trustees for Alaska continue to monitor developments and represent our interests in the federal court. We are optimistic that we will eventually prevail to stop the dismantling of the Wilderness Act and the desecration of the heart of the Izembek Wilderness.

We have not seen any new action by the State of Alaska to to reduce predators in the refuges. We are working with the conservation coalition to stop any effort to interfere with the natural balance and diversity of wildlife populations on our refuges.

If you would like to help with these efforts,
please contact David Raskin (