Arctic National Wildlife Refuge The House Natural Resources Committee marked up their portion of the Budget Reconciliation bill that includes repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas program and a buy-back of all existing leases. The language will now be merged into the full reconciliation bill and taken up by the full House. This successful effort was led by the excellent lobbying work by Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ARDC).
The comment period for the Notice of Intent of scoping for the Supplemental EIS (SEIS) is open until October 4, 2021. BLM is holding six virtual scoping meetings for the SEIS that will take place September 14, 15, and 16. If the reconciliation bill is enacted with the House language that terminates the Arctic drilling leases, this exercise will become moot. A new threat to the Coastal Plain emerged with an SF 299 application by Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation (KIC) for a winter right-of-way across the tundra in a wilderness study area. KIC claims to be an inholding according to provisions of ANILCA, like the claim made by King Cove for a road through the Izembek Wilderness. KIC had previously been granted an emergency permit to move school modules across the ice in winter, but this request is for an annual permit to move goods and supplies across land each year. Like King Cove, Kaktovik seems not to qualify as an inholding since it has marine access and other alternatives for the proposed uses. The Fish and WIldlife Service (FWS) review of their application must be completed by October 5 to determine the additional information that KIC will need to include to complete the application.
Izembek National Wildlife Refuge
Oral arguments were held before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on August 4 concerning the defendants’ appeal of our second successful lawsuit that stopped the illegal land transfer for the proposed road. Trustees for Alaska did an outstanding job of arguing our position. During this session, the Court suggested a possible stay of the proceedings until after Secretary of the Interior Haaland’s scheduled September 17 visit to King Cove. The Court was concerned that after her visit, the Secretary might take actions that would effectively resolve the lawsuit and waste the resources of the Court if the proceedings were not stayed. The plaintiffs indicated that we would not oppose a stay of the proceedings, but the Government and the State opposed a stay. However, on September 6, the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced that Secretary Haaland postponed her trip due to concerns about the high level of Covid-19 infections in Alaska. We have not heard how this latest development might influence the Court’s decision regarding a possible stay of the proceedings.
The Fish and Wildlife Servic (FWS) denied the use of helicopters to access the Izembek Wilderness in special use permits requested by the State Department of Transportation to inventory cultural resources and wetlands for the proposed Isthmus Road. The FWS issued permits that required access by foot, but the State has refused to sign the permits without helicopter access. We are very pleased that there will be no on-the-ground-activity this summer.
Sturgeon Decision There has been no further action following the Supreme Court decision in Sturgeon v. Frost, 139 S. Ct. (1066) 2019. Based on this ruling and ANILCA Sec. 103, the State of Alaska asserted primary jurisdiction over navigable waters on federal lands in Alaska.
Other Refuges We have no significant updates on Kenai Refuge regulations, Yukon Flats Refuge oil exploration in Doyon inholdings, the Mulchatna caribou her and possible predator control in Yukon Delta and Togiak Refuges, and the BLM Central Yukon Plan.
Wild, Outstanding, and Remarkable: Meet the Seven Wild and Scenic Rivers Flowing on Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuges Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 5-6pm (AKDT) Jennifer Reed, Arctic Refuge and FWS Wild and Scenic Rivers Program Lead
Jennifer Reed of the Arctic Refuge will bring you on an unforgettable adventure exploring each of these distinct and thriving waterways. While Alaska’s Refuges TEEM with countless amazing rivers, the rivers Congress deemed superlative and distinct within the Alaska Refuges include: Andreafsky (Yukon Delta); Beaver Creek (Yukon Flats); Ivishak, Sheenjek, and Wind (Arctic Refuge); Nowitna (Nowitna Refuge); and Selawik (Selawik Refuge). Some are great salmon highways; others host more northern species like grayling and sheefish. Some are corridors for vast caribou migrations and all furnish important riparian habitat and travel routes for waterfowl, songbirds, furbearers and all grazing species. People have used them as transportation corridors and food sources for millennia, since they are within the homelands of Alaska’s indigenous peoples. Subsistence users have now been joined by adventurers and fisherfolk seeking solitude and the joy of rivers.
Sheenjek Wild and Scenic River, Arctic Refuge (USFWS/A. Bonogofsky)
Jennifer Reed is the national and regional Fish and Wildlife Service lead for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program. She has lived between the Alaska Range and the Brooks Range since finishing college and leaving Detroit for her first Alaska job as a Denali Park Ranger. She taught school for 8 years, part of the time on Nelson Island, before developing a federal career focused on connecting people with their public lands. Jennifer confessed that she was not initially a rivers person beginning her love affair with landscape-meets-human as a backpacker. Dog mushing and hiking are more natural to her but she became a boater because of her dedication to relating to the visitors to the Arctic Refuge. Since then she has boated most of the major rivers in the West. Jennifer lives in Fairbanks.
Navy Veteran Chad Brown was homeless and medicated for PTSD when he discovered fly fishing and the healing power of rivers. Brown said that the first tug on his line from his first fish was like a bolt of nature’s electricity bringing him back to life. He founded Soul River, Inc. to share what rivers and fishing had done for him. He pairs vets and inner city kids on “deployments” to wild rivers including several trips to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Amid the grandeur of the Refuge, the vets found purpose as mentors and the youth flourished in this new world of nature, adventure and fishing.
Brown will share with us his story, the success of Soul River and how his mission has grown into protecting the Arctic Refuge and being of service to Native communities. He will tell us about his new non-profit, Love is King, which is dedicated to creating equitable and safe access to the outdoors for people of color.
Chad Brown grew up in Texas hunting and spending time on his grandparents farm. He joined the Navy to get the GI Bill and served in Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Restore Hope Somalia. After the military, he earned a Master of Science in Communications Design and had a successful career as an art director and photographer before his PTSD caught up with him and brought him down. After fishing and rivers and the VA healed him he started Soul River as well as serving as creative director of Chado Communication Design and Soul River Studios. Besides being an avid fly fisherman he is a bow hunter, outdoor adventurer and conservationist.