By: Dorene Lorenz
KSRM: Allowing Alaska Ivory Act Introduced To Remove Bans
After states like California banned all ivory following a domestic ban on African elephant ivory, this week U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski introduced Senate Bill 1965: the Allowing Alaska Ivory Act.
Since the elephant ivory ban, Murkowski says Alaskan ivory has been confiscated at airports around the country.
Senator Lisa Murkowski R-AK: “Unfortunately, what has happened is there has been unintended negative consequences on the Alaska Native Arts economy.”
The legislation would preempt states from banning mammoth ivory, as well as walrus ivory or whale bone products that have been legally carved by Alaska Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Senator Lisa Murkowski R-AK: “The tusks are turned into works of art and literally it’s the revenues that are derived from selling the ivory that allow so many to be able to buy food, pay for their energy, put fuel in their boats so they can continue hunting.”
The Alaska Congressional Delegation also wrote the National Governors Association and National Conference of State Legislatures to highlight the “potentially devastating and unintended consequences of broadly crafted state ivory bans that are currently in place or under consideration in nearly half of the United States.”
Alaska Public Radio October 18th
King Cove and feds exploring options to build road without Congressional approval By Zoë Sobel
The city of King Cove is working closely with the Trump administration to find a way to build a road to Cold Bay through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. But city leaders are taking issue with a recent Washington Post article that describes the administration attempting to conceal a behind-the-scenes deal to build the road.
Gary Hennigh has been working for the City of King Cove for decades and he’s focused on making the road to Cold Bay a reality. He said the community needs the road to provide access to Cold Bay’s all weather airport, so people aren’t left stranded in medical emergencies.
Hennigh acknowledged that the Department of the Interior is working on an agreement to allow the road with the King Cove Corporation. But he said it isn’t a backroom deal.
“It’s not like we’ve said, ‘oh, let’s meet in a dark alley at some point late at night,’” Hennigh said.
When Donald Trump was elected president last November, Hennigh said community leaders representing the City of King Cove, the Aleutians East Borough, the King Cove Corporation, the Agdaagux Tribe and the Native Village of Belkofski immediately started discussing ways to reach out to the new administration. The conversation with the Interior Department got underway at the beginning of this year.
Like other proposals, this deal would involve swapping land, this time between the King Cove Corporation and the federal government. The Corporation would then own a land corridor where the road through the refuge could be built.
Other deals have included some element of Congressional approval. In 2013, after Congress directed then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to look into the road, Jewell rejected the idea saying it would irreversibly damage the Izembek Refuge and the wildlife that depend on it.
This time around Hennigh thinks the deal could avoid Congress entirely.
“We’ve come to be realistic, to know that the legislative world is a pretty big challenge,” Hennigh said. “If we don’t have to go there, we don’t want to. We want to see if that administrative agreement will work for us”
That administrative agreement Hennigh mentions would be between the Interior Department and the King Cove Corporation. As he understands it, Congress approved administrative power in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) that could allow for land exchanges between the federal government and eligible Alaska Native Corporations. So there would be no need for additional congressional approval.
Hennigh is hopeful this approach will work. But environmentalists, like Nicole WhittingtonEvans of The Wilderness Society, are angry.
After so many public processes that all concluded the King Cove Road would significantly impact wildlife in the Izembek Refuge, Whittington-Evans is frustrated it’s up for discussion again.
“The federal government has exhaustively studied this numerous times and always concluded the road would have significant impacts to the refuge and it’s wildlife, which the refuge was established to protect,” Whittington-Evans said.
Whittington-Evans believes because Congress decided the Izembek Refuge should be a designated wilderness area, the highest level of conservation given to federal lands, it’s only right that Congress would have to review any proposal to build a road.
“For an administration to come along now and ignore congressional action and disregard all the public input on this issue to now, shows a brazen disregard for existing laws and our nations framework around public input,” Whittington-Evans said.
Whittington-Evans is worried the potential deal could undercut bedrock environmental laws like The Wilderness Act, The National Environmental Policy Act and ANILCA.
The Interior Department did not respond to a request for comment. Alaska’s congressional delegation has advocated for a road to Cold Bay over the years. But if a deal is imminent, Senator Lisa Murkowski isn’t dropping any hints.
“Have you been hearing anything about it that was going to break this week?” Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin asked the Senator.
“I’ve been hoping that it would break months ago,” Murkowski said.
Hennigh also isn’t giving any indication of when a deal may become public. But he said the community is optimistic that a deal under this administration represents their best shot at the road in a very long time.
By: Dorene Lorenz