Sullivan, Murkowski Introduce the Allowing Alaska IVORY Act

U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, this week introduced S. 1965, the Allowing Alaska IVORY Act. The legislation would preempt states from banning walrus ivory or whale bone products that have been legally carved by Alaska Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Additionally, the bill preempts states from issuing bans on mammoth ivory products.

At last year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, Senator Sullivan held a Senate Environment and Public Works field hearing to examine state laws across the country that prohibit ivory sales and harm Alaska Native artisans.  Since that hearing, Senator Sullivan has been working with Alaska Native leaders and those negatively impacted by the bans to craft legislation that addresses their concerns.

“Alaska Native and rural economies across our state are being negatively impacted by overly broad bans on not just elephant ivory but walrus and mammoth ivory,” said Senator Sullivan. “These products allow not just valuable artistic and cultural expressions, but vital income for many rural Alaskans. Further, the Fish and Wildlife Service and members of the conservation community have recognized that these broad state bans have little benefit to combatting the poaching problem, while creating confusion on the part of buyers of Alaskan ivory. Our bill will cut the confusion, and carry out the true intent of our existing laws to allow Alaskan Natives and Alaskans to responsibly use their resources to access economic opportunity while maintaining centuries old cultural practices.”

“A number of states have enacted legislation claimed to be aimed at combating the illicit elephant ivory trade, which is something we all want to fight,” said Senator Murkowski. “However, the legislation being passed by many of these states would prevent Americans from purchasing and possessing traditional Alaska Native handicrafts derived from marine mammal and locally found fossilized Mammoth ivory, thus destroying a legal and culturally rich economic source for many Alaska Natives. Sadly, state ivory bans were enacted without any attempt at consultation with indigenous groups who create this type of cultural art or lawmakers from states where it is part of our history. The Constitution assigns Congress the power to legislate on matters involving our first peoples. We join together today to protect important sources of income for Alaska’s indigenous people, their culture, and an important part of our state’s history by preempting this vastly overreaching state legislation.”

In addition to introducing the IVORY Act this week, the Alaska Congressional Delegation 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.” CLICK HERE to read the letter.

In August 2016 Senator Murkowski wrote Governor Brown of California to ask whether his state’s overreaching legislation was intended to harm the market for Alaska Native handicrafts