Kuskokwim Tribes Object to Proposed Kuskokwim Area Plan Changes
March 29, 2019
The letters, submitted as official comments on the proposed Kuskokwim Area Plan Amendments, highlights the proposed amendments’ sweeping changes to the Kuskokwim region to allow for both the proposed Donlin Gold mine and other future developments to move forward with no consideration of the impacts these activities will have on the region as a whole.
“We are sovereign Tribal governments in the local area covered by the plan and where the supporting facilities and infrastructure would be located,” the letters state, “We have not been given the opportunity to work with the commissioner to develop these proposed amendments or provide input during the process, as required by law.”
This approach to area plan amendments stands in sharp contrast to other DNR has carried out in other parts of the state, according to a news release from the Orutsararmiut Native Council. Similar proposed changes to Bristol Bay’s Area Plan proposed in 2013 were subject to a two-year public process. Then it included several public meetings in eight different communities, a 120 day comment period, two separate rounds of draft plans issued to the public, and significant collaboration between different entities including Tribes and both state and federal agencies.
In contrast, Kuskokwim Area Plan proposed amendments are distinctly not the result of a robust public process and there have been no opportunities for Tribes or the public to be involved aside from a short comment period according to the Orutsararmiut Native Council.
“The fact that DNR seems to think this is a matter of paperwork and not a fundamental shift in policy that will have very tangible impacts on land, food, and culture is short-sighted and dismissive,” said Mary Matthias, ONC’s Natural Resources Director. “Why hasn’t there been a more robust public processing around these amendments like our neighbors in Bristol Bay were granted?”
The draft amendment was proposed by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) because Donlin Gold, LLC., (Donlin) is proposing to develop an open-pit gold mine in southwest Alaska on land owned by The Kuskokwim Corporation and the Calista Corporation, located approximately 145 miles northeast of Bethel. Donlin has submitted applications to the Southcentral Regional Land Office (SCRO) for several support facilities and infrastructure on state land.
Before any management decisions for State land can be made, the land must first be classified. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued a draft amendment to the Kuskokwim Area Plan and Land Classification Order (LCO) in order to classify previously unclassified state-owned and state-selected lands and waters. This amendment process is concurrently being undertaken in a separate but associated action.
The comment period for the proposed Area Plan amendments and an additional thirteen related permits ended today(March 29th) after only 60 days, half that of similar comment periods in other regions.
The Orutsararmiut Native Council is a Federally recognized governing body for the community of Bethel, Alaska.
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Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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