“Patience endures, perseverance, the voice of our tribe really counts. We need to listen to each other.”
– Chief Nancy James, Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government
Tribes and individuals need to be heard. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the federal agency responsible for managing millions of acres across Alaska, is leading two major public processes to engage citizens to give advice on how our traditional land should be managed for the next 20 years: Resource Management Plans for the Central Yukon and Bering Western Interior regions.
The land planning process is an opportunity for us to help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) understand our culture, views and needs of our communities that will be most affected by future changes in the landscape, from mining, roads development, climate change and other uses.
Click to see a list of upcoming meetings here.
When BLM has meetings in your community, they want to hear from you. Please attend, and encourage other community members to attend as well.
If you do not see your community on this list of upcoming meetings, and you’re concerned about protecting traditional use areas, you may request a meeting. Work with your Tribal Council members to make this request, or ask as an individual.
Call Chel Ethun at (907) 474-2253, or at [email protected] to request this meeting.
Bering Sea-Western Interior
Public Scoping for this Plan has ended. But you may still submit comments to the BLM for consideration. Contact Jena Barringer, at 907-267-1317, or email [email protected].
Tribes need to be heard – one way they can protect traditional lands is through nominating an ACEC. Learn more about ACECs here.
Public Meetings: What to Expect
BLM public meetings can feel formal. Chairs may be lined up, and meeting attendees who share verbal comments are sometimes limited to three minutes to voice a formal comment. You can always ask for more time or ask for a less-formal table-top conversation.
Make a plan before you arrive. You have to know what it is you want to say before you arrive at the meeting. BLM employees will probably not ask you the questions that may most need to be answered directly. This is your opportunity to tell BLM what is important. This is an opportunity for you to clearly communicate what needs to be heard.
How to Prepare
Ask yourself: What am I concerned about? Are you concerned about water, the health of the watershed for fish, moose and caribou habitat, outside trophy hunters coming to your area or a special cultural site?
Before you prepare your comment, consider:
- Where does your community wish to have development?
- Oil and gas
- Commercial harvest (timber, etc)
- What areas are important for food security?
- Water Sources
- Watershed Health – for fish
- Moose and Caribou Habitat
- Hunting Access
- Travel management
- Outside guides, permits, wanton waste
- Climate change
- Animal migration patterns
Once you have prepared two or three talking points, you will be all set to use your voice at a public meeting.
Submit a comment on the Bering Sea Western Interior Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement here.
Comments were due by March 17 on Central Yukon Plan concepts and alternatives.
- Written comments are important and powerful ways to influence the Bureau of Land Management. Here are some tips on writing your comments.
- Comments that provide relevant and new information are the most useful and are referred to as “substantive” comments. Substantive comments influence final, published documents.
- At any time, feel free to reach out to the agency with questions. Send them to Chel Ethun: (907) 474-2253, or at [email protected]
TIPS FOR WRITTEN COMMENTS
- Identify the part of the document you’re concerned about.
- You know a lot about your community and the place you live. Consider answering questions about how the Draft Regional Management Plan may affect your community:
- What is special or unique about this land that the BLM may not know?
- How could the BLM best protect and respect our community’s traditional food – specific species of wildlife? Their habitats?
- Will the plan affect your access to a critical, traditional food source during a particular season?
- Make specific suggestions about how to improve the Planning draft: ideas, issues requiring clarifications, errors, or new traditional knowledge that the agency may not be aware of that is important to you!
- Be sure to back up your statements with explanations, facts, reference, or traditional knowledge.
- Be specific when possible – explain what, where and why a BLM area is important.
Consultation and Cooperating Agency Status are strong tools for Tribes.
Every federally-recognized tribe has a special relationship with the federal government. Tribes are sovereign nations and have a government to government consultation status with the United States Federal Government and Tribes can have Cooperating Agency Status in federal land planning processes. Consultation and being a Cooperating Agency are both powerful tools.
Tribes can request consultation on a government to government basis with federal agencies to discuss matters important to the tribe, like the impacts of certain uses of federally-managed land to the Tribe. Often this type of consultation means that representatives of the Bureau of Land Management travel to villages and meet with communities, sometimes at the Tribal hall, for informal meetings with Tribal leadership.
The Cooperating Agency status tool was used effectively by two Eastern Interior tribes that insisted on a better process and spent hundreds of hours in two-way conversations about the draft plan language with BLM to achieve protections for traditional lands. The Chalkyitsik Village Council and the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government from Chalkyitsik and Fort Yukon, respectively, gained some protections for critical Draanjik River watershed habitat.
“This is the first time in all the generations of the Gwich’in, from our grandfathers before us to now, we have the opportunity, a voice that is heard by hearing ears in today’s modern society. We as a people can make a difference, we can control our future, protect our lands, insure the future for our children in knowing and living as our fathers have, we can control our life as sovereign peoples.”
– Stanley Edwin, Gwich’in Physicist
BLM wants to know what’s important to us about our traditional lands that they now manage. Speak up for our traditional use. Speak up for our culture. Speak up for future generations. Because it’s our land, our voice, our future.
“In Government to Government consultation we are not just speaking for us today, but for our future.”
– Chief Nancy James, Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government