Doyon Chooses to Stand for Alaska
Doyon, Limited opposes HB 199, a flawed bill that would place stringent regulations on development in communities both large and small across Alaska. HB 199, introduced in the State House of Representatives, relates to fish and wildlife habitat protection. The bill is a major reform of the Title 16 permitting processes, which governs fish and game. Doyon opposes the bill because it will effectively shut down economic and community development.
Language similar to HB 199 was introduced as a ballot measure, called Stand for Salmon, which may appear on the ballot in 2018. The State of Alaska has called the ballot initiative unconstitutional and the Alaska Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments this April.
Stand for Alaska was formed to oppose the ballot measure, and Doyon president, Aaron Schutt, agreed to co-chair, urging voters to “vote no” if the ballot initiative is allowed to proceed.
Under the ballot initiative, all bodies of water will be considered anadromous fish habitats, including seasonal bodies of water. Currently, Alaska Department of Fish and Game defines anadromous fish as a fish species that spends portions of its life cycle in both fresh and salt waters, entering fresh water from the sea to spawn.
Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott rejected the proposed ballot initiative in September 2017, stating it was unconstitutional in nature, as the measure would inappropriately restrict the powers of the Alaska Legislature.
“The initiative is so wide-ranging that it would prohibit the use of anadromous waters for certain development purposes, leaving insufficient discretion to the Legislature to determine how to allocate those state assets,” Mallott said.
Doyon recognizes the dependence of Native culture and people on salmon, but believes the current regulations offer adequate protection of this resource, while not curtailing important infrastructure and development projects. The current regulations for permitting economic and community development projects have science-based mandates that call for salmon habitat protections. Proponents of the new bill language have yet to provide examples showing where current statutes are not working.
Doyon also opposes the bill due to the unintended negative impacts to community development. Infrastructure upgrades, such as airports and roads, construction of wastewater treatment plants, and natural community growth would be negatively impacted.
On ANCSA lands, economic development, including fish processing, timber harvests, mineral extraction, and oil and gas development, would also be negatively impacted. All projects – large and small – across the state would require a major permit under the proposed language.
If this initiative becomes law, revenues from Red Dog mine, Alpine oilfield, the proposed Donlin mine, timber harvests, and other responsible resource development on ANCSA lands would be directly impacted. To date, the revenue shared with all Alaska Native regional and village corporations from development on Native lands exceeds $3 billion. These are shareable payments among regional and village corporations, and directly impact Alaska Native people.
Schutt shared these concerns from Doyon’s perspective as the largest private landowner in the state. “This initiative, if passed, will prevent Doyon from developing the vast resources that we received under ANCSA, and will destroy our ability to create a sustainable socioeconomic future for Alaska Native people,” he said.