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Murkowski Urges Expansion of Tribal Self-Governance over Public Lands in Alaska

Senator Calls King Cove Assessment from Interior Department’s top Indian Official “Inadequate”

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Lisa Murkowski today called on the National Park Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to recommit themselves to advocate and advance self-governance agreements with Alaska’s regional tribal organizations in order to strengthen Alaska Native participation in the management of public lands surrounding their communities.

During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs discussing the “Tribal Self-Governance Act of 2013” – a bill co-sponsored by Murkowski to improve the operation of self-governance agreements between tribes and the U.S. Department of Interior – Murkowski commented:

“Indian Self-Determination has been, in my mind, the most successful federal Indian policy, given the difficult history of our Nation’s indigenous people. When our tribes can manage their own programs, they are better equipped to address the disparities that exist within our Native populations. Many of our Native communities live next to and within the boundaries of public lands, national parks and wildlife refuges. As Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee with oversight responsibility of public lands in Alaska, I would like to see self-governance agreements supported and expanded by the Administration.”

Under the policy of Indian Self Determination – tribes have assumed the management of programs including road, housing, education, and natural resources management, delivering government services that are more efficient, effective, and flexible in addressing the needs of Native communities.

Later in the same hearing, Senator Murkowski also took issue with Department of Interior Assistant Director of Native Affairs Kevin Washburn – who visited the Aleutian Island of King Cove last summer – for not fully considering the legal principles at play when weighing whether to allow birds to be prioritized over Alaska Native safety needs.  She called on Washburn to meet with her personally to discuss this matter, saying:

I was extremely disappointed in Secretary Jewell’s decision as it related to King Cove. And I felt that the report made public after your visit to King Cove was inadequate in addressing the trust responsibility that I believe DOI has to our Native residents there.  I would ask that we set up a meeting at my office or I’ll come to your office before President’s Day.

(Murkowski: Sovereignty reasoning was “inadequate” in blocking safety road for King Cove – click to watch)

Assistant Secretary Washburn accepted her invitation, and the conversation between Alaska and the Department of Interior over the fate of King Cove residents will continue in upcoming weeks.

 

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