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Alaska Native Leaders Continue to Oppose House Bill 77

Amendments Proposed by the Department of Natural Resources Fail to Address Tribal Concerns for Salmon, Subsistence, and Their Voice in State Permitting Decisions

JUNEAU, ALASKA - Alaska Native leaders from across the State are reacting with disappointment to proposed amendments to House Bill 77 (HB 77), Governor Sean Parnell’s complicated state permitting overhaul legislation. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials are rolling out a series of minor changes to the bill today in the Senate Resources Committee. Drafted without tribal input, the amendments follow months of near-unanimous statewide opposition.  The amendments to the bill do little to address tribal concerns. In fact, the changes make it even harder and less meaningful for tribes and other Alaskans to protect important resources.

“Over 40 Alaska tribes and Native groups passed resolutions opposing HB 77 and DNR’s proposed changes, revealed today, fail to address our concerns,” Dorothy Larson of Curyung Tribal Council said. “Alaska Natives continue to be cut out of the conversation. We’ve lived here for tens of thousands of years and yet state bureaucrats are trying to bypass us. At its core, HB 77 is an affront to tribal members and a threat to our sovereignty.”

A top priority of the Parnell administration, HB 77 would strip tribes and individual Alaskans of the right to hold in-stream water reservations and would seriously undermine their ability to participate in natural resource decisions on state land, even with the proposed changes. DNR officials said they amended the bill in response to those concerns but the changes do little to address core problems with the legislation.

“The governor’s attempts to get this controversial bill signed into law are cutting the public out of the process.  Our lawmakers have heard repeatedly, from every corner of the state, that Alaskans oppose HB 77. Yet Sen. Huggins is saying this is a done deal even before the public has seen the changes,” said Rob Sanderson, Jr., Second Vice President, Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. “We’ve made it clear that we want, and need, to be part of this process, yet no tribe or Native group was consulted regarding DNR’s proposed changes.”   

Even with proposed amendments this bill eliminates key components of the public process that allows tribes and individual Alaskans to participate in decision making on state lands, diminishing the public’s ability to weigh in on DNR permitting decisions and to speak up for clean water and salmon. Additionally, HB 77 would grant the DNR commissioner unprecedented authority to issue preapproval of permits with possible significant and irreparable impacts without meaningful public input.

"There was no consultation with Chickaloon Village Traditional Council or any other Tribe to our knowledge regarding this harmful legislation, and once again this bill is being rushed through the Senate without adequate time for public review” said Lisa Wade, Council Member for Chickaloon Village Traditional Council. 

The public is invited to testify on  HB 77 on Wednesday, March 12, at 3:30pm. The bill is available here: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill.asp?bill=HB%20%2077, and as of this release, the tribal resolutions, City Government Resolutions and any other public input has not been posted to the public record of this bill since April of 2013.

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