President Obama Signs Executive Order on Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience

Downloads: Executive OrderBering EO – Map

Office of the Press Secretary

December 9, 2016

FACT SHEET: White House Announces Actions to Protect Natural and Cultural Resources in Alaskan Arctic Ocean

Since taking office, President Obama has worked to protect the Arctic’s natural and cultural resources and the communities that rely upon them through the use of science-based decision making, enhanced coordination of Federal Arctic management, efforts to combat illegal fishing, and revitalization of the process for establishing new marine sanctuaries.  Building on this effort, today, President Obama is announcing new steps to enhance the resilience of the Alaskan Arctic environment and the sustainability of Alaskan native communities with the creation of the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.

In addition to today’s protections, the Obama Administration is announcing approximately $30 million in philanthropic commitments for projects in rural northern Alaska and Canada.  These projects include investments over the next three years related to shipping, ecosystem science, community and ecological resilience, and tribal engagement.  Earlier this week, the Department of Commerce deployed an Economic Development Assessment Team to Nome, Alaska to help the region diversify, grow its economy, and address challenges related to climate change and community resilience.

Today’s actions are also supportive of the March 2016 U.S.-Canada Joint Statement on Climate, Energy, and Arctic Leadership and make substantial progress on its objectives of  conserving Arctic biodiversity through science-based decision-making, incorporating indigenous science and traditional knowledge into decision-making, and supporting strong Arctic communities. These actions employ science-based leadership to improve marine and coastal resilience and sustain our Nation’s precious natural resources.

Executive Order Creating the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area

Native villages in the northern Bering Sea region of Alaska largely practice a subsistence-based lifestyle that is inextricably tied to the rich marine ecosystem of the Bering Sea.  Warming ocean temperatures, sea ice loss, and increasing ship traffic all threaten the subsistence practices and food security of these communities.  The coastal tribes along the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait have requested that the Federal Government take action to protect the health of the marine ecosystems of the Northern Bering Sea and Bering Strait while maintaining opportunities for sustainable fishing and sustainable economic development.

In direct response to these requests, the President signed an Executive Order creating the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.  This area, encompassing 112,300 square miles, represents a hugely productive, high-latitude ocean ecosystem and supports one of the largest seasonal marine mammal migrations in the world, including thousands of bowhead and beluga whales, hundreds of thousands of walruses and ice seals, and millions of migratory birds.  It is home to more than 40 tribes of coastal Yup’ik and Inupiaq peoples whose way of life has been linked with the marine environment for thousands of years.

The Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area is delineated for the purpose of focusing a locally-tailored collection of protections related to oil and gas, shipping, and fishing. The order also establishes a Task Force charged with coordinating Federal activities in this area to enhance ecosystem and community resilience, conserve natural resources, and protect the cultural and subsistence values this ecosystem provides for Alaskan native communities. Further, agencies are directed to consider traditional knowledge in decision making and establish a formal consultative mechanism for engaging with regional tribal governments to seek their input on Federal activities.This action advances science-based decision-making and engagement with Alaska Native peoples in addressing the changing Arctic consistent with the Joint Statement signed at the White House Arctic Science Ministerial and consultation with Alaska Natives in preparation for the Ministerial.


In recognition of the increase in shipping through the Bering Strait, the Coast Guard is nearing completion of a Port Access Route Study (PARS) for the region.  A PARS is the first step in assessing the need for vessel traffic control measures and developing a set of recommendations. Any recommended international routing measures would be submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which sets international rules for maritime commerce.    The Executive Order directs the Coast Guard to give careful consideration to community recommendations regarding environmentally sensitive Areas to Be Avoided (ATBAs) and to publish its initial findings by the end of 2016 and to move its conclusions to the International Maritime Organization for action by 2018.


Sea bottom habitat is extremely important to the ecosystem in the Northern Bering Sea and helps to support the incredible abundance of marine mammals and sea birds in the region, including critical subsistence resources.  In recognition of these connections, bottom trawling is already banned in the region to protect the sea floor.  The Executive Order makes it Federal policy to support the continued prohibition on bottom trawling, which destroys sensitive benthic ecosystems.

Oil and Gas

Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the President has withdrawn Norton Basin planning area and portions of the St. Matthew-Hall planning area from future oil and gas leasing to further protect the regional ecosystem and coastal communities.  The five year leasing plans issued by the Department of the Interior do not include plans for leasing in the withdrawn areas, so there will not need to be changes to those plans to reflect the withdrawal.  The total area withdrawn from leasing through this Executive Order is 40,300 square miles.

Coordination and Consultation

This Order also advances the Administration’s priorities of elevating traditional knowledge in decision making and coordinating Federal efforts in the Arctic.  Today’s actions establish a Federal Task Force on the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area (Bering Task Force), under the Arctic Executive Steering Committee (AESC) established by Executive Order 13689. The Bering Task Force will coordinate Federal activity and consider additional mechanisms to reduce impacts to subsistence and cultural activities within the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.  The Executive Order also formally elevates the voice of Alaskan native tribes and the role of indigenous knowledge in decision-making within the region by mandating that the Task Force establish and engage in regular consultation with a Bering Intergovernmental Tribal Advisory Council, which will consist primarily of tribal government representatives with participation from Federal, state, and local officials for coordination purposes. Together, these two groups will guide the incorporation of valuable traditional knowledge and science into Federal resource management in the northern Bering Sea region, thus preserving this unique ecosystem and the indigenous peoples who rely upon it.

Commitments to Rural Northern Alaska and Canada

Today, in support of the U.S.-Canada commitments to a Shared Arctic Leadership model, the philanthropic community is pledging approximately $30 million for projects in rural northern Alaska and Canada.

  • The Arctic Funders Collaborative (AFC), a group of eleven U.S., Canadian and international philanthropic foundations, is announcing that a subset of its members will coordinate and mobilize resources through grant programs across the Arctic at a projected $27 million over the next three years in the following areas:
    • Community-led planning and monitoring initiatives that foster adaptation and resilience to a changing Arctic climate
    • Low-impact shipping corridors in Arctic Alaska and Canada,  including routing and mitigation measures to help improve maritime safety and spill prevention
    • Northern-led policy development informed by indigenous knowledge and science
    • Fostering connections between Northern priorities and social finance institutions in ways that support culture, community resilience and sustainable economic opportunities
    • Building in-region capacity of indigenous-led organizations and emerging leaders across the Arctic

Priority geographic areas for marine stewardship support include the northern Bering Sea and the Bering Strait, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, the Northwest Passage, Lancaster Sound, Baffin Bay, the Davis Strait, and Hudson Bay.

  • Today, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is announcing a $3.7 million grant to support research that couples state-of-the-art geophysical observations from unmanned aerial systems with a community-engaged research approach to bridge scientific and indigenous understanding of sea ice change in the Alaskan Arctic. Led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Columbia University, and Kotzebue residents, the project will research changing patterns of Arctic ice and other physical characteristics in Kotzebue Sound and the Chukchi Sea, using a combination of traditional knowledge and sensing technologies in modules carried by drones. From the beginning of the work – including development of the research design – the project will involve local experts who have sea ice experience and other environmental knowledge.

Who Won American Indian Law and Policy in 2014? Final Four

It’s been a long strange trip but we’re down to the final four.

#1 Alaska Native tribes v. #2 Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Alaska Native tribes win again with 55 percent of the vote over Bay Mills Indian Community. The top overall seed defeated the Buena Vista Rancheria, the Omaha Tribe, and the Wisconsin Oneidas before facing Bay Mills.

Tribal sovereign immunity also advances with 74 percent of the vote over ICWA. Immunity knocked out alternative energy, American Indian education, and VAWA before taking out ICWA.

The matchup looks very similar for the Alaska tribal communities. In effect, Bay Mills gets a second chance at the prize, along with all the other tribes that have raised sovereign immunity this year. Westlaw says there are 16 tribal immunity cases from 2014 alone. Of course, there are 229 Alaska Native tribes.

#2 Justice Sotomayor v. #10 Tribal In-House Counsel Association

Justice Sotomayor wins out in the people bracket, narrowly eliminating Judge Humetewa with 54 percent of the vote. She eliminated the McAllen Grace Baptist Church, Frank Pommersheim, and the authors of Structuring Sovereignty before facing Judge Humetewa.

TICA is the big upstart in this inaugural tournament, winners of the groups bracket but the lowest seed remaining. Obviously, I underestimated their staggering power at the beginning. TICA squeaked by NABA and the Tribal Supreme Court Project before gathering steam and completely destroying the Carcieri challengers and the 1491s.

Hmm, this semifinal features one versus many, begging us to ask Spock’s stark question — do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one?


Who Won 2014? Fourth Round — The Final Eight

Here are the category finals in all four categories:

Category 1 — Indian nations

#1 Alaska Native tribes v. #3 Bay Mills Indian Community

Alaska Native tribes knock off the Wisconsin Oneidas, who made a very good showing against the northwest leviathan, but Alaska wins 68 percent. And, yes, there is internet in the UP, or there are just plenty of downstaters (hearing me Port Huron?) banking on the BMIC casino? The Gun Lakers only garner 41 percent of the vote.

So the two big tribal winners of the year face off.

Category 2 — Laws, Doctrines, and other stuff

#1 ICWA v. #2 Tribal sovereign immunity

The Indian Child Welfare Act motors on with 64 percent of the vote over intra-tribal disputes. I think we’re all in denial. Too bad, too, cuz tribal sovereign immunity, one of the reasons we have such compelling intra-tribal disputes, also moved on, defeating VAWA narrowly with 54 percent of the vote.

Oil and water face off. We at Turtle Talk know for a fact that ICWA and tribal immunity cases absolutely dominate the federal and state cases we see almost every day here. You can make your living on these two, so long as you’re willing to work for next-to-nothing as an ICWA attorney and so long as you don’t try to make a living suing Indian tribes.

Category 3 — People and Parties

#1 Hon. Diane Humetewa v. #2 Justice Sotomoyor

Sarah Deer gave her a serious run for her money, but fell by a mere two percentage points in the most highly contested (the most votes that is) pairing of the third round. Judge Hemetewa prevails again but only to face the most recognizable and fabulous Supreme Court Justice in history. Yes, I said that.

Category 4 — Other things

#1 1491s v. #10 Tribal In-House Counsel Association

The 1491s sneak past the Cohen Handbookies with 54 percent of the vote. Did I call it or what? All four top seeds are in the final eight. They appear to be in serious trouble though as the Tribal In-House Counsel Association is gaining unbelievable momentum, absolutely crushing the Carcieri beneficiaries with 78 percent of the vote. Of course, that might merely be a question of popularity because who likes those guys anyway? TICA’s going to have to rely more on beneficence to defeat the staggering monolith that is the 1491s.



Who Won American Indian Law and Policy 2014? Third Round Bracket 1 of 2

Now it’s getting tight. We’re down to the last 16.

Category 1 — Indian nations

#1 Alaska Native tribes v. #12 Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin

Alaska Native tribes once again won handily, earning 86 percent of the votes over the Omaha Tribe. The Wisconsin Oneidas continue to surprise, knocking off the Cayugas and their impressive Second Circuit tax victory with two-thirds of the vote.

Interesting matchup here, with two contenders that had a big year facing off against state and local governments.

#7 Gun Lake Tribe v.#3 Bay Mills Indian Community

Enrollment numbers don’t matter! The Gun Lakers earn 61 percent of the vote and take out the Sault Tribe and its vast membership. It can’t be that there’s no internet in the UP, right?

Well, the internet worked for Bay Mills, winning by one vote over LCO and the Wisconsin treaty tribes. Bay Mills makes a living winning by one vote.

So another ‘Nish matchup. Will Gun Lake be able to get past another Upper Peninsula Chippewa community?

Category 2 — Laws, Doctrines, and the Like

#1 Indian Child Welfare Act v. #5 Intra-tribal disputes

In the battle for Indian civil rights, nonvoters prevailed over voters, and ICWA moves on with 57 percent of the vote. Maybe that TT post on South Dakota came a day too late.

Well, intra-tribal disputes took down Indian gaming, with 58 percent of the vote. I hope that won’t be true in real life.

#2 Tribal sovereign immunity v. #3 VAWA

With 72 percent of the vote, it turns out sovereignty does predate knowledge of sovereignty. Cool, I guess.

VAWA and the hopes it encourages for tribal governance in the future (as well as its 67 percent vote tally) easily defeated tribal court exhaustion, which wilted with fatigue near the end.








Who Won American Indian Law and Policy 2014, Second Round, Bracket 1 of 4

32 are in, 32 are out. Let’s proceed to the eight remaining in Category 1, Indian nations.

#1 Alaska Native tribes v. #8 Omaha Tribe

The Alaska Natives tribes, my overall top seed, took 95 percent of the first round vote. The Omaha Tribe took 75 percent, easily routing the Kialegee Tribal Town.

#4 Cayuga Indian Nation v. # 12 Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin

All-Haudenosaunee quarterfinal! Cayuga took a narrow victory over the Big Lagoon Rancheria, with 58 percent of the vote. MHA Nation is taking some bad press lately, and the Wisconsin Oneidas wiped the floor with them, taking 77 percent of the vote.

#2 Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. #7 Gun Lake Tribe

All Michigan ‘Shinob quarterfinal. Sault Tribe took 64 percent of the vote over Fond du Lac, and I’m sure it’s not because of their sheer enrollment numbers. Or was it? Gun Lake, which took 2/3 of the vote from the Wind River Tribes, better hope not.

#3 Bay Mills Indian Community v. # 11 Lac Courte Oreilles and other Wisconsin treaty tribes

Bay Mills eked its way out of the first round with 51 percent of the vote over Cowlitz; apparently winning a Supreme Court case isn’t all that impressive compared to a win in federal district court. Huh.

Unlike Sault Tribe, enrollment numbers didn’t help Navajo, which lost handily to the Wisconsin treaty tribes, 63-37. Wisconsin’s not giving up on that treaty case, so stay tuned there.



Who Won Indian Law and Policy in 2014? First Round Bracket — 1 of 8

Alright, let’s try this.

In category 1, Indian nations, we’ll divide the bracket up into two, so you’ll be voting in four contests here. Four more later in the day. Let’s say you have until midnight eastern to vote.


#1 Alaska Native tribes

My overall number one seed, what with Congress repealing the Alaska exceptions from VAWA, Interior adopting a fee to trust rule, a big voting rights win, an important victory for tribal court jurisdiction, and another win on tribal governance matters. And perhaps the biggest is the Supreme Court’s denial of cert in Alaska v. Jewell, the subsistence hunting case. Alaska has Judge Voluck, too. The Alaska Supreme Court has been making things harder on the ICWA front however, here, here, and here, though perhaps the DOJ’s intervention in one case will make a difference, and the government’s effort to set the Alaska AG right is encouraging.


# 16 Buena Vista Rancheria

The Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians made a splash in federal court this year, winning one in the Supreme Court (well, a denial of cert) and losing one in the D.C. Circuit.

# 8 Omaha Tribe

The Omaha Tribe won a huge victory in the Eighth Circuit, which affirmed Judge Richard “Hercules” Kopf’s decision rejecting Nebraska’s effort to have the tribe’s reservation declared disestablished.


# 9 Kialegee Tribal Town

The tribe won a big decision in the Tenth Circuit over its dispute with Oklahoma on the Broken Arrow Casino. A beneficiary of the massive Bay Mills win in the Supreme Court.

# 4 Cayuga Indian Nation

Cayuga won a big sovereign immunity decision in the Second Circuit, another beneficiary of the Bay Mills win in the Supreme Court. It wasn’t all pretty though, as tribal leadership disputes spill out in federal and state forums.


# 13 Big Lagoon Rancheria

One of the few tribes to make the list by not really winning anything in 2014; in fact, losing a biggie in the Ninth Circuit. But the court granted en banc review, and oral argument looked pretty good for tribal interests. We’ll see.

# 5 Resource tribes

Well, Interior announced that resource extraction royalties they collected reached over $1 Billion in a single year for the first time. But fracking is bad for the environment, the MHA Nation is overrun with corruption and human trafficking, and oil prices are down 33 percent. Hope they’re saving their money. Oh wait, they’re not. I guess this one is really about the MHA Nation, so let’s make that change now.

The real # 5, MHA Nation


# 12 Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Perhaps the most immediate beneficiary of the Bay Mills win in the Supreme Court, which persuaded the State of Michigan to seek another route to fighting Sault Tribe’s Lansing casino proposal. But not before Sault Tribe proposed two huge off-reservation casinos. Oh yeah, they won a $74 million contract case, too. Pretty good year. Ok, that persuades me, Sault Tribe’s seeding just jumped from 12 to 2 and knocks down BMIC, who actually won a SCT case this year.

The real # 12, Oneida Indian Tribe of Wisconsin

They earned a huge cert denial in their long-running fight with the Village of Hobart. And they filed an important amicus brief in the Stockbridge-Munsee cert petition.