Biden Administration Repeals the 2020 Roadless Rule in the Tongass

Repealing the 2020 Alaska Roadless Rule, which exempted the Tongass from roadless protections, will return the inventoried roadless areas of the forest to management under the 2001 Roadless Rule, which prohibits road construction, reconstruction, and timber harvest in inventoried roadless areas, with limited exceptions. USDA determined that the underlying goals and purposes of the 2001 Roadless Rule continue to be a critical part of conserving the many resources of the Tongass, especially when it comes to the values that roadless areas represent for local, rural communities, Alaska Native peoples, and the economy of Southeast Alaska.

WaPo coverage here:

“The Tongass Roadless Rule is important to everyone,” said Joel Jackson, president of the Organized Village of Kake, which sits on the forest edge on an island south of the capital, Juneau.

“The old-growth timber is a carbon sink, one of the best in the world,” Jackson said in a statement. “It’s important to OUR WAY OF LIFE — the streams, salmon, deer, and all the forest animals and plants.”

Tribal leaders and Native organizers made a huge push to get these protections back in place. According to the press release, the Administration received more than 112,000 comments during this rulemaking (that is a *lot* of comments), a majority of which were in support of this change.

Federal Polar Bear Critical Habitat Rule Vacated

Here are materials in Alaska Oil and Gas Assn. v. Salazar (D. Alaska):

Alaska Natives Motion for Summary J

Federal Consolidated Opposition Brief

Alaska Natives Reply

DCT Order Vacating Polar Bear Rule

From the opinion:

Plaintiffs contend that the Service proceeded with an unprecedented critical habitat designation despite the Service’s finding that such designation “will not result in any present or anticipated future conservation benefit to the polar bear species ” and is not “ ‘essential’ to the conservation of the species.” Plaintiffs further opine that: (1) such designation will “have significant adverse ramifications for the people who live and work on the North Slope, for Alaska’s oil and gas industry, and for the State of Alaska”; (2) the designation will “leave the species worse off because it is impairing the cooperative relationship that the … [Service] has sought to build with the Alaska Natives”; (3) the Service’s failure to exclude “native-owned lands and rural communities” will “disproportionately harm Alaska Natives and other North Slope Borough residents”; (4) the Service failed “to engage in meaningful consultation with [the State of Alaska and with] Alaska Natives early in the rulemaking process”; (5) the Service’s inclusion of “a one-mile no disturbance zone as part of the barrier island habitat unit of the designation … exceeds its authority under the ESA”; (6) “[t]he Service failed to adequately consider and include in the calculation of the total economic impacts of the designation the substantial indirect incremental economic impacts”; (7) “[t]he Service failed to provide Alaska with an adequate written justification as required by the ESA … for promulgating a … designation that conflicts with the comments submitted to the” Service; (8) the Service failed to address the area exclusion requests by Alaska “and failed to adequately consider whether the benefits of excluding those areas were outweighed by the benefits of including them”; (9) “[t]he Service improperly included areas that it concedes were not occupied by polar bears at the time of the designation”; and (10) “[t]he Service improperly included areas as critical habitat without determining that those areas contained the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the polar bear.” Plaintiffs seek the invalidation of the Final Rule and request that the Court vacate and remand the Rule.


Ninth Circuit Requires Alaska Courts to Provide Full Faith and Credit to Native Villages’ ICWA Judgments

Here is the opinion in Kaltag Tribal Council v. Jackson, unpublished. This is one the cases highlighted by NARF lawyers in their opposition to Sarah Palin (here). An excerpt:

Plaintiffs-Appellees Kaltag Tribal Council (“Kaltag”), Selina Sam and Hudson Sam (collectively, “Kaltag plaintiffs”) filed this case in district court against Karleen Jackson, Bill Hogan, and Phillip Mitchell, employees of the State of Alaska, Department of Health and Human Services. The Kaltag plaintiffs alleged that an adoption judgment issued by the Kaltag court is entitled to full faith and credit under § 1911(d) of the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”), and that the Alaska employees were required to grant the request for a new birth certificate. The district court granted the Kaltag plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and denied the Alaska employees’ summary judgment motion. The Alaska employees appeal. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.

State Law Enforcement in Alaska Indian Country Inadequate

From the Spokesmen Review:

Alaska villages want more law enforcement

Task force calls for major changes

Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, a member of the Village Public Safety Officer task force, talks about the state-funded program at his office in Anchorage. Associated Press(Associated Press )

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – In the four hours it took Alaska state troopers to arrive at the village, a man choked and raped his 13-year-old stepdaughter in front of three younger children. He had already beaten his wife with a shotgun and pistol-whipped a friend after an evening spent drinking home-brew in Nunam Iqua.

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