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Sarah Palin and Alaska Natives- Part 2

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"ANWR is 19.5 million acre refuge in the northeastern Alaska. Within those borders, there is a 1.5 million acre section called "1002." ...It is the lands within the 1002 area that would be opened for exploration and drilling. The Native-owned Arctic Slope Regional Corporation owns 92,000 acres of subsurface land and the Kaktovik Inupiat Corporation, also Native-owned, owns 92,000 surface acres of land within the 1002 area."

Many Inupiat people, perhaps a majority, who live in this region support oil drilling. Their view is expressed by former Mayor Benjamin P. Nageak: "ANWR holds resources that can be extracted safely with care and concern for the entire eco-system it encompasses. The Inupiat people, working through the North Slope Borough, will act in the same careful, caring and cautious manner we always have when dealing with our lands and the seas.""The Inupiat from Point Hope, Alaska recently passed resolutions recognizing that drilling in ANWR would allow resource exploitation in other wilderness areas. The Inupiat, Gwitch'in, and other tribes are calling for sustainable energy practices and policies. The Tanana Chiefs Conference representing 42 Alaska Native villages from 37 tribes oppose drilling, as do at least 90 Native American tribes. The National Congress of American Indians representing 250 tribes and the Native American Rights Fund as well as some Canadian tribes and International Tribal Organiza-tions also oppose drilling in the 1002 area."

In reviewing the feedback of Native Americans on the nomination of Sarah Palin, there has been a diversity of views expressed.  INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY reported differing opinions regarding Gov. Palin's policies and actions as Governor. The article contains various statements by Gov. Palin and various people in the state of Alaska reviewing her positions. The article states: "Despite strong Indian support at the convention, Palin has drawn concern from some Alaska Natives, especially on issues surrounding an initiative to stop development of the Pebble Mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay fishing grounds, which is a prime area for both commercial and subsistence salmon fishing."

"Pebble Mine is not just a mine. It is to be the world's largest open pit mine, situated immediately up-gradient of this renowned, salmon fishery that bolsters a $300 million economy on its renewable resource, and has been the livelihood and lifeblood of thousands of native Alaskans for centuries, and still is today." "Northern Dynasty and its partners [mining giants Rio Tinto and Anglo American based in London- MZ] are continuing with efforts to assess the size of the deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum. "The proposed Pebble Mine, which would be the first of many, would include the largest dam in the world, larger than Three Gorges Dam in China, and made of earth not concrete, to hold back the toxic waste created in the mining process." Opposition has come from the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council.

"[Supporters of the mine- MZ] have been greatly helped by Gov. Sarah Palin - the Republican candidate for vice president - who, despite a constitutional ban [I have not found anything in reading through Alaska's state constitution to confirm this- MZ] on state officials becoming involved in ballot initiatives, publicly expressed her "personal" opposition to the measure. Many say the popular governor's stance was decisive. Before her comments, polls suggested that citizens supported the referendum. Afterward - and following the use of her picture in advertisements opposing the tough mining initiative - the measure was voted down on Aug. 26, with 57 percent against and 43 percent in favor." See

Recently forces opposed to the Pebble Mine responded to the NO vote in the state referendum. In an Opinion piece in the Bristol Bay Times, Governor Palin and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (Department of Natural Resources) were criticized for their role in defeating Ballot Measure 4, the Clean Water Initiative. "Before meddling in our livelihoods again with their powerful and inappropriate remarks, I hope Palin and DNR heed the facts that show the very poor and disturbing environmental compliance records and relationships that Anglo- American and Rio Tinto have or have had with indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world with many of their mines. I also urge Alaska leaders and anyone who voted "no" on Ballot Measure 4 to read a scientific article that shows Alaska does not have the capacity and proper regulations to protect drinking water and wild salmon from a large mine like Pebble, found at ." Local opposition in the Bristol Bay mine region ranges from 70-80%.

On another issue impacting resource management, in February Governor Palin issued an Executive Order to transfer biologists from the Department of Natural Resources to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "Some of Pebble project's biggest opponents in the Bristol Bay region recently began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to force the state to return the biologists to Fish and Game -- an initiative that now may be moot. One of its sponsors, Bobby Andrew of Dillingham, said he is grateful to Palin for her decision but he will wait to see her executive order before deciding how to proceed."

This step by Governor Palin stands on the record as an action by the Executive of the state that was supportive of concerns for ecological preservation. "Five years ago, [then Governor- MZ] Murkowski ordered the transfer of the habitat biologists to DNR -- which issues development permits -- claiming they had thrown up too many barriers to industrial projects such as logging and dam-building. Murkowski's decision prompted an outcry from five former Fish and Game commissioners, Democratic legislators and environmental groups, who said putting the biologists in the state's development agency violated the balance between resource protection and development."

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Martin Zehr is an American political writer in the San Francisco area. He spent 8 years working as a volunteer water planner for the Middle Rio Grande region. His article on the Kirkuk Referendum has been printed by the Kurdish Regional Government, Another article was reprinted in its entirety by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) He is a Contributing Writer to Kurdish Aspect more...)

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