Published February 14, 2019
WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management and Department of the Interior held its final public hearing on oil and gas leasing on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain in Washington, D.C. Key voices in the efforts to protect the Arctic Refuge presented public testimony directly to BLM and DOI officials. The Trump administration chose to schedule only a single hearing in the lower 48 with less than two weeks’ notice, making it clear that it would rather discourage public attendance than provide a fair opportunity to demonstrate public support for America’s largest national wildlife refuge and the people and wildlife that depend on it.
“The only chance for the American public outside of Alaska to comment on Arctic Refuge leasing comes today in Washington, D.C. I have been here more times than I can count, sometimes alone, sometimes with my Gwich’in family, most recently with Indigenous leaders from across the country. Today I am here to say the Gwich’in matter. We are real people. We are mothers, fathers. We have jobs. We are not asking for anything but to hold on to our identity. We want to keep our environment healthy for future generations. The Arctic Refuge is not just a piece of land with oil underneath. It is the heart of our people, our food and our way of life. Our survival depends on its protection,” commented Bernadette Demientieff, executive director, Gwich’in Steering Committee.
Charleen Fisher, Executive Director, Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments said:
“The Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments recently reaffirmed through resolution our commitment to protecting our sacred places. The Chiefs’ Council, consisting of ten member tribes, continues to insist on government to government consultation with the BLM through this process and the appropriate ANILCA 810 evaluation of subsistence impacts to be conducted. We encourage the BLM to respect the traditional knowledge of Alaska Indigenous people, including the Gwich’in. The BLM draft EIS has excluded the fact that our member tribes will be impacted by the proposed development of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, the Gwich’in sacred place known as “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins).”