State of Alaska Climate Action Leadership Team – Draft Climate Change Policy

The State of Alaska – Climate Action Leadership Team (CALT) recently released a draft strategy and policy statement entitled “Climate Change Policy,” in regards to Alaska.

Public comments are open until June 4th, 2018.  Teleconference meetings regarding the draft policy sections will be held Monday-Friday, the week of May 21, 2018: http://notice.alaska.gov/190102http://notice.alaska.gov/190103.

CALT will also be holding a listening session for public testimony about climate change in Alaska and the work of CALT, in Sitka, Alaska on May 30, 2018: http://notice.alaska.gov/189914.

State of Alaska Climate Action Leadership Team – Draft Strategy and Policy Analysis

The draft strategy and policy issued by the CALT can be categorized into five broad terms:

  1. Improving current processes for adapting and mitigating against climate change
  2. Updating currentpolicies for adapting and mitigating against climate change
  3. Updating current planning for adapting and mitigating against climate change
  4. Renewable and sustainable energy systems as a current and future business need
  5. Oil and gas industry focused improvements, adaptations, and mitigation tax

Process Improvement

Goals  1.1

4.1

4.2

Policy Updates

Goals   1.4

3.1

5.1

5.2

Planning Updates

Goals   1.2

1.3

3.2

Business Need

Goal    2.1

2.2

2.3

Oil and Gas Industry Focus

Goals   3.3

5.3

Process Improvement

Goal 1.1 – Improve current processes for interfacing with local, municipal, and tribal governments to address climate change impacts.

Goal 4.1 – Improve current processes for land, natural resources, and wildlife management, specific to Alaska climate adaptation and mitigation needs.

Goal 4.2 – Improve current processes for technical, scientific, and social science research, specific to Alaska climate adaptation and mitigation needs.

Policy Updates

Goal 1.4 – Update current policies and policy-making bodies relevant to local, state, tribal, and federal needs to address climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Goal 3.1 – Update current policies and policy-making bodies relevant to greenhouse gas emissions and reduction regimes.

Goal 5.1 – Update current policies and policy-making bodies relevant to public and private funding of energy transitions from oil and gas to renewable and sustainable bases.

Goal 5.2 – Update current policies and policy-making bodies relevant to public and private funding of community climate adaptation and mitigation activities.

Planning Updates

Goal 1.2 – Updating current planning programs in place relevant to baseline research, data collection, and decision-making rubrics on climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Goal 1.3 – Updating current planning programs in place relevant to local, state, tribal, and federal interfacing and coordination for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Goal 3.2 – Updating current planning programs in place for constructing and/or renovating and deferred maintenance of State of Alaska property and assets.

Business Need

Goal 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 – Characterizing a current and future business need for renewable and sustainable energy resources and systems.

Oil and Gas Industry Focus

Goal 3.3 – Industry plays an integral part in Alaska climate change adaptation and mitigation, and has opportunities to assist systemic changes.

Goal 5.3 – Industry royalties and tax revenue can include a “sin tax” on oil and gas consumer use, potentially augmenting State of Alaska public financing of climate and community adaptation and mitigation activities.

Recommendations

Goal 1.1 – switch 1.1A with 1.1B, prioritizing local self-determination over inter-governmental coordination.

Goal 1.4 – Include a subsection “1.4D” requesting all State of Alaska agencies incorporate the previous reported and published work, analysis, and recommendations of the 2007-2009 Sub-Cabinet on Climate Change.

Goal 5.1B – add “Alaska Permanent Fund” at end of sentence, suggesting an exploration of the Alaska Permanent Fund potentially providing a revenue stream for climate change adaptation and mitigation activities.

 

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Mallott v Stand For Salmon – Brief and Amici Analysis

Stand for Salmon 2018 Voter Initiative

 

 

Stand for Salmon Title
Michael Wood Chair
Paula DeLaiarro Treasurer
Gayla Hoseth Co-Chair
Ryan Schryver Deputy Treasurer
2018 Expend.  $               19,711.48

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand for Alaska Title
Marleanna Hall Chair
Cheryl Fasca Treasurer
Aaron Schutt Co-Chair
Joey Merrick Co-Chair
Kati Capozzi Deputy Treasurer
April Cooley Deputy Treasurer
Deantha Crockett Deputy Treasurer
Kara Moriarty Deputy Treasurer
Portia Babcock Deputy Treasurer
Kim Reitmeier Deputy Treasurer
Karen Matthias Deputy Treasurer
Jaeleen Kookesh Deputy Treasurer
2018 Expend.  $             222,632.70

 

Stand for Salmon voter initiative ballot backers are relying on the 2007 Clean Water Initiative language which passed a 2008 Alaska Supreme Court ruling stating that the 2007 initiative was not in violation of the multiple-use or Alaska State Legislature plenary powers clauses in the Alaska State Constitution.  The multiple-use clause allows for all manner of public land use and management – i.e. mining, oil and gas, sport hunting and fishing, commercial fishing, and subsistence. Each natural resource extraction project applies for a permit under the jurisdiction of both Alaska Department of Natural Resources an Alaska Department of Fish and Game.  Permitting takes into account currently existing laws, rules, and regulations disallowing wonton destruction, removal, or damage to fish and game habitat – if a development plan involves any of the above damages, the permit will not be issued by DNR and F&G.  Exceptions do exist allowing some damage, but it involves a direct trade off for reclamation of any nearby fish and game habitat relative to the proposed project.

The Stand for Salmon voter initiative ballot language proposes stricter laws, rules, and regulations surrounding any type of damage to fish and game habitat, and directly mirrors the 2007 Clean Water Initiative ballot language to skirt the multiple use clause and the clause involving the plenary power of the Alaska State Legislature to promulgate laws as the authorized branch of government to do so.  The plenary clause cannot be pre-empted by any voter initiative ballot language or measure, otherwise the proposed initiative would be disallowed, hence the utilization or mirroring of the 2007 Clean Water Initiative.

The State of Alaska Department of Law, representing the head of the Division of Elections, Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, argues in its brief before the Alaska Supreme Court, that the proposed ballot language may superficially pass multiple-use and plenary clauses, but the whole intent of the proposal does indeed pre-empt both clauses, and should therefore be ruled unconstitutional.  The Trustees for Alaska attorneys, representing Stand For Salmon, argue that because the proposed ballot language mirrors the 2007 Clean Water Initiative, the ballot initiative should be allowed to proceed, and if partial sections of the whole initiative are found to pre-empt the clauses, those partial sections should be severed from the text and an edited version should be allowed to proceed to the 2018 General Election ballot.  A theoretical edited version of the ballot would add laws, rules, and regulations to the existing protections of fish and game habitat already existing in the state body of law.

Amicus Curiae parties to the Alaska Supreme Court case S-16862 Mallott v Stand For Salmon include:

Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association and Ekwok Tribal Council(for Stand for Alaska)

Alaska Oil and Gas Association(for Stand for Alaska)

Council of Alaska Producers(for Stand for Alaska)

ANCSA Regional CEOs Association(for Stand for Alaska)

Oral arguments are scheduled for 1:30PM, Thursday, April 26th, fifth floor of the Boney Courthouse, 303 K St, Anchorage, AK 99501. Parties have 30 minutes to argue before the court, with options to yield time for responses.

The Alaska Supreme Court Justices are mostly non-partisan, and often issue rulings based on intent and readings of the law, rather than based on pre-determined political disposition.  This century there have been anywhere between 3 and 6 proposed ballot initiatives, depending on accreted versions, similar to the current pending Stand For Salmon initiative, which all failed on multiple-use clause grounds in state Superior or Supreme Courts, and did not arrive to a General Election ballot.  The Appellees Stand For Salmon/Trustees for Alaska in my opinion hold the weaker argument compared to the Appellants State Department of Law/Lt Gov Mallott, and I do not anticipate the Stand For Salmon ballot language to pass constitutional muster. The Supreme Court will expedite a written ruling by June 2018 to allow time for any potential 2018 General Election ballot requirement fulfillments.

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Mallott v Stand For Salmon – Alaska Supreme Court Oral Arguments Thursday, April 26, 1:30PM

Justices Presiding:

Craig Stowers, Chief Justice

 

Justices

Daniel Winfree, Peter Maassen, Joel Bolger, Susan Carney

 

State of Alaska Assistant Attorney General

Joanne Greene, representing Alaska Division of Elections

 

Trustees For Alaska/Stand For Salmon Attorneys

Valerie Brown, Trustees for Alaska

 

Time convened: 1:30PM

 

Notes paraphrased with argument highlights only, not including direct quotes.  Please refer to 360North.org for complete video archive of oral argument footage and accurate record.

 

State of Alaska Opening Arguments

The central provisions of ballot initiative 17FHS2 are appropriations of public assets in nature, and are inseverable.  Amici Briefs are essentially affidavits proving large development projects in the state would not be allowable under the proposed laws of 17FHS2.  Also, the plain – and essential – language of 17FSH2 cannot be struck by the Court without significantly altering the essence of the initiative, therefore mooting the constitutionality of preparing a ballot vote.

 

Chief Justice Stowers– Qualify the language “adversely affected”

 

“Adversely affected” is included in 17FHS2, but following the term, legislative discretion and authority is effectively bypassed with permanent, barring language resulting in potential permitting denial of large development projects throughout the state.

 

e.g. “substantial damage” in Section 7 – permanently barring language which legislature, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Fish and Game cannot exercise constitutional and legislative authority to allow and enforce the constitutional multiple-use clause

 

Chief Justice Stowers– Suggesting Appellant arguments will be followed, it is the Court’s duty to construe ballot initiative language in favor of the sponsors

 

Granted the constitution has a process to protect and allow sponsored ballots, there has been a three-prong test established by this Court:

 

Prong One: Unconstitutional language can be severed

Prong Two: Severability cannot result in substantially changing the spirit of the measure

Prong Three: …

 

Chief Justice Stowers interrupting:What if the Court does sever certain sections of 17FHS2?

 

The three-prong test still stands as the rubric, and 17FSH2 by interpretation cannot pass the test.

 

Appellee continuing presented argument without dialogue:

The entire permitting scheme described by the proposed sections of 17FHS2 involves “adversely affected,” “substantially damaged,” and permanent, barring language – if the Court does sever provisions involving appropriations and public assets, and if the Court does sever any permanent, barring language disallowing legislative discretion and constitutional authority of the Department of Fish and Game, the sections are so interwoven that severing one part or two parts from the whole will substantially change the essence of 17FHS2, effectively ruling the initiative unconstitutional.

 

Justice Winfree:In Kolhaus(?) [which case?] the Court issued a ruling for that particular ballot initiative to be redrafted due to being incomplete in nature.  Can 17FSH2 be redrafted, or is it too far along in the process?

 

17FSH2 has received all required certifications and successfully fulfilled all requirements leading up to Division of Elections certification, so it cannot be redrafted for the current election cycle.

 

Justice Bolger:  When do parties need a decision from the Court if 17FH2 or a severed version of it were to go out on the 2018 General Election ballot?

 

Division of Elections has a September 5, 2018 deadline for printing ballot materials, so “a few days before that.”

 

Yields time with approximately 5:45 minutes remaining.

 

Stand For Salmon Opening Arguments

The Superior Court correctly ruled 17FHS2 as constitutional, therefore the Court should follow. “Permanent damage” arguments are misconstrued by the Appellees – a tiered permit scheme proposed by 17FHS2 provisions does in fact allow “damage” to result against anadromous streams, and does not qualify as a permanent bar against any development projects around the state.  Also, any possible permit denial under 17FSH2 provisions does in fact not preclude legislative discretion and constitutional authority of the Department of Fish and Game.

 

Chief Justice Stowers: Arguments have been made by the Appellee and Amici that the language and provisions of 17FSH2 would in fact permanently ban any potential large project anywhere in the state.

 

The permitting tier scheme of the 17FSH2 provisions comprehensively encompass levels of damage from minor to major, and therefore is not permanently barring or banning projects forthwith; there are allowable thresholds of damage, and only very certain damages are disallowed and unlawful per 17FSH2 provisions.

 

Justice Bolger: Referring to the Alaska Fisheriescase (?), would 17FSH2 ban currently permitted projects?

 

There is a grandfather clause, which provides currently permitted projects to continue operations, even if unlawful in the case of 17FHS2 passing in the majority.

 

Chief Justice Stowers: Does 17FSH preclude legislative discretion, or merely narrow legislative discretion?

 

17FSH2 mirrors the language of 07WTR3, which did pass constitutional muster and was presented on the 2008 General Election ballot.  17FSH2 is a comprehensive vetting process for permitting development activities involving anadromous fish waters, and deals with varied levels of “potential harm,” and considering vagueness of vetting process and varied levels as described of potential harm, there is in fact a constitutional framework for legislative discretion to finalize determination of “adversely affected,” “potential harm,” and “substantially damaged.”

 

Chief Justice Stowers: Going back to the grandfather clause – what if there is an approved exploration permit, but not a final project permit? Would the work of an exploration permit go to waste if 17FSH2 passes and a final project permit is unlawful?

 

A conjectural question with no facts – no firm answer readily available.

 

Justice: expand on “harm,” or “resulting harm,” and what about the provisions barring any future off-site mitigation, reclamation, and/or rehabilitation?

 

Mitigation, reclamation, and rehabilitation are essentially “enabling statutes” and is a proponent of destructive development practices

 

Justice: What if a “major permit” and “substantial damage” provisions are found to be unconstitutional?  Are those provisions severable?

 

Yes, they are severable, but the Stand For Salmon group would like the whole initiative to be ruled constitutional and presented on the 2018 General Election ballot.

 

Appellee continuing argument without dialogue:

17FSH2 also includes new public process and participation in the permitting process of development, adds enforcement mechanisms against wonton and unlawful damage, and further expands Department of Fish and Game permitting jurisdiction, particularly adding an assumption that most waterways and stream are anadromous, which is currently not in statute.  All of these additional provisions do not fall under appropriations of public assets interpretation and are therefore severable and able to stand on a ballot question.

 

Justice Winfree: Let’s refer to Section 2, B(1-8), involving habitat elements and term definitions which are important to fish. How is the Department of Fish and Game to consider these proposed sections?  Mandatory considerations?  Advisory considerations?  Guidelines? What type of standards are [these]? What about “proper protection”? Is that prescriptive guidance?

 

“Proper protection” can be considered as a “trigger” under the tiered permitting system, indicating a higher tiered permitting regime to better protect anadromous water ways.

 

Justice Winfree:What about the term “maintain”?  Is “maintain” prescriptive or mandatory?

 

“Maintain” is a carry-over from current statute.

 

Chief Justice Stowers: What about the language referring to the Commissioner of Fish and Game – “shall ensure” by “maintaining”?

 

“Shall ensure” and “maintaining” properly fall under Commissioner discretion and is deliberately kept vague to allow for that constitutional discretion to stand.

 

Chief Justice Stowers: What about “permit conditions and measures” under Section 8?  What about the particular line “notwithstanding [subsection] B, a permit may not be granted.”

 

The language is concrete in that a permit may or may not be granted under the proposed tiered permitting system, and this is in fact not a public assets appropriation test.

 

Chief Justice Stowers continued: What if the Court finds permanently barring language in the initiative proposals, as to what will and what will not be allowable development activites?

 

The Department of Fish and Game will continue to hold discretionary authority under the proposed tiered permitting system, and therefore passes the constitutionality test.

 

Chief Justice Stowers continued: What about the following terms and barring language: “Substantial damage,” “adversely affected,” “recover and restore,” and “reasonable period”?

 

The terms are kept vague in the 17FSH2 language provisions, correctly allowing for Department of Fish and Game discretionary authority to make rules and regulations determining allowable and disallowed development activities based on the above terms.

 

Appellee sum:

We respectfully request the Court hold interpretations of public appropriations and constitutionality questions to a narrow focus, and affirm the Superior Court ruling.

 

Appellant Rebuttal (allowed 7 minutes to rebut by the Chief Justice):

The Department of Fish and Game cannot get around “significantly damaged” habitat language, therefore precluding legislative discretion and constitutional authority, ruling 17FSH2 moot and inseverable.  We respectfully request the Court to reverse the Superior Court ruling and find 17FSH2 unconstitutional.

 

Adjourned.

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Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team – Alaska Governor’s Office Update March 2018

From C. Nikoosh Carlo, Senior Advisor, Climate and Arctic Policy, Office of the Governor, State of Alaska

Thank you for your interest in this Administration’s efforts in support of our Alaska Climate Change Strategy, including development of a climate action plan. This policy initiative is an exciting opportunity for Alaskans to develop a range of solutions in response to climate change that help make wise use of our resources, provide for the health and welfare of Alaskans today, and meet our responsibilities to future generations of Alaskans. Input from Alaskans like you will help assess impacts of potential climate actions and ensure that our climate solutions reflect the diverse needs, interests, and expertise around the state.

I am pleased to share an update on the collective work of the Administration’s Cabinet Climate Team (CCT) and the Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team (CALT).

Governor’s Climate Change Webpage

The new climate change webpage, part of the Governor’s website, is accessible at climatechange.gov.alaska.gov. The page provides links and summaries of state agency, University of Alaska, and AEA efforts on climate change, as well as information about the CALT, including CALT meeting summaries, draft future work plans and schedule of upcoming meetings. The Institute of the North serves as the Secretariat for the CALT and information is also posted to https://institutenorth.org/project/alaska-climate-leadership/.

Climate Leadership Team

The Climate Action for Alaska Leadership Team held its inaugural meeting on December 18, 2017, in Anchorage. Team members identified near-team and long-term (2030 and 2050) goals and visions for Alaska’s climate policy, and developed an initial work plan for 2018. As stated in the Administrative Order, the leadership team has a September 2018 deadline to present its recommended climate action plan to the Governor.

CALT members will participate in one or both working groups on mitigation and adaptation. The Mitigation Working Group will focus on growing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and community and commercial emissions reductions. The Adaptation Working Group will focus on strengthening social, environmental, and economic resilience in the context of climate change. As they develop policy recommendations, both groups will meet regularly, engage with stakeholder groups and pursue partnerships, identity gaps and potential research.

Both working groups met via teleconference – and in-person for those members who are based in Anchorage and Juneau – on Tuesday, January 30 (Adaptation) and Wednesday, January 31 (Mitigation) and will continue to meet approximately the fourth week of each month. The agenda for both meetings was to finalize the scope and operations of each working group and to continue discussions of recommended climate actions. Past and future meetings will continue to be open to the public as observers; details of upcoming meetings will be posted via the public notice system.

Agency Highlights

Recently both the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released reports that support agencies’ and the climate team’s work to identify climate change impacts of concern and prioritize mitigation and adaptation actions.

On January 8, the DHSS Section of Epidemiology released the “Assessment of the Potential Health Impacts of Climate Change in Alaska”, which outlines how the health of Alaskans could be affected by climate change. The report highlights physical and mental health challenges that Alaskans are currently experiencing, as well as those that could be expected in the future due to warming temperatures and changing weather patterns related to climate change. The report also includes specific adaptation strategies, including support for community mental health programs and developing community response plans for wildfires. The report can be found at http://www.epi.alaska.gov/bulletins/docs/rr2018_01.pdf.

On January 30, DEC release an updated Alaska Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Report, which describes and quantified human-caused sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions occurring between 1990 and 2015 from Alaska operations and facilities. The updated inventory builds on earlier reports issued by DEC (2007, 2010) and focuses primarily on GHG emissions from seven economic sectors in Alaska: industrial, transportation, residential and commercial, electrical generation, industrial processes, waste, and agriculture. The report also includes data on emissions from wildfires and emissions reservoirs, also known as emission sinks, which in most years covered by the report have trapped and stored carbon from the atmosphere. The report can be found at http://dec.alaska.gov/air/anpms/projects-reports/greenhouse-gas-inventory.

2018 is off to a productive start. Throughout the year, we will strive to provide updates via e-mail on the work of the leadership team and highlight any upcoming opportunities for public input. There is a public comment form available at https://institutenorth.org/engage/project-portfolio/public-input/. Thank you again for your interest in this Administration’s efforts on climate change. Please feel free to reach out directly to me (Nikoosh.Carlo@alaska.gov) or to the CALT Secretariat (nandreassen@institutenorth.org) with questions or comments.

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Guest Post: The Who, What, Where, Why and How of Alaskan Forest Carbon Offsets

The Who, What, Where, Why and How of Alaskan Forest Carbon Offsets

By Denise Farrell and Debbie Atuk

Who can earn carbon offsets?

Alaskan landowners, regional and village corporations, tribes, and private landowners, located in a specific region of the State (see map below), who actively preserve forest lands and improve forest management practices are eligible to participate in the California cap and trade program. The generation of carbon offsets and the subsequent sale in the cap and trade market can generate substantial profits for landowners. Undertaking a forest carbon offset project preserves culturally important lands, in pristine condition, for future generations.

What is a carbon offset?

Forests are potent tools in mitigating climate change due to their capacity to sequester and store carbon. The stored carbon can then be sold as offsets in carbon markets which seek to incentivize forest carbon sequestration by putting a price on carbon emissions. One such market, the California carbon market, came into existence in 2013 after Governor Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solution Act of 2006. Under state law in California, carbon-emitting entities must either pay the State of California for allowances to cover their emissions or buy carbon offsets from forest owners to meet compliance obligations. A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made to compensate for an emission made elsewhere.

Where does the project have to be located?

In designing the cap and trade program the California Air Resources Board (“ARB”) designated certain areas in Alaska as eligible for forestry projects. ARB primarily selected the assessment area in regions where there was accurate US Forest Service inventory data. Accurate inventory data is a prerequisite for determining the “baseline,” for the geographic region. Only carbon sequestration above such baseline can generate carbon offsets. Currently, to be eligible for the ARB cap and trade program, forest projects must be located in the highlighted regions on the map below.

AK Forestry

Why are landowners provided the financial incentive to preserve forests?

A carbon offset is designed to provide incentive to take actions that are “additional,” to business as usual or above a baseline of activities. In undertaking a forest carbon project in the assessment area, landowners are making a 100-year commitment to continuing to maintain the carbon sequestered in the project area above the baseline. By sequestering the additional carbon they are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of the cap and trade program is to have emitters purchase allowances or offsets (for only a small portion of their requirement). The offsets can only be generated by projects or activities that CARB want to encourage, such as forest preservation. The financial return for generating these offsets intends to provide the financial encouragement as well as the moral imperative, to do such desired actions.

How does the California Cap and Trade Program work?

Depending on the local topography and tree species composition, certain parcels of land could be developed as a carbon project which generates offsets. The development team of Environmental Attribute Advisors and Encourage Capital works with forest owners to evaluate and then if feasible, develop forest carbon projects. Our development team can undertake a desktop assessment of the lands at no cost, if certain information is provided. If the assessment yields a positive finding, then our team will propose terms to develop the project. The project development is expected to take 18-24 months and could generate a windfall of cash, potentially worth millions, for the landowner at the end of the development period. Our team will hire inventory crews, biometricians, carbon quantification experts, and verifiers to develop this project ensuring that the project meets all the requirements of the California forest carbon protocol. Our team will typically invest all up-front capital in the project to cover any related carbon development expenses in return for a minority portion of the carbon offsets generated by the project.

How to get started?

In order for our development team to assess project feasibility, propose terms and estimate the potential revenue generated from a carbon project for the landowner, we will request the following information:

  1. Latest forest inventory; and the inventory methodology which was used to collect the inventory
  2. Location of inventory plots, GPS coordinates and shapefiles
  3. Maps of the property
  4. Harvesting plan (if any)
  5. Ownership documents, and record of easement (if any)
  6. If inventory data does not exist, then any other related information such as a recent property appraisal
  7. Profits realized from the carbon project will be taxed as any other commercial activity. The landowner should review tax considerations with a tax advisor as they may vary for individuals and may differ from one state to another.

Major Considerations in Developing a Forest Carbon Project

  • No risk or upfront costs for landowner, our team will cover all costs and develop the project
  • If carbon project is successful, then a minimum 100-year stewardship commitment to monitor the project
  • Windfall of cash in the next 18-24 months, potentially worth millions along with the potential for annual accretion of carbon offsets
  • Penalties in case of intentional reduction in carbon stocks (no penalties in case of unintentional reversals e.g. forest fires)
  • Annual recurring expenses to sustain forestry management, maintain the carbon project and hire foresters
  • After initial project set up, foresters must enter the property and verify the project once every 6 years which will entail expenses to be paid by the landowner
  • An opportunity to be a pioneer in the fight against climate change and global warming
  • Culturally important lands are preserved for future generation in pristine condition

 

For Additional Information Contact

Denise Farrell

917-621-7165

dfarrell@enviadvi.com

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Why Indigenous peoples and issues are more visible in Canada than in the U.S.

I moved to Canada from Alaska about a year and a half ago. One of the first things I noticed in my visits to Canada as a college student and now in my everyday life is that Indigenous peoples and issues enjoy far greater visibility within Canadian media and society than Alaska Native/American Indian peoples and issues do across the border. Indigenous peoples and issues are practically invisible in the U.S. at almost every level of government and society, save perhaps those western states with significant Indigenous populations such as Alaska and New Mexico. In Canada, Indigenous peoples and issues are regularly featured in mainstream news media and there is as a result a running public discourse about issues that impact Indigenous peoples such as cultural appropriation, identity, and social inequities between Indigenous communities and most other parts of Canada that simply doesn’t exist in the U.S.

This post provides a partial explanation for why Indigenous peoples and issues are more visible in Canada than in the U.S. However it is notable that greater visibility of Indigenous peoples in Canada is not necessarily translating into more positive health and wellness outcomes for Indigenous peoples compared to American Indians/Alaska Natives.

1. Population

Perhaps the most obvious difference accounting for differences in visibility between Indigenous peoples in Canada and the U.S. is the stark difference in population size. Indigenous people in Canada account for about 4.3 percent of Canada’s population of 36 million. By contrast, about 2.9 million people identify as American Indian or Alaska Native in the U.S., or less than one percent of the total U.S. population of 309 million. American Indians and Alaska Natives therefore account for a tiny sliver of the overall U.S. population compared to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis in Canada.

2. Geography/demography

Canada has a population that is smaller than the state of California’s that is spread across a landmass that is slightly larger than the entire U.S. Most of the population in Canada is concentrated along the U.S.-Canada border.

min_briefing_book_2015_map_fn_1450206874458_eng

Most of the 10 provinces and three territories have significant Indigenous populations and rural fly-in communities in their jurisdictions. Two of the territories (Nunavut and the Northwest Territories) have majority Indigenous populations.

The provinces along the Canada-U.S. border (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec) all have First Nations reserves within their jurisdictions, most of which are in remote regions of the provinces, and some which can only be reached year round by plane.

In addition, Inuit Nunangat (the Inuit homeland) accounts for a whopping 36 percent of Canada’s landmass and 50 percent of its coastline. Inuit are the majority population in the four regions that make up Inuit Nunangat.

m-c1

American Indian reservations in the U.S. are by contrast concentrated in western states.
Very few states except for those in the West have rural American Indian communities, and only Alaska has communities in it that are only accessible year round by plane.

3. The Constitution

Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution affirms the treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis, including modern land claims agreements. Indigenous peoples’ rights occupy their own section (Part II) of the Constitution, even though the full text of that section is short:

35. (1) The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(2) In this Act, “aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Section 35 represents a hard-fought victory for Indigenous peoples who negotiated this language into the Constitution when it was being drafted in 1982.

The Constitution’s clear recognition of Indigenous treaty rights in Canada contrasts with the comparatively murky references to “Indians” within the U.S. Constitution (the reference to Indians in Article I, sec. 8 as being equivalent to foreign nations for the purposes of commerce is foundational to American Indian law).

4. Mainstream media 

The mainstream media coverage of Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada dwarfs that received by American Indians and Alaska Natives in both amount and quality. Mainstream media coverage of Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada has a positive impact on the public’s understanding of Indigenous peoples and issues and enhances the political capital of Indigenous political entities. In the U.S. by contrast, American Indians and Alaska Natives are completely absent from mainstream media unless there is a newsworthy crisis that warrants coverage.

I hear or see Indigenous peoples on the news or radio in Canada at least once a week, mainly on federally-funded CBC programming. Indigenous peoples and issues are the focus of mainstream news reports almost everyday.

Screen shot 2017-05-22 at 12.28.09 AMRosanna Deerchild (Cree) hosts her radio show Unreserved every week, broadcast nationally from Winnepeg. The show features a broad range of Indigenous peoples and issues.

Screen shot 2017-05-22 at 12.32.37 AM

Provincial media such as the public TV Ontario often integrates Indigenous peoples and content into its programming as well.

Concluding thoughts

Greater visibility of Indigenous peoples and issues in Canada translates into federal lawmakers nearly all having a rudimentary grasp of who Indigenous peoples are (at least First Nations, who have the largest population of the three main Indigenous cultural groups in Canada). However it is unclear to what degree this understanding translates into policy action that enhances the health and wellness of Indigenous peoples.

At the political level in the U.S., the relative invisibility of American Indians and Alaska Natives in American society translates into reduced political capital that in turn makes it exceedingly difficult to leverage support for policy change from either the broader society or the federal government. However American Indians/Alaska Natives have managed to leverage broad public support for causes that in turn translated into policy action, such as the long-term, mass protest at Standing Rock that led to the Obama administration’s intervention in the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Federally recognized tribes should brace for possible termination policy under Trump

Whether we like it or not, Saglutupiaġataq (“the compulsive liar” in Iñupiatun) is now president of the United States and Republicans control Congress. Federally recognized Alaska Native and American Indian tribes should brace for the worst, including the possibility that Congress may move to terminate federally recognized tribes.

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 involved Congress stripping tribes of their lands and criminal jurisdiction. The policy was thinly disguised as an attempt to lift American Indians and Alaska Natives out of poverty by assimilating them into mainstream society. However the real goal was to privatize and ransack American Indian and Alaska Native lands.

From the American Indian Relief Council:

From 1953-1964 109 tribes were terminated and federal responsibility and jurisdiction was turned over to state governments. Approximately 2,500,000 acres of trust land was removed from protected status and 12,000 Native Americans lost tribal affiliation. The lands were sold to non-Indians the tribes lost official recognition by the U.S. government….Public Law 280 which was passed in 1953 turned power over to state governments to enforce most of the regular criminal laws on reservations as they were doing in other parts of the state.

Saglutupiaġataq’s administration apparently began mobilizing to pursue the privatization of Indian lands as early as October 2016 with the formation of his 27 member Native American Affairs Coalition. The Coalition is chaired by “Cherokee” pretendian Rep. Markwayne Mullin. Like the termination policy of more than 60 years ago, the Coalition contends that impoverished tribes are saddled by federal regulations that stymie self-reliance and prosperity. Tribal lands should be privatized, it argues, so that American Indians can pursue development projects that lift them out of poverty.

Saglutupiaġataq has tapped Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke for secretary of the Interior, the federal agency overseeing the Borough of Indian Affairs. Zinke is a known fraudster with little integrity. Scientific American characterizes Zinke as a “mixed bag” with an anti-environment, pro-industry voting record. It is unlikely that he will be a friend to Indian Country or to Alaska Natives.

American Indian trust lands

American Indian trust lands

Some estimate that American Indian lands held in trust by the federal government hold as much as one fifth of the nation’s oil and gas, along with significant coal reserves. Saglutupiaġataq released his “America first” energy plan hours after being sworn into office. It states the following:

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America. The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution to bring jobs and prosperity to millions of Americans. We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

American Indian reservations are federally owned lands held “in trust” for tribes. The “vast untapped domestic energy reserves” referred to in Saglutupiaġataq’s energy plan are largely within American Indian reservations. These lands would need to be sold or leased to private sector corporations by the federal government in order for development to proceed. But first, tribal jurisdiction over those lands would need to be terminated by Congress and vested in states.

The termination era of 1953 to 1968 shows us that tribal lands and thus tribal governments, peoples, and cultures remain vulnerable to the whims of Congress. There is a strong possibility that American Indians may soon be fighting against a renewed and calculated assault on their political, cultural and spiritual existence.

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