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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In Response to Fairbanks Daily Newsminer article on Alaska Land Into Trust issue: “Alaska Native lands ruling stirs deep concern”

Link to article here.  ADN op-ed linked here.
The interlocutor for the “con” side of the reporter’s story on the latest land into trust development, stemming from the DC Court of Appeals decision handed down last week in Akiachak v. Salazar, is a non-Native individual who is strongly interested in halting or stalling “federal overreach” on public lands in Alaska through the state instrumentality Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA). The individual as reported took it upon herself to proscribe “what is best” for Alaska Natives who have proudly resided both within the state and in some cases across international boundaries for millennia.
For the “pro” side of the argument, the reporter sought the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) non-profit advocacy organization Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN). While AFN is technically made up of individually enrolled tribal members who also happen to be shareholders of ANCSA regional and village corporations, the primary concern of AFN is to promote the interests of the for-profit ANCSA regional corporations based in the state. Can the President of AFN speak for the specific interests of each tribal government in Alaska? Much less can the press secretary of AFN speak for the specific interests each tribal government in Alaska? Rightly, no, which is why no statement was forthcoming from AFN officials for the purposes of the reporter’s story.
The tribes themselves can only speak to their own interests, and the three tribal government appellees of Akiachak v. Salazar know their reasons for fighting the federal and state governments for over two decades to apply for small parcels of land to be held in federal trust. Since each tribal government is named in the court reporter summary attached to the case, why did the reporter not attempt to contact their offices, and if the reporter could not reach any tribal officials for comment, why was it not mentioned in the story reaching a state-wide audience?
Already members of the Alaska Outdoor Council and former AFN General Counsel Donald Craig Mitchell have been providing landslide logic and doomsday scenarios knocking on our very doors, ranging from between the “Balkanization” of natural resources and lands management within state boundaries, or that “Indian casinos” are going to pop up in quick order from Barrow to Atka and Ketchikan and everywhere in between, now that tribes in the state at last have a low-impact channel to become land-owners and managers of land, in small parcels that cannot be under threat of willing or hostile sale due to the federal trust status. The Secretary of Interior and the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs will certainly not accept land into trust applications willy nilly regardless of any larger consequences beyond the applicant tribes, per the BIA Land Into Trust handbook, recently pointed out by op-ed contributor and Canadian Métis UAF adjunct professor of federal Indian and ANCSA law Jenny Bell Jones.
There have been instances of ANCSA village corporations transferring all or some of their lands to tribal governments – communities made up of corresponding shareholders and tribal members – which required a super-majority board of directors’ vote and super-majority shareholders’ vote following broad consensus amongst their communities. This should make it clear not every ANCSA regional and village corporation are going to transfer large swaths of their lands to their corresponding tribal governments as part of a land into trust application, which would be two very different and unrelated processes to begin with.
I hope the next land into trust story from the Fairbanks Daily Newsminer will feature due diligence from one or more of their reporters, and not feature a one-sided argument from a non-Native individual on the negative aspects of diverse Alaska Native tribal government applications for land into trust.

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Governor of Alaska and the Tribal Advisory Council

On October 14th, 2015 at the Egan Center in Anchorage, during a National Congress of American Indians and Alaska Federation of Natives co-hosted meeting of tribal leaders and Governor Walker and his Cabinet members, the governor signed Administrative Order No. 277.  AO277 created the Governor’s Tribal Advisory Council, or GTAC, where 11 tribal leaders from around the state will be nominated and selected amongst the sovereign tribal governments to sit for three years and to advise the Governor of Alaska on 11 different but inter-related Alaska Native issues:

1. Education

2. Healthcare

3. Subsistence

4. Energy

5. Public safety and justice

6. Wildlife and fisheries

7. Economic development

8. Housing

9. Transportation

10. Language

11. Culture

Not since Governor Tony Knowles has such high-level acknowledgment been achieved between the State of Alaska and the 266 federally-recognized tribal governments located within the state, and before that not since ANCSA was passed in 1971 has such a high-profile been designated to Alaska Natives by the state.  Governor Knowles made a misstep, however, in the year 2000 with the “Millennium Agreement,” where the agreement stipulating a state-tribal relationship required an “opt-in” clause for tribes to sign the agreement.  The “opt-in” clause waived sovereign immunity in some respects, automatically creating an unequal partnership between the state and any tribe that signed the agreement.  As a result, not more than 50 federally-recognized tribal governments signed the agreement, and the subsequent “state-tribal relationship” spelled out in the agreement halted entirely.

Under the guise of AO277, there is no waiver or any other reservation requested or required by the state for tribal governments to nominate seats; 11 tribal leaders will have direct access to the Governor’s office and to the various departments under his or her charge, with direction to advise on the 11 topics numbered above.  For too long has the State of Alaska literally fought tooth and nail politically, policy-wise, and in the courts tribal governments around the state.  A few lucky tribal governments have successfully applied for and received “Capital Improvement Project” monies from the legislative Capital budget process, but with the literal drain of funds for FY16 and beyond due to the crash in crude oil prices, options for tribal government participation in the state government apparatus looked minimal.  With GTAC in the opening stages, there is much potential for years of wrongs to be righted in terms of state-tribal relations, and therefore improving tribal governance and increasing governmental capacity in the most remote areas and regions of the state.

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UAF Interior-Aleutians Campus to Host Alaska Native Fish and Game Co-Management Seminar November 19th & 20th, 2015 in Fairbanks, Alaska

Co-Management Symposium

Weaving Together Two Worlds

Purpose: A forum to build understanding, relationships, and knowledge for advancing the co-management of Alaskan fish and wildlife resources.

Progressive focus: Shared value of healthy ecosystems, healthy populations, and resource abundance.

Co-Management is the term that defines systems and opportunities that provide an adequate and meaningful role for Alaska Natives in management of traditional resources. Alaska Natives and their Tribal governments, Tribal consortiums, nonprofits, and corporations have served as stewards of their traditional lands and resources for thousands of years maintaining healthy and productive ecosystems, they have proven knowledge, skills, and abilities to adequately manage Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources. Co-Management refers to a system where those relying upon the resources have a substantial role in making decisions about the management for healthy, productive ecosystems and populations.

Who is this symposium for?
This event will bring together University of Alaska researchers and staff, Alaska Native Tribal and ANCSA corporation leaders and staff, state and federal fish and game managers, and those with the vested interest in seeing successful co-management in Alaska.

Co-Management Symposium – Day 1 & 2
Building on a historical perspective of fish and wildlife management in Alaska, speakers will focus on the contemporary challenges and opportunities for co-management in Alaska today. Successful examples of co-management in action will be highlighted, one-to-one sharing and dialogue will be incorporated,  and collaborative solutions will be identified.

Co-Production of Knowledge – Day 3
In conjunction with the Co-Management Symposium there will be an optional third day for Tribal leaders/staff, university researchers, and agency researchers  that are interested in developing collaborative research partnerships. This interactive workshop will be particularly useful for Tribal leaders who are seeking partners for identified research priorities.

http://tribalmgmt.uaf.edu/co-mgmt

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