National Science Foundation/University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology Research Fellowship Award 2020-2021

Thank you for your time in reviewing my statement for the NSF fellowship regarding climate, economic, energy, cultural, food security, political, or environmental characteristics related to traditional harvest practices in rural Alaska, further augmented by advancing knowledge on how rural communities are enhancing local research capacity and self-governance, and are adapting to reduce vulnerability to stressors.

I have spent the last two years exploring the field of land use planning, and finding that most if not all ANCSA corporations do not have comprehensive land use plans for collectively over 46 million acres of land in Alaska.  This is compared to comprehensive land use planning requirements for state and federal lands management agencies and respective managed land types (BLM, USFWS refuges, wilderness, NPS parks, AK DNR 20+ area use plans, etc).  

While there are no comprehensive land use plans in place for most if not all ANCSA corporations, there are at least several lands management practices and standards:

  1. Exclusive shareholder use for hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering;
  2. Shareholder surface land lease options for recreational/subsistence cabins and/or miscellaneous commercial use;
  3. Permitted and limited access requirements for non-shareholders under hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering;
  4. Surface land lease options open to non-shareholders for recreational/subsistence cabins and/or miscellaneous commercial use;
  5. Opening known surface and subsurface material sites and mineral deposits to leased private development – sand, gravel, mining, oil and gas;
  6. ANCSA 14(c)(3) Municipal Land Trust – requires surface lands management cooperation on behalf of ANCSA village corporations with any functioning State of Alaska chartered municipal government, and any potential future municipal government if one is not currently formed and functioning;
  7. ANCSA 14(h)(1) Historical Sites – essentially conserved/preserved surface and subsurface lands of historical interest like prehistoric village sites, cemeteries, abandoned villages prior to the passage of ANCSA, and any known prehistoric art.  There are over 2,200 14(h)(1) sites owned and managed by the 12 ANCSA regional corporations in Alaska;
  8. ANCSA 17(b) Easements – state and federal surface public access easements are reserved across ANCSA lands

As is apparent without any broad, comprehensive land use plan, the several lands management practices and standards listed above are all administered on a case by case basis, contrary to best lands management practices nationwide and internationally for the past century.  When comprehensive land use planning became a standard lawful practice in the late 1910s in New York City, it spread across the Lower ’48 and is now the standard lands management practice for comprehensive land use planning.  While ANCSA corporations are not legally required to conduct comprehensive land use planning like a governing entity, that does not hide the fact that current ANCSA lands management practices are not best practices, and that these low bars and standards are not serving the best interests of the corporations and most importantly the shareholders.  

Computationally, if 220+ ANCSA corporations are following the 8 listed practices above for let’s say 100 uses each as a simple exercise, there are over 176,000 cases without any underlying comprehensive land use plans.  Climate change already does and will continue to have a further exponential and emergency effect to these practices and further stress the need for comprehensive land use planning.         

From the inception of ANCSA in 1971 through the mid-1980s, there was a state chartered non-profit advocacy organization made up of ANCSA corporations called the Alaska Native Land Managers Association, which was formed to collectively strategize lands selections processes during the implementation of ANCSA and later ANILCA.  ANMLA fell into disuse and was dissolved after most lands selections were made and officially filed.  

Last part here, I would like to mention that:

  1. I have previously work for my ANCSA regional corporation under a subsidiary;
  2. I have previously worked for an ANCSA village corporation I have familial ties to as a salaried employee and have first-hand experience with ANCSA lands management practices;
  3. I have unsuccessfully run as a candidate for my ANCSA regional corporation board of directors with improving lands management as part of my campaign platform;
  4. I have worked for an ANCSA regional corporation in the Lands department of which I am not a shareholder, and advocated reviving ANLMA (to no success);
  5. I have had initial discussions over the summer with my ANCSA regional corporation to enter into an academic research agreement about lands management, but the discussions were discontinued and no agreement was entered;
  6. I have recently contacted each the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, and the ANCSA Regional Association (all of which I have long personal, professional, and acquaintance ties to) about reviving ANMLA (to no success);
  7. I have even attempted to form an informal, ad hoc “ANCSA Climate Change Planning Work Group” – despite strong and diverse interest, few people actually participated in scheduled virtual meetings;
  8. In the last month I have contacted UAF NRM Professor Susan Todd, whose research has primarily been land use planning in Alaska, to find out she retired over the summer.

I hope that I have shown that I have done my due diligence in pursuing this topic of interest, and that I can continue adding incremental value and hopefully practiced use in the near future, whether academically, personally, or professionally.  


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