“How will ballot measure 1 (Initiative Petition 17FSH2) impact the State of Alaska? What will be required of departments to implement this new policy and how would this impact the state budget?”
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1:30PM July 20, 2018: Alaska State Senate – Committee on State Affairs Holds Hearing on 17FSH2 – Ballot Measure 1: Stand for Salmon
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.
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:
- Latest forest inventory; and the inventory methodology which was used to collect the inventory
- Location of inventory plots, GPS coordinates and shapefiles
- Maps of the property
- Harvesting plan (if any)
- Ownership documents, and record of easement (if any)
- If inventory data does not exist, then any other related information such as a recent property appraisal
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rosanna Deerchild (Cree) hosts her radio show Unreserved every week, broadcast nationally from Winnepeg. The show features a broad range of Indigenous peoples and issues.
Provincial media such as the public TV Ontario often integrates Indigenous peoples and content into its programming as well.
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.
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.
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.
UAF Interior-Aleutians Campus to Host Alaska Native Fish and Game Co-Management Seminar November 19th & 20th, 2015 in Fairbanks, Alaska
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.
Critique: Attorney General’s Advisory Committee report on American Indian/Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence
The Attorney General’s Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to violence was created in 2013 based upon a recommendation from the Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. The Task Force on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence is anchored by an advisory committee consisting of federal and non-federal experts on the topic. Last month the advisory committee fulfilled its charge in publishing policy recommendations to Attorney General Eric Holder that address issues around AI/AN children exposed to violence. These recommendations are contained in the advisory committee’s report published last month, Ending Violence So Children Thrive (click on the image below to access the pdf).
The advisory committee carried out four hearings and six listening sessions nationwide to learn from key practitioners, advocates, academicians, policy makers, and the public about the issue of AI/AN children exposed to violence in the U.S. The advisory committee was also directed to “gather information on promising and evidence-based practices that could benefit these children and their communities.”
There is a huge need for promising and evidence-based practices for violence prevention in AI/AN communities, reflected in grim statistics that show the vulnerability of AI/AN women and children to physical and sexual violence. And yet research about the violence faced by AI/AN children remains incredibly sparse, making it difficult for tribes and urban Indian organizations to compete for grant funding for prevention and treatment efforts that are not “evidence based,” or to develop community-led interventions that do not simply rely on anecdotes and guesswork.
Ending Violence so Children Can Thrive contains 31 policy recommendations that cover a lot of terrain, spanning from a directive to establish a Native American Affairs Office within the White House Domestic Policy Council to calling on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to increase and support access to culturally appropriate behavioral health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services in AI/AN communities. The report states that “many tribal communities are developing and implementing culturally based prevention and intervention programs” yet most tribes “do not have the resources necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs” (p. 62).
The question then is, what difference can top-down policies actually make for families if so little remains known about what’s happening on the ground?
Despite having this understanding, many of the advisory committee’s policy recommendations are formed around the assumption that strengthening tribal jurisdiction and sovereignty are key to preventing violence exposure among AI/AN children. This assumption is most prominent in the report chapter focusing on Alaska, where four of the committee’s five policy recommendations have to do with Congress reinstating Indian Country in Alaska and providing financial support for tribes to develop their civil and criminal justice systems, including their own police forces. Most of these recommendations were lifted verbatim from the Indian Law and Order Commission’s 2013 Final Report. The thinking is that if tribes had a land base over which to exercise civil and criminal jurisdiction and a tribal police presence to enforce law, then Alaska Native children and communities would be safer.
The issue isn’t whether or not this should happen (tribes should decide for themselves) but the assumptions about what effect these changes in jurisdiction would actually have on reducing violence. The report points out that Alaska State Troopers have a full-time presence in less than half of the tribal communities, and that this inequitable access to justice can be mitigated by reinstating Indian Country. Yet access to justice and violence prevention are not synonymous. Criminal justice systems and police respond to violent crime (they’re usually reactionary, and that’s part of the problem), they don’t necessarily prevent it from happening.
And when it comes to issues like child sexual abuse, law enforcement and the courts are rarely in the picture because these crimes are hardly ever reported, even in the mainstream U.S. population. Nunavut, Canada provides a counterpoint to the advisory committee’s assumption that tribal police and justice systems will help prevent violence against children. RCMP officers have a full-time presence in each of Nunavut’s 25 communities, yet the crime rate in that majority Inuit jurisdiction has doubled since the territory was created.
Nunavut public defenders will tell you that preventing violence against children in this jurisdiction where almost half the population has experienced child sexual abuse, is much more complex than whether or not there’s a police presence in town. In the words of public defender Mandy Sammurtok:
So we’ve got this individual who has grown up thinking that that life is normal. And then we’ve got a system where there’s no treatment available for an individual. There’s no substance abuse treatment available. There’s no mental health treatment, and we also live in little fish bowls where basically the RCMP know everything that’s going on. And that’s fine; it’s good to be safe in a community. So, you’ve got a person who has lived this life and a lot of times, a lot of my clients say, “Oh yeah, and Mandy, uncle whoever” or “that guy down the street, he molested me.” That’s, a lot of times where this is going in a lot of my clients’ lives. And I say it all the time: my client, although he has a victim, he’s also a victim. There are no services available for my client. He didn’t have anywhere to go before he got to the court system. I would always hope that the justice system would be the last stop for an individual. But unfortunately in Nunavut, the justice system is the first stop (Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc., 2014).
Yet in Alaska, the assumption that reinstating Indian Country will make Alaska Native communities safer seems to be gaining traction among Alaska Native tribes. This despite the fact that, as the committee’s own report acknowledges, lower 48 tribal law enforcement has always been chronically underfunded. The advisory committee’s report states that “There is a vital connection between inherent Tribal sovereignty and protecting AI/AN children” (p. 43). This connection is easier to see when it comes to strengthening child tribal protection systems, providing greater Indian Child Welfare Act oversight, and securing mandatory rather than discretionary federal funding for tribal violence prevention programs — all issue addressed in the advisory committee’s policy recommendations. These are defensible recommendations, and Ending Violence so Children Can Thrive advances important messaging about the need for trauma informed care, research, and partnership building.
However the argument that reinstating Indian Country in Alaska and beefing up tribal law enforcement and tribal justice systems will prevent violence against children is more political ploy than solution. It is important to push back on this assumption if we hope to seriously address the pandemic of physical and sexual violence too many of our Alaska Native children are experiencing. We need only look at Canadian Inuit communities that have had a full-time police presence for decades to know that the issues run much deeper. Alaska Native communities do need law enforcement, and empowering tribes to take on this responsibility seems to be the most viable solution. But it is misleading and irresponsible to overstate the role of law enforcement and the courts in preventing violence and other social challenges.
Keeping the focus on real issues, such as the huge gaps in research, mental health services and support and housing that exist in the state, is a start.
I was in Greenland this past May and had the opportunity to visit a few grocery stores in Nuuk and Sisimiut. Just as in rural Alaska and Canada, store-bought foods are flown into Greenlandic communities, mostly from Denmark ostensibly by way of Kangerlussuaq (the main international flight hub) or Nuuk (the largest town and capital). The cost of store-bought foods is therefore more expensive than in mainland Denmark where ground transportation is possible.
As I have discussed in past posts, store-bought foods are extremely expensive in much of rural Alaska and Canada. While we know that high store-bought food prices contribute to a high percentage of food insecure households in Nunavut, Canada, little remains known about household food security in rural Alaska Native communities.
The World Health Organization defines food security as “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”.
I took pictures of store-bought foods in Sisimiut that are generally regarded as nutritious, such as potatoes, bread, eggs and meats, as well as a few non-food items such as dish soap and diapers. The store, Brugseni, also sold beer, wine and spirits, and had a bakery. The foods I chose were selected at random.
Sisimiut is Greenland’s second largest town about 200 miles north of Nuuk with a population of 5,600. It is accessible only by air and water.
I’ve converted the food prices from Danish Kroner to U.S. dollars and the units from kilograms to pounds. In general, store-bought food prices at Brugseni (those shown here) and at the three main grocery stores in Nuuk are lower than those I have seen in other Inuit communities like Kotzebue, Barrow and Iqaluit, at least after conversion.
There are probably other factors at play such as local and national taxes and minimum wage that likely distort store-bought food costs in the context of this country and community, but it would seem to behoove policy makers to learn more about Greenland’s food distribution policies.
Efforts to subsidize the cost of store-bought foods in Northern Canada have failed, and perhaps future posts on this blog will explore how the Government of Greenland subsidizes store-bought food costs in its communities, if at all.
Brugseni in Sisimiut
Red onion, $3.60/2.2 Ibs
Potatoes, $20.24/5.5 Ibs
Bagged avocados (2), $1.89/.78 Ibs
Single avocado, $1.62
Dish soap, $2.25/25.4 oz
Diapers (40), $17.98