Legislature(2013 - 2014)BUTROVICH 205
02/08/2014 09:00 AM RESOURCES
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SJR 15-OPPOSE INTERNATIONAL DESIGNATING OF LAND 10:32:46 AM CHAIR GIESSEL announced SJR 15 to be up for consideration and as the sponsor, related that it is a resolution related to an international transboundary area in the Bering Straits region. She said that Beringia is a designated area that recognizes the cultural connections between areas in Russia and areas on the west coast of Alaska around Nome and Kotzebue. The intent that has been going forward for the past approximately 25 or 30 years is to declare this area an international park, the definition of which would designate a protected area in two countries that would result in sharing information, joint studies, and promoting joint activities. Other designations are related to international parks: Ramsar sites in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, biosphere reserves in Denali National Park, and World Heritage Sites in Glacier Bay and Wrangell St. Elias National Parks. Around these areas often the National Park Service and federal government wish to designate buffer zones, an ongoing effort in Denali National Park. CHAIR GIESSEL said the concern about designating Beringia as an international park is how it will affect resource development and subsistence use on in the area. One of the recommendations coming from the Citizen's Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA) is to avoid spending scarce federal funds and resources on special non designated areas such as Beringia International Park. 10:34:09 AM JANE CONWAY, staff to Senator Giessel, explained that SJR 15 urges the federal government to cease pursuing the creation of the Beringia International Park. This idea has been floating around since the 80s where it has languished, gained momentum and then languished again. It gained momentum recently and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) came about in October 28, 2013. She said the MOU doesn't actually create the park; however it symbolically links national parks in Alaska and Russia with a focus on environmental protection. While it sounds harmless enough, those phrases can take on entirely different meanings when used in a campaign opposing building of resource development projects. They are leery of any formal agreement regarding these related areas in the Bering Strait region that could affect Alaskan's ability to develop its resources in that economically challenged region (which encompasses the Red Dog Mine). MS. CONWAY said the resolution is a violation of Section 101 of ANILCA and the MOU between the U.S. Department of State and Russia is proceeding with zero input from the state government. These international designations come through United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO). The Ramsar site in the Izembek Lagoon National Wildlife Refuge was cited as one of the reasons Secretary Jewell made the decision she did to deny the Izembek Road. 10:37:13 AM MS. CONWAY said besides Glacier Bay and Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve seven others are on the tentative list to be considered as World Heritage Sites in Alaska. While Alaska does not have an official designation of a buffer zone now, one has been discussed around Denali National Park having to do with restricting wolf hunting and trapping since 2000. These international designations have affected multiple projects around the world: the New World Mine in Montana, the uranium mine in Australia, the Aginskoya Mine in Russia and the list goes on. SENATOR MICCICHE asked if the list of Alaskan sites was in their packets. MS. CONWAY read them: Glacier Bay in 1992, Wrangell St. Elias in 1979, Aleutian Islands Unit of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Krusenstern Archaeological District, Denali National Park, Gates of the Arctic National Park, and Katmai National Park. 10:39:52 AM CHAIR GIESSEL opened public testimony. STEVE BORELL, representing himself, Anchorage, Alaska, supported SJR 15. He related that he first learned about something called Beringia and the concept of an international park between parts of western Alaska and the Russian side in the early 90s. Then he heard later that it was actually supposed to go from the Mackenzie River all the way over to the Kolyma River, in the Magadan Region. When he was preparing for testimony at the federal overreach CACFA summit he learned that it actually goes from the Mackenzie River as far as the Elena River, another 1,000 kilometers further west in Russia; he also learned that it goes from 70 N latitude (above Barrow) down to the southern tip of Kamchatka, which he guess was about the latitude of Juneau: nearly all of Alaska is included in what they have defined as Beringia. He had not recently checked to see if it had been drawn further. He said when in the early 1990s an Alaskan geologist Joe Dressler was working in the Russian Far East first learned about Beringia International Park, he went on a radio call-in program in Magadan; several callers complained that the U.S. and Canadian companies would come over and just take the metals and leave a big mess and nothing to benefit the Russian people. At that time just a few U.S. and Canadian companies were exploring there and none of them had an operating mine. Joe finally asked one of the callers who told him that and the answer he received was that the National Park Service and the Audubon Society had visited many of the villages and were saying that they needed this national park to protect their land. Part of the purpose of the shared Beringia Program is to reconnect the peoples and that is a great goal, however, they are using reconnection of the peoples as a way to build financial support to save the National Park Service from paying for their traveling back and forth. He learned that three things are being proposed for Western Alaska: 1. the International Park, 2. a World Heritage Site, and 3. a Marine Biosphere Reserve. The International Park is just step one of the plan and if one had been in place when the Red Dog was being proposed, the Rainbow Warrior and every other kind of environmental group would have been attacking and trying to stop it. 10:44:53 AM MARLEANNA HALL, Project Coordinator, Resource Development Council (RDC), said it is their policy to advocate for access to and across lands in Alaska for resource and community development and they supported SJR 15. The MOU for the creation of Beringia International Park will create another level of bureaucracy limiting access to areas in Alaska. This bill is timely, because the MOU has not been signed by the president yet. Past federal government promises assured access to allow resource development in this area and others not set aside through the ANILCA Act which withdrew 106 million acres of federal lands in Alaska into conservation system units. Today Alaska accounts for 70 percent of all national park lands in the U.S. as well as 54 percent in the federally designated wilderness. 10:47:01 AM STAN LEAPHART, Executive Director, Citizen's Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA), said a letter in their packets supported SJR 15. A similar designation is the Ramsar designation for the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. No one would dispute the importance of that area and no one wants to jeopardize it. But everyone is aware of the need for a road between King Cove and Cold Bay for medical evacuation purposes, which is the subject of a proposed land exchange in the legislature. The King Cove Native Corporation made a number of acres available for it and the purpose was to allow the construction of the road, but during the analysis of it conducted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service they decided to not approve the land exchange or the road. One of the reasons cited in both the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Secretary of Interior's decision was the designation of Izembek as a Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar convention. While it is not supposed to be binding, it had a major effect on that decision. He thought that similar decisions had been made in designating Glacier Bay a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve that affected the ultimate elimination of commercial fishing there in the 1990s. These types of designations heighten the profile of any activity around them and concerns have been expressed about the future of the state's ability to manage its own resources on its land as well as those of the Native corporations. 10:50:17 AM MIKE COONS, representing himself, Palmer, Alaska, supported SJR 15. He said he had sent a PDF with suggested additions to it as follows: On page 4, line 2, add a further resolve that: The Alaska State Legislature request that the U.S. Department of the State or the U.S. Department of the Interior nevertheless pursues or proposes the designation of land or water as an international park, world heritage site or biosphere reserve, Ramsar site or classification of land or water than affects the proper use of the land or water by the state of Alaska or Alaska Native Corporation, the Congress of the United States vote against this violation of U.S. and state sovereignty.... Second, he suggested on page 4, line 7, to delete "and" between "process and development" and to add "after the development, oversight, and disapproval" and on line 10 delete "if not primary". He said this language strengthens an already strong resolution and he didn't think that Russia would enforce this it anyhow. CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further comments on SJR 15, closed public testimony. She added that the Ambler Mining district could potentially be affected by the international park designation. Since the MOU was constructed as late as October 2013, there seems to be more active movement forward on this designation. Letter from Representative Don Young and Senator Lisa Murkowski supported it. SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH asked the committee if it would entertain sending a letter to National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), specifically the Labor and Economic Development Committee that she is vice chair of, asking the U.S. Trade representative to communicate with states, because they are feeling left out of these agreements as they negotiate state law and allow foreign entities better leverage inside of their business environment without the states' concurrence. SENATOR MICCICHE thanked her for bringing the issue forward. ANILCA clearly says we will not add additional acreage to our state to remove it from potential development and that has not been followed through. He thought the federal government was struggling to maintain the park land they already have and they should be asked why they should keep adding to it. 10:56:27 AM SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH clarified that we want good international relationships and this is not a reflection of anything that Russia or its delegation may have done. The criticism, if there is one, lies directly at the foot of the U.S. side of this conversation. 10:57:17 AM SENATOR DYSON stated that he has three wilderness properties south of Denali National Park along with scores of other folks and the federal government might remove property rights for what could be considered inholdings and extend federal wildlife management into those areas. However, he didn't think that would bias him on this issue. 10:58:19 AM At ease from 10:58:19 to 10:58:55 a.m. 10:58:55 AM CHAIR GIESSEL said she appreciated Mr. Coons' comments and suggested amendments, but adopting them at this time it would slow down the process. She thought the important parts had already been captured in the resolution. SENATOR MICCICHE said because many oppose increasing federal control over our lands in Alaska doesn't mean we aren't fascinated by the cultural aspects of Beringia and the other lands. Most of our genetic code can be traced to people as they walked across the land bridge many thousands of years ago. What it means is when portions of these lands are developed for projects that employ potentially thousands of Alaskans, the impact is on a few acres, a tiny dot, among millions of acres. That is an important point to remember when they want to lock up millions of acres and things like ANWR. 11:00:30 AM CHAIR GIESSEL drew attention to the map in their packets noting that we already have a Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument and Russia has several parks designated, as well, where cultural preservation and heritage are addressed. The concern is the increasing take of our lands which contain resources which help these communities support themselves. The villages of Norvik, Kiana, Ambler, and Kobuk are close to resources where energy will be developed along with the mineral resources there. Extending these international transboundary areas jeopardizes the economic potential and thus the sustainability of these communities and the cultures they represent. 11:01:58 AM SENATOR DYSON moved to report SJR 15, version 28-LS1192\U, from committee to the next committee of referral with attached zero fiscal note and individual recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered.