Ravenna Koenig, Alaska's Energy Desk - Fairbanks
As Trump administration contemplates drilling in Arctic waters, North Slope organizations stress need to protect subsistence resources
In public comments made available on a federal site, most North Slope institutions didn’t express outright opposition to the plan. But they did voice concern for subsistence resources and hunters’ continued access to them.
A proposal by Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy would strip the North Slope Borough of its power to collect nearly $400 million in property taxes from oil companies each year. The idea gets at a longstanding question: How much money from oil should stay in the North Slope, where it’s pumped from the ground?
The first legally-binding, multilateral agreement to prevent commercial fishing in the central Arctic Ocean was signed last year. A key part of that agreement is collaboration on scientific research, which could underpin a management plan later.
In Utqiaġvik, there’s still one dog team left, and their musher has been getting around the tundra by dogsled for more than 30 years.
ASRC president and CEO Rex Rock Sr. said: “Trying to balance a state budget on the backs of the Iñupiat people across the Arctic Slope is a wrongsided attack on our region.”
“Near-deaths and freezing, running out of gas are some of the issues surrounding being able to go between communities,” said Gordon Brower, director of the North Slope Borough’s Planning and Community Services Department.
Survival course trainees are exposed to subzero temperatures and winds that gust up to 30-plus miles an hour. “They don’t go back inside after they come out here and begin the training,” said instructor Sgt. Garrett Wright.
“Everything just falls into place,” says Nancy Leavitt of the hard work involved in sinew thread making. “The problems, the stress, the thoughts you have. Most of them just disappear.”
Some people at the meeting expressed concern about the process. Lisa Baraff with the Northern Alaska Environmental Center said that the timeline BLM has been using for their environmental review is too short.
“Life is going to spring back to us,” said Robin Mongoyak. “Spring is coming, summer is around the corner. Birds when they come in big flocks, it’s like thousands of people coming to greet us.”
After struggling for years to clean up its air, Fairbanks still faces contentious wood smoke problem
For years, Fairbanks and neighboring city North Pole have had some of the worst air quality in the United States. The area has been failing to meet a federal air quality standard since 2009 — now it's reached the deadline.
Along with the reclamation plan approval, the state also increased the amount of money Donlin Gold will be required to put down ahead of time for the mine’s cleanup.
Polar bear researcher Eric Regehr says that in individual cases like this, it’s very difficult to attribute cause to why a bear wandered so far from its typical area.
Over the last 80-some years, there’s been a noticeable change in Fairbanks: The more recent cold snaps haven’t been as cold, and they’re occurring less frequently than they used to.
Last month Japan announced that it is leaving the international group that regulates whaling and will resume commercial whaling in its own coastal waters.
At the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, there’s an experiment underway to try to find a cheaper way to make that kind of retrofit while still keeping risk of mold low.
The document looks at seven big categories — the Arctic’s so-called “vital signs.” Those include things like snow cover, the condition of the Greenland ice sheet, and sea ice conditions.
This year, the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and the U.S. government put forward a new proposal that would change how the International Whaling Commission renews its quota. It passed.
Scientists have spent the past few decades catching up to traditional knowledge, documenting scientifically what whale hunters already knew. Like the fact that the whales can smell, and that they can travel under sea ice.
“Unless the underlying problem of climate change is addressed, the sea ice is expected to continue to diminish,” said polar bear researcher Eric Regehr. “And at some point that will likely have a negative effect on the bears in this Chukchi area.”