Good news for Ambler Mining District
A recent announcement by NovaCopper Inc. indicated increased investment is planned for the Arctic and Bornite deposits located in the Ambler Mining District (AMD) in Northwest Alaska. NovaCopper is a base metals exploration company focused on exploring and developing the AMD.
The Northwest Arctic Borough and the North Slope Borough assemblies signed a joint resolution supporting an evaluation of an industrial road to the AMD by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
Legislature passes Arctic policy bill
The Alaska Legislature has passed a bill establishing an offi cial state Arctic policy that in part encourages resource development to help expand local economic growth and the state’s economy.
The bill followed recommendations made by the 26-member Alaska Arctic Policy Commission, which is made up of 10 legislators and 16 community and business representatives. The commission spent two years conducting meetings and drafting its own policy recommendations. The bill advises the state to carry out the commission’s 32-point implementation plan, which calls for development of the Arctic’s vast fossil fuel deposits, construction of infrastructure, including ports, buildup of emergency response systems, and advancement of scientific research.
Members of the commission said it is important for Alaska to have in place a strong Arctic policy to help clarify the state’s position relative to federal efforts aimed more toward curbing development.
Roadless Rule makes no sense for Alaska
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski recently introduced legislation to exempt Alaska’s two national forests from the roadless rule to ensure that affected communities can economically develop renewable energy and other natural resources on the national forests in Alaska.
“The Forest Service’s application of the roadless rule in the Tongass and Chugach National Forests continues to deny local communities the opportunity to develop their economies and access more affordable energy,” said Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Reinstatement in 2013 of the roadless rule – which prohibits construction of new roads in inventoried unroaded areas – has made efforts to build renewable energy projects, electric transmission lines, mining operations, wood products, and other projects within Alaska’s two national forests nearly impossible. Murkowski has repeatedly pressed the Forest Service to allow Alaska flexibility in how the roadless rule is applied in the state. The agency has made little effort to be more fl exible in its application of the rule.
Murkowski’s legislation (S. 631) restores the 2003 roadless exemption that recognized this “one size fi ts all” rule should not apply to Alaska’s national forests. “The roadless rule may make sense in the Lower 48, where there are existing roads and utility lines on national forest lands, but in Alaska – where there is very little, if any, existing infrastructure – it simply makes no sense and is actually counterproductive. Our inability to access our resources has meant a bleak economic future for many communities,” Murkowski said.
ARE receives honorable mention at IMCC
The Alaska Resource Education (ARE) program recently was nominated for the Interstate Mineral Company Commission’s (IMCC) 2015 Mineral Education Award in the Public Outreach category for ARE’s Natural Resource Patch program with the Girl Scouts of Alaska. ARE was nominated for this prestigious award by Brent Goodrum, Division Director at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. For more information about ARE’s Natural Resource Patch program, or ways to support ARE, visit akresource.org.
Feds considering ESA protection for cedar tree
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider granting Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the yellow cedar tree, which is common in the Tongass National Forest. Some believe climate change has caused a long-term die-off of the trees. If ESA protection is granted, it will be the fi rst tree in Alaska listed under the act. Such an action would likely be used by environmental groups to further challenge logging and other multiple use activities in the forest.
The Service determined last month that the poor condition of the trees warrant a formal study of a listing. The determination is in response to a petition filed last year by several environmental groups.
Sixty to 70 percent of yellow cedars in a 600,000-acre area of Alaska and British Columbia have been affected.
Beluga whale population sees increase
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported an increase in the Cook Inlet beluga whale population, up from 312 animals in 2012 to 340 in 2014. The change was not scientifi cally signifi cant, according to NOAA. The agency’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center said relatively small changes from survey to survey do not reveal a trend over a period of 10 to 20 years.
The Cook Inlet beluga population declined sharply in the 1990s when the subsistence harvest took nearly half the remaining population in only four years. NOAA curtailed subsistence hunting in the late 1990s and listed the Cook Inlet beluga as endangered in 2008. Population estimates have ranged from 278 to 375 animals since 2000. NOAA’s population estimates were based on aerial surveys taken in early June 2014.
RDC comments on critical habitat designation
RDC recently submitted comments regarding the proposed critical habitat designation for the Arctic ringed seal. The area under consideration would be the largest critical habitat designation in the U.S. at 350,000 square miles, larger than the state of Texas.
RDC opposed the original ‘threatened’ listing of the ringed seals under the ESA due to their known abundant population and the highly speculative nature in which their status was being considered: projected sea ice loss.
The 100-year climate modeling practice based on what could happen to a species if certain sea ice loss thresholds were met has proven to be flawed and recently resulted in the vacated listing of the bearded seal. The same flawed approach was applied to the ringed seal and the ‘threatened’ status is currently being challenged in Alaska federal district court. View RDC’s full comments at akrdc.org.
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