Wednesday, January 16, 2013

News from the North

Ethon has been troubled by the rising cost of liver.  Given the US Post Office's problems he thinks that setting up an air post service might be useful.  The Bird has noticed that with winter, cold snow and dark, Alaskans have no trouble finding time to write letters, and he has his first customer, Whitebeard, who sends this message to all the Rabett Runners

Dear Eli and Bunnies,
Some news from the north:  Friday last, Fairbanks sitting US District Judge Ralph Beistline voided the 2010 US Fish and WildlifeService’s designation of critical Polar Bear habitat.  The critical area was mostly continental shelf in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas plus a coastal strip from Canada to Barrow, covering 187,000+ square miles, a bit more than California.  The management plan, or at least the designated area over which the plan applies, goes back to F&W for a do-over with fair odds of another round in court following.  F&W had no immediate statement, nor did the Center for Biological Diversity which joined with the Service.  The coalition of native entities who brought suit, the State of Alaska’s administration which joined with the natives on the case, and some of the plaintiffs’ political supporters made statements repeating the argument for challenging the designation.

For readers who may not have been following, the area designation is part of a required recovery plan flowing from the November 10, 2008 listing of the big white bruins by the US Interior Department as “threatened” under the Endanger Species Act.  Breistline, born in Fairbanks in 1948 and nominated to the Federal Bench late in 2001, found the area included in the designation was excessive and showed “a disconnect between the twin goals of protecting a cherished resource and allowing for growth and much needed economic development.”

Really, this is another round in the epic, decades long struggle waged in the fed and public opinion courts to fashion belt and suspenders into a chastity belt.  What’s interesting is that over half dozen local native corporations (individual villages) and the 4 regional native corporations with coastline from the Canadian Arctic border to the northern entrance of Bristol Bay in the Bearing Sea were plaintiffs.  Wearing other hats, many of the same folks are often in the courts, with various environmental organizations in opposing the oil industry over things like permits to do off-shore drilling.

Some background.  The entire State is split into 12 regional native corporation areas (not reservations, although one legacy reservation covering Annette Island in the SE panhandle exists) who are the big private land owners. The twelve have all subsurface rights for the total of 69,000 square miles of native owned land.  Each Alaska Native is a share holder in one of the 12, created in 1971 by the AK Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA, pronounced ank-sa) and each has 100 shares of unalienable, dividend paying, voting stock.  There are also about 200 independent native village corporations, that were formed at the same time with similar structure.  Each native individual is also a share holder in one of these.  Village corporations selected surface title to each village’s surrounding hinterland or nearby “available” Fed land, with selection area based on the number of share holders.  Regional corporations mostly selected lands with an eye toward exploitable value in the general economy and anything village parcels was theirs already.  The actual selections of the regional and village corporations’ were to a patchwork of parcels, some very large, some small, mixed with those of the Fed and State.  As well, cities sites, and other small parcels, often in especially desirable spots, are in the mix.  The State land ownership break down is: Fed Agencies - 59.2%; State of Alaska and trusts - 28.0%; Native Corporations - 11.7%; Others - 1+%

Diligent readers of the first Charles Monnett v Agent May transcript who still having some functioning cortex remaining after the experience perhaps recall Monnett’s mentioning native power at the beginning.  A lot of that derives from land ownership. In addition, native corporations own webs of subsidiaries scattered about the general economy, but most heavily in area providing services the Federal Government.  Collectively, natives got just short of a billion ’70s era bucks to seed the various corporations.  But that’s another
CliffsNotes set, altogether.


Aaron said...

Drilling/mining on permafrost is difficult. Drilling/mining on melting permafrost is much more difficult. For one thing, the clouds of biting insects can be so thick as to impair visibility.

Everything above and below permafrost is losing value with every ppm of CO2 in the air.

If you owned stuff under and over softening permafrost, you would be irritable also. The only winners are the black flies, mosquitoes, midges, and lawyers.

David B. Benson said...

Aaron --- Are not the last two the same, just differently named?

Anonymous said...

David Benson.

I think all four species are in the same taxon, but the last is distinguished by its capacity to drain by far the most blood, and to spread distemper.

Bernard J.

David B. Benson said...

Bernard J. --- Ah.

I never took any biology after 8th grade...