NO CLIMATE CHANGE THEME AT RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
Last month at Southeast Conference, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott offered a mystifying speech, during which he repeated his “oil is dead” theme and said that federal money and non-governmental organizations were the future of Alaska’s economy. Global climate change is the new imperative, Mallott said, and Alaska needs to get on board. There’s a lot of international money out there to bring to Alaska in the fight against global warming.
Last week, at Resource Development Council’s, he had a different tune. He never mentioned climate change to this group of pro-development Alaskans. This Mallott was not the same as that Mallott, who had left his Southeast Alaska audience whispering.
Speaking without notes, Mallott for several minutes described his own long involvement with developing Alaska’s resources: Sealaska, the Alaska Native corporation he ran for several years, logged over a billion board feet of timber out of the Tongass National Forest, he noted. The company operated a base camp for ARCO in Prudhoe Bay. Sealaska was one of the largest customers of the Alaska Railroad, with its regular shipments of gravel. He developed the seafood industry in his home town of Yakutat.
He also talked at length about the transboundary process with Canada to protect salmon habitat, and the work he is doing to engage with the mining industry of British Columbia.
Mallott last week signed a letter of cooperation with British Columbia on transboundary waters. A working group from BC and Alaska will monitor and advise on water quality issues that impact Alaska watersheds.
“This administration is committed to economic development. We are committed to mineral development,” he insisted. “I say that because there are those who want to see no mining in British Columbia, and they are working hard to make that happen.”
One of those groups Mallott was referring to is the Nature Conservancy of Alaska, for whom he served as board chairman.
In June, the Conservancy joined with Alaska Native groups to demand that Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell investigate six hard-rock mines in British Columbia, and their impacts on watersheds shared by the United States and Canada. The letter from the groups called for Jewell to refer the mining issues to the International Joint Commission, which governs the Boundary Waters Treaty.
Mallott then proceeded to describe issues of tribal sovereignty and why they are important: They will lead to economic development of Alaska’s lands, he promised.
“Read my lips: Tribal government is a reality. It operates in our state and in rural Alaska provides a huge majority of health care,” he said. “Tribal governments are among those in our state who are engaged in virtually every small community to make lives better.”
“Litigation cripples,” he said. “Litigation creates winners and losers.” The Walker Administration inherited a lawsuit defending state sovereignty and allowing tribal land to go into federal trust status. He heralded how pleased he is that Gov. Walker has dropped the lawsuit against the federal government.
On the other hand, litigation might be ahead, he hinted, as it pertains to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taking over fish and game management in all refuge land in Alaska. That, he said, violates the terms of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, ANILCA.
“I was engaged with AFN during the passage of ANILCA. Rod Arno (Alaska Outdoor Council) and I know what was promised.”
For now, he said, the Walker Administration is going to try to negotiate with the federal government about these issues: “Everything in life is negotiation and compromise, beginning with your life and your kids.”
This week, litigation is also on the schedule for the lieutenant governor, who is challenging an Anchorage Superior Court’s ruling on the District 40 House race. The judge, Andrew Guidi, reversed the election results, chastised the lieutenant governor’s Division of Elections for gross incompetence, and awarded the win to Rep. Ben Nageak, against the wishes of the Walker-Mallott Administration.
Governor Walker had travelled to Kotzebue this summer to help the political fortunes of House District 40 challenger Dean Westlake, who was backed by Democrats to take out Rep. Nageak. As of today, Nageak has won that race by two votes.
Mallott’s challenge means the Alaska Supreme Court will hear the case on Oct. 12 in Anchorage. He has not attended any of the hearings to date.