(Old Crow, Yukon, Canada – August 18, 2020)
On August 17th 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program. This is the final step of the environmental review process which is required to be completed before implementing the oil and gas lease sales in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge mandated in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the Trump Administration.
The Record of Decision identifies that the BLM will be proceeding with Alternative B which is the most destructive drilling alternative identified and offers the opportunity to lease the entire Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
This decision is a result of a rushed and inadequate environmental review process. The aggressive timeline followed by BLM to complete this process resulted in an inability to compile adequate baseline information or to undertake the full impact analysis necessary to determine potential implications for the Porcupine caribou herd, climate change, our sacred lands, and our inherent rights.
Throughout the process, the BLM failed to adequately acknowledge, consult, or provide reasonable opportunities for participation by Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and Gwich’in Tribal Council. Despite this purposeful exclusion, our governments and our citizens have worked tirelessly to participate as best we could and to voice our concerns about the impacts of oil and gas development in “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins). BLM has continuously disregarded these concerns.
Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Gwich’in Tribal Council feel confident that the work we have done to ensure our concerns on our record will play an important role in demonstrating the failure of BLM in undertaking a robust and inclusive environmental review process.
What happens next?
Now that the Environmental Impact Statement process is complete, the BLM can begin working through the lease sale process by releasing a Call for Nominations. The Call for Nominations is the process to identify areas to be offered in the first lease sale. It expect that it will include a public comment period which can be used as an opportunity to identify specific areas that should not be offered because of their value, use, and importance. There has been no indication when this process will begin.
Vuntut Gwitchin Government and Gwich’in Tribal Council will be calling upon our partners, allies, and friends to stand with us, the entire Gwich’in Nation and the Porcupine caribou herd to use the Call for Nominations as another opportunity to tell the BLM that drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not sustainable and threatens the human rights of the Gwich’in.
Following a Call for Nominations, we expect BLM to release a Detailed Statement of Sale before holding a lease sale, which could occur as early as this fall.
“In identifying Alternative B as the preferred leasing scenario, which offers the most land for leasing with the fewest restrictions and protections, BLM completely disregards the critical importance of “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” to the Gwich’in Nations inherent and human rights. No amount of money can ever justify what is taking place here and anyone who says different is merely using their office or systems to craft complex excuses on a simple matter. It is time the world took notice that this is a human rights crisis.” Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation
“It is extremely disheartening to think a lease sale could occur this year based on the findings of BLM’s rushed and inadequate environmental review process that failed to identify these lands as the life blood of the Gwich’in Nation. The Gwich’in will continue to stand united with all of our allies to do whatever we can to delay a lease sale from occurring and we will not stop in this work until the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is permanently protected from oil and gas exploration and development. In 1988 the Gwich’in were directed by the Elders to work in a good way until this sacred place is protected and we will listen to our Elders and not give up.” Grand Chief Bobbie Jo Greenland- Morgan, Gwich’in Tribal Council
For media inquiries please contact:
Vuntut Gwitchin Government
Policy, Negotiations, and Communications Specialist
Gwich’in Tribal Council
- Letter dated October 21, 2019 from Vuntut Gwitchin Government to BLM regarding Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
- Letter dated October 1, 2019 from Vuntut Gwitchin Government to BLM regarding Transboundary Impacts Analysis in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
- Letter dated March 14, 2019 from Vuntut Gwitchin Government to BLM regarding Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program.
- Submission dated March 13, 2019 from Gwich’in Tribal Council to BLM on Comments on Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Leasing EIS).