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Episode 92: Presidential politics — Alaska rides a wave of change

By KTVA Alaska 6:01 PM January 29, 2017

When you consider the federal government is Alaska’s largest landowner, it’s easy to understand why U.S. presidents have had such a big impact on our state.

One of the earliest examples was Dwight Eisenhower’s reluctant support of statehood. Later, Richard Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which cleared the way for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Jimmy Carter championed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which locked up more than 100 million acres for conservation. About half of the land was set aside for wilderness. That angered protesters in Fairbanks so much that they burned a straw effigy of Carter.

Presidents have also weighed in on the federal government’s relationship with Alaska tribes. Amid state claims that tribes have no standing in Alaska, Bill Clinton’s deputy Interior Secretary Ada Deer recognized 229 tribes in Alaska. George W. Bush, in an executive order expressing the desire to work with tribes, also included Alaska tribes.

Native activists say Barack Obama did more than his predecessors to strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Alaska tribes.

Given our state’s history, President Donald Trump will undoubtedly make his mark. The question is, how?

Will his administration usher in a boom in offshore oil drilling and strengthen Alaska’s role in the Arctic? Or will he set back efforts to help coastal communities struggling with climate change? Alaska tribes also worry if the new administration will interfere with their rights, under ANILCA, to subsist on federal lands.

In this week’s show we take a look at some of those issues. Here are some of the highlights:

  • PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS – A number of Alaskans weigh in on the impact of a Trump presidency, including former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Heather Kendall Miller, a longtime attorney for the Native American Rights Fund. We also hear from Alannah Hurley, director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay.
  • CLIMATE CHANGE – Former state lawmaker Beth Kerttula joins us from Juneau to talk about her work in the Obama administration as director of the National Ocean Council.
  • EASTERN INTERIOR LAND-USE PLAN – We travel to communities of Chalkyitsik and Fort Yukon, which just inked a two million-acre land-use plan with the Bureau of Land Management. The agreement was eight years in the making, but as a new administration takes the reins of the U.S. Interior Department, nothing is certain. Kristi Williams, an attorney who specializes in tribal government, is a guest on the show, along with Suzanne Little of Pew Charitable Trusts. Williams is an Athabascan with roots in Fort Yukon.

A land-use plan sounds like a potentially dry topic, but in remote places like Chalkyitsik and Fort Yukon, accessible by only boat, snowmachine and airplane, it’s mind-boggling. The issues are fascinating. This discussion is definitely an armchair adventure. It reminds us that Alaska is still a Frontier in so many ways.

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