VOICE responds to press conference on 2018 budget resolution, ANWR


POINT HOPE, Alaska -- Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat (VOICE) is deeply disappointed by today’s joint press conference, held by a half dozen democratic senators and several NGOs, pleading for permanent protection of the 1002 area of ANWR from oil and gas exploration.

In April, Sens. Bennet and Markey’s bill to designate the last remaining sliver of ANWR as wilderness, and preclude any future development in the 1002 area, was crafted and proposed without any consultation with the Native Iñupiat. Today’s press conference was void of the same basic consideration and is just the latest example of lawmakers prioritizing the well-being of animals over the well-being of local indigenous people.

“As ANWR debates occur, the views of the Iñupiat who call the area home are often times left out. The wishes of the people who live in and around the refuges' coastal plain are frequently drowned out by people who live hundreds and even thousands of miles away, many of whom have never bothered to set foot anywhere near the Arctic,” said Matthew Rexford, president of Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation.

“The 1002 area of ANWR resides in our backyard and is entirely within our homeland, which gives the Iñupiat a unique perspective in the debate to allow drilling there. The oil and gas industry supports our communities by providing jobs, business opportunities and infrastructure investments; and has built our schools, hospitals and provided other basic services most Americans take for granted. Our region recognizes its importance to our local and state economy, and we believe that development can be done responsibly, as it has in the Arctic for the last 40 years.”

Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat, an organization with 20 members from across the Arctic Slope region – including members from Kaktovik residing inside ANWR – voted unanimously in August to pass a resolution supporting oil and gas development in the 1002 area. The resolution represents an unprecedented show of unity from the community leaders of the North Slope, those who live in and around the coastal plain of the refuge, and should send a very clear message to America – we support the development of a portion of the coastal plain of ANWR.

“Unfortunately, the negative rhetoric surrounding drilling in ANWR has not kept pace with scientific and technological advances in the oil and gas industry. While the argument against exploration in the 1002 has remained unchanged for decades, techniques have Arctic Slope Native Association City of Anaktuvuk Pass City of Point Hope Native Village of Atqasuk Olgoonik Corporation Arctic Slope Regional Corporation City of Atqasuk City of Wainwright Native Village of Point Lay Tikigaq Corporation Atqasuk Corporation City of Utqiaġvik IỊisaġvik College North Slope Borough Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation Native Village of Kaktovik Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation Nunamiut Corporation Native Village of Point Hope Wainwright Tribal Council advanced dramatically to enhance the safety and efficacy of production,” said John Hopson, Jr.

“Multi-lateral wells, directional drilling and extended reach wells are just a few of the advanced technologies that have resulted in a much smaller land footprint and minimum environmental impact.”

VOICE respects the Gwich’in view and opinion on ANWR exploration, and we readily acknowledge that we share an important subsistence resource in the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Just as our Gwich’in brethren to the southeast are culturally tied to the herd, the protection of that resource is equally important to the Iñupiat.

Exploration in the 1002 area is being proposed strictly as a seasonal effort, with drilling taking place during the winter months. The Porcupine Herd leaves the coastal plain in July shortly after calving season and heads east and south back to its fall and wintering areas – approximately 400 mi away. To suggest that winter-specific exploration will negatively affect the herd’s summer calving season is contrary to logic and unsupported by science.

“For decades our people, land and resources have been used as political bargaining chips and environmental fundraising tools by people who have never been to the Arctic. Lawmakers and special interest groups cite the wildlife and pristine environment when talking about ANWR, but they forget about the thousands of Iñupiat who also call it home,” said Sayers Tuzroyluk, president of VOICE.

“Voice of the Arctic Iñupiat believes in a healthy balance between development and conservation, and strongly supports the inclusion of language in the FY 2018 budget resolution that could allow for responsible development of the 1002 area.”

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