Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation chief Dana Tizya-Tramm (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation chief Dana Tizya-Tramm (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

VGFN reacts to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil and gas leases being suspended

Will continue to seek permanent protection of caribou calving grounds

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm says the First Nation will continue to seek permanent protection of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Tizya-Tramm made the statement a day after the U.S. Department of the Interior announced oil and gas leases in ANWR would be suspended, pending an environmental analysis of the coastal plain oil and gas-leasing program being completed.

“We are grateful for yesterday’s news which will ensure that no work proceeds on leases of our sacred lands which were unlawfully granted,” Tizya-Tramm said. “While this is welcome acknowledgment that the environmental review conducted was rushed and inadequate, it still does not right the wrongs that allowed a lease sale to proceed in the first place.”

It was noted that nine oil and gas leases for Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, also known as the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, were issued in the final days of the Trump administration.

Then on President Joe Biden’s first day in office, a temporary moratorium was placed on activities around the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program. That was done through an executive order, which cited alleged legal deficiencies underlying the program, including the inadequacy of the environmental review.

The suspension announced June 1 means that the leases issued will remain in place, but no action can be taken on them, until a new environmental review is done.

The Vuntut Gwitchin describe it as an important step forward for the short term, but note legislative action is needed for the long-term.

“For decades we have warned what will happen if drilling is allowed in the calving grounds of Vadzaih (caribou) and have worked tirelessly to ensure that drilling does not proceed, but until these lands are permanently protected through legislation, our work will not stop,” Tizya-Tramm said. “Hai’ President Biden and Secretary Haaland for taking this next step. We look forward to your continued support as we seek permanent protections.”

(Stephanie Waddell)

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation

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