Bethel tribal organization ramps up support for state predator control program aimed at protecting Mulchatna caribou herd KYUK | By Evan Erickson Published September 22, 2023 at 3:02 PM AKDT

Caribou cross the Kanektok River in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge on Aug. 25, 2009. The Mulchatna caribou herd, which ranges in the refuge, has declined sharply since the 1990s, and scientists cite numerous factors. The controversial Mulchatna predator-control campaign was conducted this spring to help boost the herd’s numbers.

Picture: Allen Miller/U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service “Caribou cross the Kanektok River in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge on Aug. 25, 2009. The Mulchatna caribou herd, which ranges in the refuge, has declined sharply since the 1990s, and scientists cite numerous factors. The controversial Mulchatna predator-control campaign was conducted this spring to help boost the herd’s numbers.”

News Story: 

Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC), the tribal organization for Bethel, has passed a resolution supporting the state’s predator control program aimed at addressing low Mulchatna caribou herd numbers in Western Alaska.

The Mulchatna herd saw a 96% decrease from a peak of 200,000 in 1997 to just 12,000 in 2017. Herd numbers have remained dangerously low since, and a hunting ban in place since 2021 has affected communities across Western Alaska.

The state’s most recent control effort was specifically aimed at increasing calf survival on the herd’s western calving grounds north of Dillingham. In a controversial move, during a 17-day period from May 10 to June 4, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) staff removed 94 brown bears, five black bears, and five wolves from the area.

The ONC resolution in support of the state also calls for the support of the Association of Village Council Presidents, which it received at the association’s annual meeting in Bethel on Sept. 21.

ONC Director of Natural Resources Alissa Nadine Rogers spoke on behalf of the resolution.

“The predator control program, it gives a chance for our calves in the calving ground where this is taking place,” Rogers said. “Bears are ripping out calves before they’re even dropped on the ground from their mothers.”

Rogers also noted the strong opposition to predator control coming from outside the region.

“There’s people in the lower 48 that are fighting very hard to remove our predator control program. In order to protect our resources and do the management we need to do, we have to stand up and let our voices be heard. This resolution does just that,” Rogers said.

From within Alaska, two separate lawsuits have been filed opposing the state’s predator control efforts, saying that the Mulchatna herd’s problems are not related to predation. The lawsuits cite habitat changes, overgrazing, the infectious disease brucellosis, and illegal hunting as key factors in the decline.

While ADF&G has acknowledged habitat and disease as factors, the agency said, “predator control is an immediate tool the department can use to attempt to reverse the herds’ decline.”

ONC will next seek to have their resolution heard by the Alaska Federation of Natives at its annual convention from Oct. 19 to 21 in Anchorage.


Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.

Announcing Winter 2023 Subsistence Programs

ONC’s Natural Resources Department is beginning our Winter Subsistence Distribution Program. We are looking for community members who are Elders, disabled, or widowed and in need of subsistence foods this winter. We can provide whitefish, ptarmigan, and pike.

ONC is also organizing the Winter Proxy Hunt Program open to Elders, disabled individuals, or widows in need of moose for the winter/spring. Individuals must be 65+, 70% disabled, legally blind, or widowed. Proxy hunters do not need to be ONC tribal members and will receive a $200 Crowley’s gas card when proxy paperwork is filed with the Department of Fish and Game.

To be added to the list of recipients for either program or to ask questions, fill out the google form or contact Nia Long at 907-545-2005 or



Request for Proposals (RFP)

Orutsararmiut Native Council

On or about December 29th, 2022, Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) will be soliciting Requests for Proposals for a Debris Removal Contractor for the Former Bethel Airport Remediation, conducted through the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP). We are seeking either one contractor or several contractors who are able to provide the following equipment and/or services: flatbed truck(s), barge(s), heavy equipment for debris removal, and laborers to perform debris removal activities. Proposals must be received by January 29th, 2023 for consideration.

RFP packets will be available for interested vendors on or about December 29th, 2022 at our office located at 117 Alex Hatley, Bethel, AK 99559, or can be requested by email at For any questions, you may contact Kylie Ford (907-543-0200, email listed above) or Mary Matthias (907-543-0522,

Preferences in the award of contracts and subcontracts shall be given to Tribal Member-owned or other Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) owned organizations or economic enterprises. Provide proof of Tribal membership or AN/AI membership for the vendor’s owner. In order to be considered for preference, proof of membership and at least 51% ownership must be submitted with the proposal.

Announcing Fall 2022 Moose Proxy Hunt

ONC Natural Resources Department is running our Fall Moose Proxy Hunt Coordination Program again this year. We are in search of:

– Individuals who are 65+, disabled (70%) OR legally blind in need of moose this season AND
-Who are enrolled ONC Tribal Members
-Proxy hunters DO NOT have to be ONC Tribal members. Anyone with a valid hunting license and ability to apply for a proxy license is eligible.
-Proxy hunters who have completed the paperwork to hunt for an elder will receive $400 Crowley fuel card. Hunters are limited to 1 proxy.
TO SIGN UP, fill out this Google Form:
Please contact Nia Long at 907-545-2005 or for more information.


Judge Finds ADEC Certification of Donlin Gold’s Water Quality Invalid & Orders Certificate Rescinded


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Judge Finds ADEC Certification of Donlin Gold’s Water Quality Invalid & Orders Certificate Rescinded

Department of Environmental Conservation told to rescind certification of Federal wetlands permit for Donlin Gold Mine because the project will violate Alaska’s environmental standards & will not adequately protect salmon habitat


Mark Springer, Orutsararmiut Native Council,; (907) 543-2608

Olivia Glasscock, Earthjustice,; (907) 586-2751

(Bethel, AK)  In a 78-page decision, handed down late Monday afternoon, Alaska Administrative Law Judge Z. Kent Sullivan issued notice of his findings in favor of Orutsararmiut Native Council that Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation was wrong to issue a Clean Water Act Section 401 Certificate to Donlin Gold because the project would not meet the State of Alaska’s water quality standards. Judge Sullivan’s findings are a recommended ruling. DEC Commissioner Jason Brune will have 45 days to decide whether to adopt the ruling.

According to the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers is required to obtain a 401 certificate from the state as part of the permitting process for the Donlin project. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Donlin Gold Project concluded, based on extensive study, that operation of the Donlin Mine would lead to violations of numerous state water quality standards for mercury and water temperature. Judge Sullivan’s findings concur with the FEIS, his conclusions include;

  1. “In this instance, reasonable assurance has not been demonstrated. It cannot be said that construction and operation of the project will result in reasonable certainty that Alaska’s water quality standards for mercury or temperature will be met. It also cannot be said that construction and operation of the project is reasonably certain to protect existing uses”.

  2. “As to mercury, the Division has failed to apply the correct standard. When the correct standard is applied, state water quality standards for mercury will undeniably be exceeded by the project in numerous locations, in many instances by a significant degree”.

  3. “As to temperature, as the FEIS properly concludes, water temperatures in the main stem of Crooked Creek are likely to be impacted by the removal of riparian buffers, wetlands and mine operations, including pit dewatering and the resulting cone of depression. All of these will combine to increase temperatures and, as a result, it cannot be said that construction and operation of the project is reasonably certain to avoid exceedance of state water quality standards for temperature”.

  4. “when the area of impact from the project is scrutinized, it is obvious that the overwhelming majority of the salmon productivity from that segment of the main stem of Crooked Creek will be eliminated. In the absence of mitigation or other compensatory measures, it cannot be said under these circumstances that the protection of existing uses is reasonably certain to occur”.

“Orutsararmiut Native Council Executive Director Mark Springer noted, “This decision by Judge Sullivan demonstrates that the concerns of the People of the Kuskokwim River surrounding development of the Donlin Prospect were, and are legitimate. We knew from the beginning that DEC erred in their hasty issuance of the 401Certificate, and we encourage Commissioner Brune and the Administration to take to heart the conclusions contained in this Proposed Decision, and ensure protection of salmon streams otherwise slated for destruction as well as the additional, noted, long term environmental impacts on the Kuskokwim River drainage and the communities within it.”

“Sovereign Tribal governments have a responsibility for the health and welfare of their citizens, lands, and self-governance. There is nothing more important to Kuskokwim communities and their people than maintaining the subsistence way of life that has sustained them through millennia. This way of life depends integrally upon the salmon and smelt of the Kuskokwim River and its tributaries. The Donlin prospect which is located upstream from these communities, if developed, would be a direct threat to water quality, to the many fish that traverse these waters, and to the Kuskokwim way of life.” Springer added.

“With the decision that DEC cannot assure water quality standards will be met, the Commissioner should adopt the recommended ruling, vacate the certificate, and notify the Army Corps that the project is no longer certified by the state of Alaska and the 404 permit should be revoked.” said Olivia Glasscock, Earthjustice attorney representing Orutsararmiut Native Council.

Within a year of former President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint Record of Decision with the Bureau of Land Management authorizing the key Clean Water Act permit required for the Donlin Gold project. That approval was granted despite the fact that the Environmental Impact Statement revealed major environmental impacts including the destruction of salmon spawning habitats and releases of mercury into the air and water far in excess of Alaska’s standards.  For example, according to the Final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the Army Corps, it is anticipated that if the mine is developed there will be a 40% increase in mercury deposition to surface waters near the mine.  Additionally, the Fish Habitat permits issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game without public notice or process authorize Donlin to permanently eliminate stream reaches that support Chinook, Coho, Sockeye and Chum salmon or as the permits themselves state: result in  “altered or eliminated” habitat, “fish passage… would be eliminated,” and would reduce or eliminate flow of water from headwaters to the mouth of these streams.

13 Tribal Governments, the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, and the Association of Village Council Presidents were joined by the National Congress of American Indians in passing resolutions of opposition to the Donlin project.


Deb Haaland Confirmed as 1st Native American Secretary of the Interior

**Article reposted from NPR. Link to article here.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., is sworn in before her Senate confirmation hearing to be interior secretary last month. Her confirmation makes her the United States’ first Native American Cabinet secretary. Jim Watson/AP

Deb Haaland, a member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo, has become the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

The Senate voted 51-40 Monday to confirm the Democratic congresswoman to lead the Interior Department, an agency that will play a crucial role in the Biden administration’s ambitious efforts to combat climate change and conserve nature.

Her confirmation is as symbolic as it is historic. For much of its history, the Interior Department was used as a tool of oppression against America’s Indigenous peoples. In addition to managing the country’s public lands, endangered species and natural resources, the department is also responsible for the government-to-government relations between the U.S. and Native American tribes.

“Indian country has shouted from the valleys, from the mountaintops, that it’s time. It’s overdue,” Sandia Pueblo tribal member Stephine Poston told NPR after Haaland was nominated.

It’s not the first time Haaland has made history. In 2018, she became one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress. Her nomination by President Biden to lead the Interior Department was celebrated by tribal groups, environmental organizations and lawmakers who called the action long overdue. But her nomination faced opposition from Republican lawmakers and industry groups that portrayed Haaland’s stance on various environmental issues as extreme.

“I’m deeply concerned with the congresswoman’s support on several radical issues that will hurt Montana, our way of life, our jobs and rural America,” said Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who worked to block Haaland’s confirmation.

As a congresswoman, Haaland was a frequent critic of the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda and supported limits on fossil fuel development on public lands. She opposes hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. She was also one of the first lawmakers to support the Green New Deal, which calls for drastic action to address climate change and economic inequality.

Republican lawmakers grilled her over those stances during her confirmation hearing in an effort to portray her as a radical choice to manage the nation’s public lands, but Haaland struck a moderate tone, repeatedly saying that as interior secretary she would aim to accomplish Biden’s environmental goals — not her own.

Biden has not supported the Green New Deal or bans on fracking, and he has taken a more balanced approach to fossil fuel development on public lands. He put a temporary pause on new oil and gas leases on federal lands while his administration reviews the broader federal leasing program.

“There’s no question that fossil energy does and will continue to play a major role in America for years to come,” Haaland said during her confirmation hearing, before adding that climate change must be addressed.

Haaland has called the climate crisis the “challenge of our lifetime,” and as interior secretary, she’ll play a key role in the Biden administration’s efforts to address it. Biden has pledged to make America carbon neutral by 2050, an effort that would require massive changes to the industrial, transportation and electricity sectors.

The Interior Department manages roughly one-fifth of all land in the U.S., as well as offshore holdings. The extraction and use of fossil fuels from those public lands account for about one-quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The department has a role in harnessing the clean energy potential of our public lands to create jobs and new economic opportunities,” Haaland said during her confirmation hearing. “The president’s agenda demonstrates that America’s public lands can and should be engines for clean energy production.”

Science and Culture Camp Applications are LIVE!!!

ONC will be hosting the Science & Culture Camp this summer for Lower Kuskokwim School District high school students (grades 9 – 12, including incoming 9th graders in the fall of 2021 and seniors who graduate in the spring of 2021)!

The camp is free and will take place July 22 -August 1, 2021. Apply at the link below by April 30 or contact Katie Russell, biologist in the ONC Fisheries department, at or 5456001 for a paper application!

The google form application is available here!

May be an image of 1 person and outdoors

Fast-41, Mining, and What It Means for the YK-Delta

So what is the Fast-41 Act? 

FAST-41 stands for Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act. Therefore, currently covered projects must:

    • involve construction of infrastructure,
    • require authorization or environmental review by a Federal agency,
    • are subject to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA),
    • are likely to require a total investment of more than $200 million, and
    • do not qualify for an abbreviated environmental review and authorization process.

Ok, but what does that mean?

It means that typically, FAST-41 applies to the following sectors: conventional energy production, renewable energy production, electricity transmission, surface transportation, aviation, ports and waterways, water resource projects, broadband, pipelines, and manufacturing.

Where can I find more information on FAST-41?

Here is a link to a FAST-41 fact sheet.

So what’s up with mining?

Mining has more harmful impacts than any of the currently covered sectors. Mining produces vast quantities of waste, including toxic waste, that must be managed in perpetuity. Even with modern mining technology, chronic seepage and sudden accidental releases to the environment are the norm, and are likely to increase as mining companies develop increasingly lower grade deposits. Every mine and mine location is unique, posing technical challenges that can sometimes take a very long time to analyze, through no fault of a permitting agency.

All of this suggests that we need more rigorous, flexible permitting to reduce the damage and public costs imposed  by mining. This would not be achieved by admitting mining to the FAST-41 Act that is designed to make permitting quicker.

It is also noteworthy that there is no competing need to speed up permitting. Surveyed mining companies report that the US is already among the most attractive jurisdictions in the world to invest in mining. Mine permits on federal lands take an average of just two years to complete, which is competitive with other developed countries’ permitting timelines. When federal permitting is delayed, research shows that those delays are most often due to either a lack of information from the project proponent or a lack of agency resources, neither of which FAST-41 is designed to address.

Further, before the Council can add mining as a covered sector, which is a far-reaching proposal that would have “substantial direct effects” on Indian tribes, the Council must conduct meaningful government-to-government consultation with all potentially affected Tribal governments. The Council must also evaluate the proposal’s potential to disproportionately affect minority and low-income populations.

What Comments have been made?

On December 28, 2020, a letter was sent to the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council in Washington DC. It was signed by at least 46 independent nonprofit, scientific, and indigenous groups with the intention of stopping mining from being added to the FAST-41 Act. The reasons listed were:

    • A rigorous and flexible approach to mine permitting is essential.
    • Mine permitting is already prompt.
    • FAST-41 contains provisions that would undermine rigorous and careful permitting of mines.
    • The Pebble Mine is a prime example of why FAST-41 should not cover mining.
    • Adding mining as a covered sector required additional process.

From the letter, “Our organizations have significant experience with the federal permitting processes for mines and how those mines affect communities and the environment. We are lawyers, scientists, grassroots organizers, policy consultants, and environmental specialists working to combat harmful environmental, economic, social, cultural,  and health impacts of mining and promote sustainable solutions. Collectively, we represent members, constituents, and clients across the nation who are on the front lines of the mining industry’s worst impacts– which are too often rooted in a rushed, inadequate permitting process” (Page, 2).

The letter can be accessed here and contains detailed explanations for each argument.

Did the Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council Respond?

Yes, they did. In summary, they ignored all concerns submitted in the letter. The Council voted to add mining as a sector with infrastructure projects eligible for coverage under the FAST-41 Act. This will effectively allow qualified mining infrastructure projects to become FAST-41 covered projects. This will help Federal agencies coordinate their environmental review efforts to improve the timeliness, efficiency,  predictability, and transparency of the decision-making processes associated with covered mining projects. To read more on the response letter, you can access it here.

Another helpful article can be found here.

So, what now?

At risk groups are currently huddled trying to determine what next steps should be taken. The Biden-Harris administration may also be able to roll-back the decision when they take office. More information should be coming soon. If you are interested in getting more involved in this fight, let us know!

Funding and Opportunities (as of January 11)

Applications for the Gather Food Sovereignty Grant are open until January 14th at 3pm AK time. This opportunity is targeting emerging projects that focus on developing Tribal Food Sovereignty.  Through the first round of the grant, First Nations expects to award up to 13 grant awards of approximately $32,000 to support Native American-led food sovereignty work.

The BIA has released Requests for Proposals for the Fisheries, Wildlife & Recreation Programs. Projects will be funded in four program areas: endangered species, invasive species, hatchery maintenance, and Tribal youth initiatives. Applications must be received by the Alaska regional office by January 31, 2021. Forms for all four program areas are available on the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society website who are also offering technical assistance for applicants.

Training and technical support through FEMA is available for Tribal governments interested in applying for Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Hazard Mitigation Assistance grants. The grant application period is currently open and closes on January 29, 2021 at 11am AK time. Access the BRIC and Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant funding call and webinars here.

The application deadline for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs funding for energy technology on Tribal lands is February 11th at 1pm AK time. The US Department of Energy expects to make between $10 and $15 million available for new awards under this funding opportunity. A recording of a webinar providing guidance is available on the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs website.

Applications are open for UAF Research Experience for Undergraduates until February 15th. Two tracks are available including one open to undergraduates with Alaska Native heritage with an interest in oceanography in the Gulf of Alaska. Funding support from the U.S. National Science Foundation includes a stipend.