Alaska tribes recognize one of ours for Yukon Flats work

Gwich'in Nation flag.

This past summer, the Wilderness Society Alaska office and our Native Alaskan partners had reason to celebrate: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intent to choose the “no action alternative” in its upcoming final decision for the proposed Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge land exchange in Alaska.

The Wilderness Society Alaska office works closely with Native Alaskans and Tribal organizations to help ensure that local voices are heard. Recently, TWS Acting Alaska Regional Director Nicole Whittington-Evans attended the Tribal Membership Annual Meeting for the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in tribe in Fort Yukon on Nov. 14 to mark the Yukon Flats victory and celebrate a great partnership effort. In a memorable event, the Tribal Council recognized Nicole and The Wilderness Society for leading a coalition made up of conservation and tribal groups that fought the Yukon Flats Land Exchange.

Among the groups that were most active in commenting on the Yukon Flats exchange were the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwichin Tribal Council and other tribes from the Yukon Flats region, as well as the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council. Working with these groups, and other conservation partners, we helped to educate the Fish and Wildlife Service about climate change and other potential impacts to the fish, wildlife and subsistence resources of the refuge.

From right to left, First Chief Michael Peter, Nicole Whittington-Evans, and Second Chief Ed Alexander.The Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement is great news not only for the refuge and the incredible wildlife and water resources it was established to protect, but also for the native people who live within or near the boundaries of the refuge. At least for now, their way of life, which depends heavily on hunting, fishing, and gathering food directly from the land, can continue free from concerns about the impacts of oil and gas development. The Wilderness Society looks forward to working with our native partners to ensure that the final agency decision, due out this summer, remains the same.

Gwich'in Nation flag.
From left to right,
Second Chief Ed Alexander, Wilderness Society's Nicole Whittington-Evans, and First Chief Michael Peter.