Alaska Native tribes thank Biden administration for stopping Trump-era mining project

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The 211-mile project would have cut through the second-largest national park in the United States.

A coalition of Alaska Native tribes this week praised President Joe Biden's administration for suspending plans to construct a 211-mile road servicing mining interests that would have cut a path through Alaska.

Former President Donald Trump's administration approved the project, which would have serviced the Ambler Mining District in Alaska, in 2020.

"The 200+ mile Ambler road represents a fundamental threat to our people, our subsistence way of life, and our cultural resources," Brian Ridley, president of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, said in a statement on Tuesday. "We believe any objective review of the full impacts of this project, including the mining that it would facilitate, would demonstrate that constructing this road through the heart of our traditional lands would be a terrible idea."

Frank Thompson, First Chief of Evansville, Alaska, said, "We therefore thank the Biden administration for standing up for our people and our right to continue to live on these lands with our resources intact."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice acted on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior to petition the U.S. District Court in Alaska to suspend the federal rights-of-way for the mining road. In its filing, the department cited "significant deficiencies" in the "underlying analyses" made by the Trump administration in first approving the project.

The filing follows Biden's day one executive order that blocked drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Alaska's Native tribes raised concerns that the proposed Ambler mining road would have cut through native caribou habitats in the region and would have disrupted the spawning patterns of the area's salmon and whitefish populations. The road would have crossed the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve — the second-largest national park in the United States.

In 2020, the Tanana Chiefs Conference sued the Trump administration over its approval of the project, arguing that the federal review of the possible environmental impact of the road's construction was "rushed" and "flawed." The tribes also argued in their lawsuit that the approval minimized concerns about the project's health effects for people and wildlife in the region.

Despite the native Alaskans' serious concerns about the project, the state's Republican congressional delegation — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young — all supported the Trump administration's decision. Gov. Mike Dunleavy also supported the project.

Murkowski, Sullivan, and Young all decried Tuesday's filing by the Biden administration.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.