A Political History of Alaska
Categorizing stakeholders is inherently subjective. Each category above, through similarity, could easily be amalgamated with others; but each could also just as easily be divided into smaller categories along internal fault-lines. My categorization reflects the scope through which I will here recount the political history of Alaska: I will analyze the important, complex relationships and struggles that have formed Alaskan politics, while avoiding those internal divisions that, while interesting in their own right, have not played a major role in defining the state as a whole.
Detailed histories of these stakeholders, and the internal divisions thereof, have been recorded and analyzed in many, various books and papers, by widely differing authors, many of which I will mention along the way for those readers interested in a particular issue or issues. But my focus in this paper will be on how Alaskan politics have been formed not by any one of these stakeholders alone, but by the complex relationship between all the stakeholders of this vast and diverse land. I will pay particular attention to those moments in Alaska’s history when conflict arose between its stakeholders, when the political lines of division between them were drawn and redrawn, when the history of some inadvertently, or intentionally changed the history of others, in order to eventually analyze the changes that still need to occur.
The first such moment, and thus the first section of my paper, begins with the arrival of westerners to Alaska, the last uncharted land on the map. After this re-discovery of all the myriad bounty and splendor this region had to offer, opinions on how those resources should be used or preserved, and by whom, instantly multiplied and conflicted. Since this – the history of Alaskan stakeholders – is so inevitably entwined with differing world views, I will also track the history of economic thought that has applied to The Last Frontier.
Part 1: Nature Turns State
Millions of years ago, the shifting of the tectonic plates caused land upheavals in Alaska that created several majestic mountain ranges, culminating in the highest peak in North America, Denali, the high one, and brought forth mineral reserves including oil, copper, zinc, and gold, which bejeweled the mountains. The collection and recession of ice to the poles created glaciers in Alaska, which carved channels and distributed fresh, frigid, aqua-blue water through these mountains. These famed, gold-carrying rivers supported a complex ecosystem of rich forest floors and teeming aquatic life, culminating in massive, two-thousand year old Sitka Spruce trees, the largest salmon runs in the world, and Brown Bears that are so large they require a separate scientific classification despite being genetically identical to Grizzlies.
For millions of years, the stakeholders in this environment – the bacteria, the insects, the fauna, and the wildlife – maintained a stable balance. Humans arrived to the land from Russia across a temporary land bridge, but even then, for thousands more years, the region had relatively no internal conflicts among its stakeholders. The human settlements that arose there remained in a constant state of organic fluctuation. While they relied heavily on the land, hunting and fishing for subsistence, and forging homes in the extreme conditions of the landscape, they had very little impact on the natural world because they were insular and self-sustaining, with stable populations, despite life spans longer than it is today, as with many displaced, indigenous groups (Discovery, 322).
This sustainable model was the only opinion on optimum land usage in Alaska until 1725. That year, Alaska became the last piece of land discovered by the peculiar era of European exploration now commonly referred to as the Age of Imperialism. Long after the minute rivers of Africa were mapped, Alaska remained a heart of darkness – a black splotch on the world organizing charts of these nation building explorers – which, magnet-like, lured the Russians across the Pacific.
Peter the Great, in particular, made it his mission to illuminate this last section of the globe, deploying fleets of ships to that end. He died before his goal was realized, but shortly thereafter, under the command of his wife, Empress Catherine, Captain Bering, whose passage is now named after him, did reach the shores of Alaska. There, he found unparalleled beauty, seemingly limitless natural resources, and, of course, an existing, thriving culture of people, living in harmony with it all (Gruening, 9-22). For Bearing, and Russia, and most of the western world’s paradigm of thought at the time, the two former “discoveries” trumped the latter.
With the Russians, a nation-building spirit and Christian religion came to Alaska that had never been there before; and both directly conflicted with the ways of life that had existed there for millennia. The nation building explorers had little respect for sustainable, native cultures because of their intense nation building impulse and religion. They viewed most native groups as uncivilized, lazy, and thus guilty of the sins of idleness and paganism. And so they imposed the ideals of nation states and Christianity on these people, but often did not live up to the tenets of either. The atrocities suffered by the natives at the hands of the nation building westerners in Africa, India, and the Americas are well documented.
Unfortunately, Alaska was no exception. The Russian exploration started where they landed, on Kodiak Island, the third largest island in North America, home of the famed Kodiak Brown Bear, and also the beginning of the largest temperate rainforest in the world, the Tongass, which extends all the way across southeast Alaska and into Canada. Temperate rainforests do not boast the riotous profusion of plant and animal species found in the tropics, but they accumulate and store more organic material than any other forest type on earth (Durbin, 14). The Russians would have walked among the giant Sitka Spruce trees I mentioned above, with every step sinking into the rich forest floor, which kept the marine ecosystem surrounding it rich with shellfish, halibut, and, once yearly, salmon, who pushed up its streams to spawn, nurturing the Brown Bears well beyond their average size, all of which fed the Alutiiq peoples, who mythologized it all. Here, on this island, the conflict of these differing world views became clear before the Russians even reached the mainland.
One can only imagine what the Natives thought when they saw a confused group of pale-skinned people, composed of almost all men, clumsily wandering their shores in impractically ornate attire, proud of themselves sticking flags in the ground, and then walking away.
We know exactly what the Russians thought when they saw the Alaskan Natives held up in sod igloos, mythologizing nature. Some of the more famous accounts of missionaries can be found in Alan Dick’s book, Ministry in the Alaskan Bush. The startling revelations in this book, combined with the Russian’s future abuse of Alaska’s resources without paying reparations to Alaska Natives show that the Russians saw another group of heathens underutilizing their resources and thus guilty of the sin of idleness. After two subsequent reconnaissance trips, a second Russian sailor, Captain Steller, declared Alaska a profitable new territory of Russia: Russian America, a place where natives were considered heathen, second class citizens to be taught and saved, and the natural world was seen as a series of resources to be harvested. For the first time in its history, Alaska was seen as property. It had become part of the modern economic world. And thus an increasingly complex history of conflicting stakeholders began.
The Russians immediately turned historically insular Alaska into a trading post, and an exclusively export trading post at that. The resource they thought the natives were most underutilizing was fur, so they took it. They hunted the bears, otters, seals, and every other animal with a hide valuable in their own fur trade, and took them back to their homeland to sell without asking for the consent of, or offering reparations to, the Alutiiq. While their fur trade never grew large enough to permanently harm Alaska’s ecosystem, their treatment of the land and the Natives set an awful precedent that would be passed along to the United States through the language of the Treaty of Russian Cessation to the United States.
It was the Russians who first deemed the Alaska Natives as second class citizens on their own land. The Russian Orthodox Church condemned the Aluttiq peoples, and subsequently the mainland Aleut peoples, as well, as shamanists, and dubbed all of their spiritual leaders shamans. This exacerbated the atrocities enacted on the Alaska Native by justifying the church’s goal of converting the natives to the Orthodox religion, and the goal of many Russian explorers to use Native men for slave labor and Native women as concubines. Their presence in the region had unexpected negative consequences on the Alaska Natives, as well.
In 1839, all the tribes of the lower Yukon were going through repetitive, population devastating epidemics; in 1851 the entire population of the large village at Fort Yukon (Gwichyaa Zhee) died of smallpox in just one month. Other lethal, contagious disease epidemics followed: red measles, diphtheria, and the scourge of tuberculosis. By the end of the Russian occupation, it was nearly impossible to record the state of the thriving native culture that existed for thousands of years before their arrival, and much of their myths and religions had vanished forever.
Unfortunately, this history of events is one most Americans know all too well. It is the peculiar story of another nation state’s relationship to another nation living within borders the nation state drew around them – the United State’s relationship to the Native Americans. This history has played a very important role in shaping the politics of Alaska, where nearly thirty percent of the population still identify as Native. When the Russians sold Alaska to the United States, Alaska’s politics grew increasingly complex, and the exploitation of its environment and Native peoples escalated despite the growing autonomy of the Native Americans in the rest of the nation.
Alaska was purchased by the United States for $7,200,000 on March 30, 1867 at four in the morning, after 8 hours of negotiation, when Secretary of State William H. Seward and Baron Edouard Stoeckel, Russian minister to the United States, signed the Treaty of Cession of Russian America to the United States. 8 hours later, Congress adjourned, but not before Seward pushed through the ratification of his treaty. With a two-thirds majority needed, the narrow margin of 27-to-11 senators gave Seward his ratification, and America the land that would become its forty-ninth state (Gruening, 9-22), but the circumstances surrounding the events of that March morning
are rife with controversy: first, about why Seward drafted the treaty to begin with; and second, about why Congress signed it.
All across the United States, the Russian Cessation immediately became known as Seward’s Folly, normally accompanied by one or more of these epithets for Alaska: Icebergia, Polaria, Seward’s Icebox, or Walrussia. As you may guess from those descriptions, most American’s, and virtually all of America’s press, outside of that Seward influenced, thought the purchase of Alaska was a waste of money. The New York Times declared, “Russia has sold us a sucked orange,” to the New York Herald, Alaska was, “An ice house, a worthless desert with which to enable the Secretary of State to cover up the mortification and defeats he has suffered with the shipwrecked Southern policy of Andrew Johnson.” An interesting theory, further explored in Gruening’s history.
The minority report of the House Committee on Foreign Relations concluded that, “The possession of the country is of no value…to the United States…it will be a source of weakness instead of power, and a constant annual expense for which there will be no adequate return…no capacity as an agricultural country…no value as a mineral country…its timber…generally of a poor quality and growing upon inaccessible mountains…its fur trade…of insignificant value,” and finally, “that the right to govern a nation…of savages in a climate unfit for the habitation of civilized men was not worthy of purchase.” And my favorite quote, by Representative Orange Ferris, R., of Glenn Falls, New York: “Of what possible commercial importance can the territory be to us? Alaska, a barren, unproductive region, covered with ice and snow…will never be populated by an enterprising people.”
Despite the lack of interest in Alaska expressed above, the sentiments therein indicate what could have inspired the nation to embrace the future state – a cost effective value to its purchase. Well, possibly ahead of their time, the senators who voted for the treaty may have been incorporating political capital into their analysis. After all, why did the House Committee on Foreign Relations write a report on the purchase before the Senate voted on it? As well, the common explanation is that political lines had been drawn.
The United States was not the first western nation to discover Alaska after Russia. Second, was Italy, who established two towns that remain today. And third, was Britain, whose Hudson Bay Trading Company, or The Company, as it was known to the Russians, had their eyes set on its fur rich resources. Britain was threatening to make Alaska part of one large province called Canada, a monarchical power Britain was hoping to establish to the north of the United States. But, in 1867, Russia was a firm ally of America’s, having been the only country, opposed to Britain and France, which supported the north in the civil war. So, the story goes, Seward convinced the senators to help out Russian, and stop the encroachment of England, ending the westward expansion of Canada at the 23rd parallel.
But for Seward, there may have been even more to the purchase. He may have had his own figures as to the cost effectiveness of purchasing Alaska, which he may have shared with Senator Sumner, the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, who, despite being staunchly opposed to U.S. acquisition of territory without the clear consent of its inhabitants, brought the matter to his board. His is the only speech given to the Senate in favor of purchasing Alaska that survives posterity, and in it, he says, “Upon this brilliant achievement which adds so vast a territory to our Union; whose ports, whose mines, whose waters, whose furs, whose fisheries, are of untold value.” Or as Seward himself put it in an interview, “It’s fur trade, fisheries and probable minerals are of immense value…A want of knowledge of its resources can account only for any opposition to the ratification of the treaty.”
Or, simply, gold had been discovered in Alaska in 1860, and we purchased it in 1867; we purchased it for $7,200,000, and today it contributes more than $50,000,000,000 to America’s GDP, every year. And so the second, greater stage of Alaska’s exploitation began.
With this stage being based on such a clear political and economic premise, it was inevitable that Alaska’s land would continue to be used to profit those who controlled it, but the question of who controlled it was now more complex: there were many more stakeholders involved, and the power difference between them was not so stark as between the Russians and the Natives.
The Battle For Statehood
Alaska was now home to Russians, Italians, Brits, and, of course, Americans flooding north in search of wealth and seclusion. Many were still trading fur, thousands were mining, building shanty towns deep in the mountains, independent loggers were reclusively harvesting the heart of the Tongass, fishermen began migrating north in search of the world’s last productive salmon runs, and a group of businessmen grew up around these industries. But as each of them became profitable, large corporations from the lower 48 continuously stepped in and took over, using these Alaskans as labor, but taking most of their profits with them, out of the state. Alaska’s businessmen tried to protect their own interests, but the federal government primarily supported its nation’s large businesses.
As each of these industries became most economically promising, Alaska’s businessmen tried to use them to petition the federal government to grant the province Statehood, so Alaska’s resident and infrastructure could benefit from its resources, but the federal government and the Outside businesses profiting off Alaska continuously stood in their way. This frames the battle that took place as a struggle over economic resources with pro-development Alaskans on one side and Outside businesses and the federal government on th other – a battle that continued through the rise and fall of Alaska’s three main extractive industries – fish, timber, and oil – until Statehood.
Alaska Natives and the Fight for Statehood
Of course, while this war waged on, more and more natives were being displaced, and Alaska’s land was being further abused. During this time, sports hunters and fishers and conservationists began advocating for the land, by trying to slow development, but they found that the only way to do so was to get Alaska Statehood, so they joined the side of the pro-development Alaskans. Meanwhile, the Natives were fighting for their own rights to the land. Some had already caught the nation building spirit and wanted to exploit their resources for their own profit, but some wanted to save their land in order to preserve their traditional culture. America’s laws protecting the right of the Native Americans of the lower 48 should have entitled them to a say over Alaska’s political future, but both pro-development and pro-conservation Natives found that Alaska’s lack of Statehood was a hurdle in their way, as well. So Alaska Natives found themselves battling for their national rights along side the conservationists, who, in an uneasy alliance, were wary of the pro-development Natives, and the pro-development Alaskans, who objected to any form of reparations. While the fight for Alaskan Statehood, through its various extractive industries raged on, Alaska Natives tried to sort out the odd history of the state’s relationship to its native people.
And the relationship between Native American’s and the United States federal government had come a long way by the Cessation of Russian America, but it had come slowly. The only mention in the U.S. constitution of the thriving Native population within its boarders was that Congress would, “regulate Commerce with the Indian tribes.” While this was the only policy on Native American rights, genocide and forced migration occurred on an atrocious scale. Since European occupation, the Native population has fallen by between 50 and 90 percent, depending on the estimate you cite, because of diseases, loss of land, and extermination funded by the U.S. government to facilitate travels to the west of the continent, such as the infamous “small pox blankets.” The Natives were also driven off almost all of their naturally rich lands, and forced onto the most barren parts of the continent to accommodate the extraction of America’s bounteous natural resources.
It was not until 1831 that the United States’ relationship to its Native people was addressed by a juror of any stature. In that year, it was Chief Justice John Marshall who concluded that the relationship of the Federal Government to the Native peoples resembles (is not, but resembles), that of a ward to his guardian. Explaining the attitude of the Native to the United States, he said:
They look to our government for protection; rely upon its kindness and its power; appeal to it for relief of their wants; and address the president as their great father. They and their country are considered by foreign nations, as well as by ourselves, as being so completely under the sovereignty and dominion of the United States, that any attempt to acquire their lands, or to form a political connection with them, would be considered by all as an invasion of our territory and an act of hostility.
and went on to explain the unique internal sovereignty principal of the Native communities as:
distinct, independent political communities…and the settled doctrine of the law of nations is, that a weaker power does not surrender its independence – its right to self-government – by associating with a stronger, and taking its protection. A weak state, in order to provide for its safety, may place itself under the protection of one more powerful, without stripping itself of the right of government, and ceasing to be a state.
The relationship is thus explained as one in which a stronger government supports a weaker government (Case, 1), which, on the surface, seems more like a contemporary form of imperialism in which stronger nations support weaker nations as long as the government of the weaker nation governs for the good of the stronger nation. And America’s relationship to its First Nation functions very similarly, except that the United States still physically occupies much of the land that was once the Native American’s – a remnant of classical imperialism.
And while America made the change to a less physical type of imperialism, giving Natives autonomy in their foreign courts and language, that remnant of classical imperialism affected Native relations: as legislation, bills, and executive orders were passed in favor of Native autonomy, their lands were still physically exploited by the United States, its people, and its business.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Alaska, where the most atrocious practices of this mindset were enacted well into the 20th century, where, in the last 100 years, in the last three generation, Natives have gone from being almost wholly excluded from legislation, like a politically powerless minority living under a majority ruled nation state, to a population with legal rights that amounted to no real tender, to a population coming to terms with wielding a power given to them in a foreign language, through foreign laws, by people controlling them on their own land: a plight that can be observed in all Native American populations.
In the Treaty of Cessation of Russian America to the United States, the Natives were mentioned in a similar capacity as they were mentioned in the constitution – as another aspect of the purchase (Gruening, 41). Along with the land and its resources, authority over the Natives was to trade hands between the Russians and the Americans. However, Chief Justice Marshall had written his above statement by this time, so, in theory, it should have been like adopting another ward. But the federal government, based on the words of the constitution, still held plenary power over the Natives concerning all economic matters, which essentially meant they could settle any Native claim by relating whatever matter it regarded, back to an economic base. The fact that the European descendents were much better versed in their own laws, and that virtually all dealing in a capitalist paradigm do affect the economy, would have made doing so an easy task for the federal government. Thus the interpretation of wardship changed from Native claim to Native claim, and from administration to administration, so much so that most Natives were actually dependent on state laws, which only applied to a certain type of Natives.
Before the 20th century, there was a legal distinction between “civilized” and “uncivilized” Natives. “Civilized” Natives – those that became U.S. citizens were given all the rights of all other citizens, but were not exempt from Indian Law (i.e. they could still be tried by Indian courts, which non-Native American’s could not). “Uncivilized” Natives – those that were not U.S. citizens, typically those that were members of tribes – fell only under state laws, and the federal plenary power (Case, 6).
Since Alaska did not become a state until 1959, Alaska Natives could not become U.S. citizens, and were thus all classified “uncivilized” by the federal government. As a result, they should have been dealt with primarily by state law. But Alaska was not yet a state.
In the continental United States, building on the words of the constitution and Marshall’s statement of wardship, Congress provide Natives with chunks of land to use as reservations, on which they could govern themselves without the interference of state or federal governments. One limitation to their autonomy was the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, which concluded that America could still use any resources they wanted from Native land, but had to pay the Natives monetary reparations. However, since Alaska was not a state, none of its land was considered “Indian Country” (Case, 6) so Alaskan Natives were given no land and no autonomy, and thus had no legal precedent to make land claims for monetary reimbursement under the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act.
Essentially, the federal government decided to treat Alaska Natives like all other residents of their Alaskan territory. This is typified in the 1884 Organic Act, which purports to protect, “Indians or other persons in Alaska in the possession of any lands actually in their use or occupation.” This is all too similar to the play ground bully rule of possession is nine-tenths of the law. As the wording indicates, no legal distinction was made between Alaskan Natives and non-Native Alaskans, and since Alaskan Natives could not become “civilized” until 1959, they were at a distinct disadvantage to non-Natives who had U.S. citizenship: they could not make claims to land, they could not run for provisional government, in fact, they could not even vote in the provisional elections. Reading it favorably, the law could have been an attempt to deter business from displacing non-Natives, but it was ineffective at this because it provided for no court or physical legal body to carry out claims.
What it did do, was give non-Natives a bullying upper-hand in disputes with Natives. It also excluded Natives from making land claims on property that was taken from them and put into use before the Organic Act was passed. This worked as a function of law because in the continental U.S. the Bureau of Indian affairs dealt with issues of discrimination, but not in Alaska. In Alaska, at that time, the Bureau of Education was in charge of Alaska Native affairs, and they could only take up claims so far as there was a distinction between Native and Non-Natives in terms of education. And the Organic Act made no such distinction.
Instead, such cases brought by Alaskan Natives were handled by the Department of the Interior, who held that Alaska Natives did not have the same relationships to the federal government as did Natives of the continental United States. According to Case, this distinction was legally cemented by the In re Sah Quah ruling in 1886, in which the U.S. government banned the Tlingit’s from practicing slavery, a decision they would not have been able to uphold if the Alaskan Natives had the same autonomy as the Natives of the continental U.S (Case, 7).
Thus the 1891 decision of Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, which gave Alaska Natives all “submerged land” within 3 miles of the Alaskan coast was hugely unprecedented, especially since this gave the Natives exclusive fishing rights to this section of water, the section in which nearly all of Alaska’s salmon are caught, despite the legal action of the powerful pacific fishery owners. However, the physical result of this legal decision set a new precedent that would continue until Statehood: legislation would be signed into law, but no real change would occur.
In 1900, James Wickersham was appointed first judge of interior Alaska by president McKinley. In 1904, in the ruling of United States v. Berrigran, Judge Wickersham, declared that non-Natives could not purchase land on which Natives were living (Case, 6). For the most part, it seems that this law was observed among Alaskans, because few cases were brought to court to this effect. But the federal government overruled the decision in several cases by authorizing purchases by the federal government. They did so by citing laws for Native Americans. This indicates another step toward the assimilation of Alaskan Natives into the laws for Natives of the continental U.S. However, all of these laws indicate a lack of autonomy for Natives, in that they could not do with the land as they pleased.
In 1905 the Nelson Act was passed, “for the education of the Eskimos, Indians, and other Natives of Alaska.” Until this time, there had been no specific regulation for the education of Natives. In fact, there had been little facilitation for the education of any Alaskans, a clear way to keep them powerless, and the one of the primary reasons many Alaskans had begun advocating for Statehood. Of course, the plight of this lack of legislation was worst for the Natives, who were almost entirely unversed in the American legal system, and also almost entirely powerless.
The Nelson Act legally empowered all Alaskans, stating that any incorporated town with a school population of twenty, “white children and children of mixed blood who lead a civilized life,” could petition the clerk of the court for a school district. Again, it was more inclusive for non-Natives than Natives, as the only Natives that were allowed to attend these schools were those “of mixed blood” who had been “civilized.”
While this law established another link between the federal government and the Alaskan Natives, acknowledging a degree of Native rights within the government of the occupying power, it also contained racial prejudices of the day that were used to manipulate the Natives. In Alaska, the “civilization issue” was settled in Davis v. Sitka School board:
But whatever the method adopted by the government in its dealings with the aboriginal inhabitants of this continent, it has always regarded him as of a benighted race, in a state of pupilage, a ward of the nation, needing care, control, protection and education and until comparatively recent years incapable of citizenship…Nor is the status of the Alaska Native materially different from that of the red men of the United States. The aboriginal tribes of Alaska and their descendants are, then, the wards of the nation as truly as are those inhabiting the states with which the government since its organization has had to deal. (Case, 14)
With this law, it was established that all Alaskan Indian affairs would be handled by the Bureau of Education, instead of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, like in the rest of the nation. The man who took up wielding this awesome power of benighting a race of men in Alaska, was Dr. Sheldon Jackson, Presbyterian Superintendent of Alaska. This marks a stage in Alaskan history, much like that of many other Native histories, where a minority population faced the decision between assimilation and exclusion. While with this decision Alaska Natives were given the right of the American Indians to become “civilized” citizens, America was clear to assert its superiority over the Native nation, and state that it only had to deal with those Natives that would become “civilized,” and, through the Sitka hearing, Alaska went so far as to say that to be “civilized,” Natives could not associate with “uncivilized” Natives. (Crazy)
Though Jackson was only superintendent for 4 years, his decisions had profound effects on Native land claims before Statehood, and still resonate in Alaskan politics today. Sheldon Jackson was one of those men, like modern evangelists who traveled deep into the horrors their governments have created in third world countries in the name of the Lord, who cared about the Natives deeply, but less on a human level, and more on a spiritual level, believing he was sent by God to save their souls. And as with modern cases of this sort of ambiguous altruism, Sheldon Jackson’s means and results are not morally clear.
Before becoming superintendent in Alaska, Dr. Jackson had been educational superintendent in the Rockies. He left that position to evangelize in Alaska, where he traveled widely, establishing schools without government funding. When he was given the position of superintendent, he was often criticized for focusing his educational efforts entirely on the Natives, which it seems he did, leaving non-Natives to their own devises – mainly the non government-affiliated schools they had established for themselves in their tradition of frontiersmen coming up from the west coast.
Jackson created thousands of small Native reserves across Alaska during his time in office. In these reserves, Natives had full legal rights to all their land and its resources, and fully federally funded schools. Clearly, the Natives with whom he worked were grateful for his support. However, he worked only with those Natives that would give up their Native languages and religions, and become citizens of the United States by becoming “civilized natives” (Durbin, 26). Because of this, many groups of Natives chose not to work with him, and thus remained very much outside of the political decision making. This is evident because up until the Indian Reorganization Act was applied to Alaska, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs took over control of Alaska Native claims from the Bureau of Education, none of the Native reserves were affiliated with reservations, and immediately after, two massive reservations were formed by two previously un-political tribes (Case, 29).
Whether he was consciously doing so or not, Jackson used a form of political persuasion to drown many Natives in western culture, creating a stark divide between Natives of Alaska that still exists today. During his time in office he used the Nelson Act to create reservations, Woodrow Wilson made all waters within 3,000 feet of shore a Native reserve (1916), and the 1926 Town site Act was passed, putting Native land claims under the Secretary of the Interior, like the rest of American Natives. But because the Bureau of Education was still in charge of all Native affairs, Sheldon Jackson was the direct overseer of all this legislation: he managed Native reindeer herding (a pet project of his, in which reindeer were imported from Canada for this purpose), decided land, fishing, and game claims. It is telling, that during this time, salmon populations, the basis of the coastal Natives, continued to decline. Then, in 1931, when Native affairs were transferred from the Bureau of Education, to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Tlingit-Haida, a group Sheldon Jackson never worked with, filled their monumental land claim for the right to sue for lost aboriginal lands, and four years later, in 1936, the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 was applied to Alaska (Case, 11).
The Tribal Self Government of the BIM described the IRA as the most significant piece of Indian legislation ever enacted by Congress. Among other things, it put a stop to further allotment of Indian lands, permitted the Secretary of the Interior to acquire new lands in trust for landless Indians or existing reserves, provided money from a revolving loan fund for economic development, and permitted Native communities to organize their governments under federal constitutions and to establish federally chartered businesses or cooperatives (Case, 11). The original draft was aimed at providing for existing reservation, and thus did not include Alaska until its 1936 amendment. In a letter discussing the amendment, then-Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes gave these three reasons for support: First, they would define Alaska “tribes” by identifying particular groups with the land they occupied; second, they would define geographic limits of jurisdiction so that Alaska Native communities could exercise powers of local governments; and third, they could enable the United States to segregate Native lands and resources, thereby preserving the “economic rights” of the Natives (Case, 69).
The first goal of the BIA in Alaska was to affiliate the thirty-eight Native groups who under Sheldon Jackson’s charge had organized by Alaska’s provisions, with reservations. They achieved this goal in 1943, withdrawing nearly 1.5 million acres for two Native Reserves, one of which encompassed the submerged waters surrounding Kodiak Island, once again entitling them to all of its salmon. With the federal government now on its side, affecting change in Alaska, it seems like the Native Alaskan were gaining political power, and moving into an era of autonomy within the United States.
But the case that cemented their equality with American Natives was one in which a member of a reservation was tried in the U.S. courts for statutory rape using an exception only applicable to Native Governments of complete political autonomy. This case seems like an odd one on which to declare Alaska Native Autonomy. It is, and it represents a broader picture of the political power of Alaskan Natives during this era – the era between the enactment of the IRA and Statehood.
During the 60 years following Pacific Fisheries v. United States, different tribes and conservationists fought for and won much more legislation to protect the rights of salmon and the Natives, including the much hailed White Act; but as we have seen, these 60 years were also the most profitable years for the Alaska Pacific Fisheries, and the most detrimental years for the Alaskan salmon population. Though Natives had rights to all submerged waters, salmon populations continued to decline, overfished by Alaskans of European descent, and profiting canneries of the lower 48, who did not pay any retribution to Alaska’s provincial government.
Alaskan Homesteaders and the Fight for Statehood
Even those displacing these Natives were feeling similar discontent with the federal government. Pro-development, non-native Alaskans were being increasingly abused by big businesses from the lower 48, and increasingly ignored by the federal government, who kept most American’s unaware of her teeming political and economic state.
America and most Americans were not quick to embrace Alaska. Even with miners flocking north, the province was not included in either of the next two federal censes. In its first 17 years under the stewardship of America, despite twenty-five bills being introduced into Congress providing for an Alaskan civil government, none were discussed on the floor, and Alaska remained wholly without government. Land could be mined, but not owned, and the only law imposed on its residents was the illegality of selling liquor to natives, which was to be upheld by naval officers stationed in San Francisco and Seattle. After the Cessation of Alaska, it was another twenty years before the nation’s land laws were made available to Alaska, twenty-three years before Congress granted representation in the limited form of a voteless delegate in the House, and twenty-nine years before a legislative branch of government was permitted Alaskans (Gruening, 47-53).
During that time, big businesses from the south took advantage of every economic opportunity that they could. Everyone has heard of the fur, the gold, the fish, the timber, the oil, but that’s just the tip of the ice berg. For example, in 1921, Kennecott Mining Corporation – a conglomeration of the Guggenheims and J.P. Morgan, became the third largest mining operation in the world, drilling into the mountainsides and laying railroads into the heart of what is now the largest nature preserve in the world, and selling the copper they mined for four cents a pound to the U.S. war effort for 36 cents a pound. After the war was over, copper prices fell, and they pulled out forever, leaving the mountains of rubble, an overgrown, rusted railroad track, and a ghost town that are still there today. What is no longer there, are the roads or bridges they let wash away, out from under, the town of families who had established themselves in Kennecott to work for them.
But Alaskans were not being silent about these atrocities. The provisional governor, Alfred P. Swineford, appointed by Grover Cleveland, started a trend kept up by many of his successors by voicing the needs of Alaska’s homesteaders, natives, and land in his annual reports. With district governors quitting on him at a record-breaking rate because of a lack of postal system 6 months out of the year and an unrealistically low pay of $950 annually, he and his successors called for the creation of a quality railroad system and schools for the natives and homesteaders, while Washington persisted in stating their original claim, that no one wanted to live up there because it was uninhabitable and the people were uncivilized – an odd thing to say with the population booming and the powerful fishing and mining industries recording record profits, and the businessmen of Alaska knew it, and so the plight of Alaska’s fishermen became the central fight for Statehood.
Alaskan Salmon and the Fight for Statehood
In 1878, the first cannery was opened in Alaska by cannery owners from San Francisco and Seattle. These owners came to Alaska after depleting their stock of salmon in less than fifty years. Upon hearing that the gold streams were full of salmon, they moved their operations north, continuing the westward migration of depletion north to the future.
Starting that year, for the next 50 years, the Alaskan canneries were the top producing canneries in the world (Browning, 30), and most powerful force in Alaskan politics (Gruening, 250). With Alaska not yet having Statehood, a political and economic pull like this may seem beneficial for all stakeholders by bringing the territory and its people more revenue, jobs, political attention and pull uncanny for most territories, but it was a double edged sword for Alaskan fishermen, and a heavy blow for Alaskan salmon.
Within five years, Alaska’s was the largest, most powerful, and most productive salmon industry in the world. And it continued to be so as the gold rush petered out. But while these fisheries accounted for the largest investment of capital, biggest annual financial yield, greatest employers of labor, largest source of territorial revenue, and most dominant factor of Alaska’s political, social, and economic life, they were not owned or run by Native or non-native Alaskans, but by cannery owners from the lower 48.
This was partly because the expense of material and research required to build a cannery was beyond that of most Alaskans, but mostly because a bill was passed by the federal government stating that 9 out of 10 boats fishing in any Alaskan salmon runs had to be vessels from the states, not Alaska. The stated justification for this bill was that it would produce more revenue for the nation. However, if this were the actual intent of the bill, it seems odd that the canary owners broke their agreements with the union workers of their lower forty-eight fisheries by hiring Alaskans and paying them far less than they would have had to pay their union workers. Indeed, this sort of collusion between the powerful cannery owners and the government was at the heart of the problem of the state remaining without senatorial representation, and the fight for Statehood.
For the fishermen, it was a simple case of exploitation. They needed jobs, the gold rush was failing, and they were financially and politically blocked from starting their own fisheries. With their union bases in the south, the canary owners did not need employees, and had a huge financial and political upper-hand in all negotiations. The cannery owners offered the homesteaders the absolute lowest pay they could, and the fishermen had no choice but to take it.
The earliest years of commercial fishing in Alaskan were the most disastrous for the salmon populations, as well. The most crude and unspecific tactics were used, and there were weak regulations. Gill nets, dragging river beds with indiscriminate nets, and blocking mouths of rivers with nets, were common practices. Regulations stated that only a certain amount of fish could be taken by boat per day, but they did not limit the amount of boats that could be out, and the allotment did not change with the size of salmon run of a given year. There were also no regulations against killing the fish that were caught above ones limit or of an undesirable species. This made Alaska’s salmon’s lives all the more difficult.
And salmon already have a very difficult life. Out of every 1000 hatchling, 100 survive the first week. From there, the elements of their habitat must be just perfect to escape to the ocean. They cannot have too much silt in the water or they will suffocate, too little and they will starve. They must have enough water movement to be pulled down stream, all the while not encountering any deadly interruptions, having sufficiently clean water all the while. 60 of every 1000 hatchlings make it to the sea. Here they live a dangerous life as there are many aquatic species that depend on them as their main dietary supplement: Salmon Sharks, Sea Lions, Ling Cod, and many others in addition to an overburdening land predator: humans. Salmon then migrate back to their rivers. 40 out of every 1000 hatchlings make it to the mouth of the river of their origin. At the time of the first Alaskan canneries, this was the most vulnerable point for the salmon: they must all enter the mouth of their river. When gill nets were allowed to be draped across the mouth of salmon’s spawning rivers, numbers were as low as 4 out of every 1000 hatchlings making it back to their rivers. At this point, two land animals still hunt them: bears and humans. If the salmon do not make it to their spot of birth before they grow too weak, they simply die without spawning. Before effective regulation, two out of every one-thousand made it back to their spawning grounds. Keep in mind: it takes a pair to create one batch of eggs, and no one batch of eggs produce 1000 hatchlings. These numbers are an average of a report done by Tarleton H. Bean, presented to the Governor in 1897. The numbers vary for each species of salmon, but it is clear that all Alaska’s species of salmon were being fished by canneries in an unsustainable manner (Gruening, 264).
All of the problems of these stakeholders were noted from the beginning by many environmentalists and politicians who cared about the state of Alaska. Commissioner M. McDonald immediately moved funds from the general appropriation to early salmon conservation acts. Tarleton H. Bean was an environmentalist who used part of this money to do the above mentioned exhaustive study on the life of the salmon. Several acts were proposed to Congress to try to stop the horrendous practices of the canneries, but few did any good. In all, twelve bills passed before the “White Act” (Gruening, 265).
This may seem like a significant number, but when the results are taken into consideration it becomes all to clear how ineffective the true representatives of Alaska were. Most of the regulations focused on a few key facts. First, the environmentalists and politicians who cared about Alaska wanted to give equal rights to Alaskan fisherman. No bill with this clause passed. Second, the environmentalists and politicians who cared about Alaska wanted to limit the number of fish that could be caught based on the size of the runs. These measures were skewed by limits created to limit the amount of time nets could be set and boats could be out. Even on this clause, no restrictions were implemented on Prince William Sound or the Cook Inlet. Some bills that passed also had regulations on what type of tackle was allowed to be used.
These last two pieces of the legislation seem like a bit of a success, however, no organization was created to enforce these laws and there was no governing body or person in charge of making sure the regulations kept up with the salmon runs. Three government officials from Alaska were charged to ensure that the laws were being upheld and report to the Department of the Interior, who would hand the case over to the Department of Justice for prosecution. if they were not. These officials were given no boats, no means of transportation across the largest land mass possessed by the United States, and there were only three of them. As Alaska’s governor put it in his report in 1897, “Can anything be more humiliating to a government officer appointed to carry out an important duty?” (Gruening, 267). This was indicative of how the federal government was treating Alaska and all Alaskans.
A large reason for the enactment of such poor restriction instead of solid ones such as Tarleton H. Bean proposed were because of cannery owners like Mr. Dorr, Mr. Moser, John S. Webb, and Aldis B. Brown, who went to all the judicial hearing with “scientific evidence” of their own. One such piece of science that Mr. Dorr quoted was, “We all know from practical experience that the great mass of fish go up in spite of anything we can do to intercept them” (Gruening, 267). As we saw from Bean’s more-than-just-practical-experience scientific study, this was just not true. Mr. Dorr also said that restrictions on the Ketchikan River would kill the industry (Gruening, 267). There are now restrictions on the Ketchikan River, and the industry thrives.
Yet practices continued on as if nothing had happened. The degradation of Alaskans continued on as if nothing had happened. And the salmon population decreased with every year. This continued for fifty years before the situation became so dire that Congress stepped in and gave the Secretary of Commerce complete control over Alaska’s fisheries (Gruening, 269). Here, Alaska’s salmon industry won Alaska one big step toward Statehood, and it was through the cries of a stakeholder whose voice is rarely heard: the natural world. As salmon levels reached near extinction during the 1920’s, Congress and even President Calvin Coolidge began to speak out against the outrage that was desecrating one of America’s greatest resources. It was this outcry for the salmon that inspired that United States to give Alaska senatorial representation, a huge step toward Statehood, which resulted in the White Act, a bill signed by Congress in order to preserve Alaska’s fisheries, but which was grossly manipulated by cannery owners, eventually ending the fishing industries run as Alaska’s main propulsion for Statehood.
The White Act of 1924 was a strong move to establish laws early conservationists such as Tarleton H. Bean had been pushing for since 1878. The bill put limits on the type of practices that could be used, banning most gill netting and salmon abuse, and limiting the amount of boats that could be fishing an area at one time. It also established limits on the lengths of time the boats could be out, the specific times they could be out, and who could man them (taking away restrictions on the number of boats allowed to be manned by Alaskans). It also set “escapement levels” to allow enough salmon to move upstream to spawn in a large enough numbers to sustain the runs. In addition, it made the penalties for breaking these laws clear and strict: the fisherman’s boat and tackle could be confiscated and/or they could be heavily fined; and it created the Bureau of Fisheries, an enforcing body with means to sufficiently uphold these laws (Browning, 46).
The nearly third of a century which followed the White Act was hailed as the Magna Carta of Fishery conservation by federal and industry officials. Yet, these laws were created by politicians pushing for Statehood, not the fishermen themselves, and thus problems continued. The cannery owners took new tactics to abuse the territory of Alaska, its people, and its resources, and an uncanny repetition of what had come before, came again.
Carefully examining the new laws that were going to be imposed on them, the cannery owners looked for loop-holes. They found two large ones that changed the way the salmon were fished and further exploited Alaska’s people and resources. First, they noticed that the cost of having one’s ship and tackle confiscated was far less when one was netting fish from shore rather then from a boat. Second, they noticed that, while there was a large enforcement body, there was still no powerful legislative body to enforce fines. The canneries simply sold their ships to Alaskan fishermen. The cannery owners continued to process and sell the fish caught on these boats, they just bought them from the fishermen (Gruening. 384). The cannery owners continued to net fish from the shore, because they could afford to lose their nets every day.
The Alaskan fishermen now had a means to earn a living. This was good. However, they were highly motivated by low prices being paid to them by the cannery owners to exceed the limits established by the White Act. Wardens could confiscate their boat and their gear upon arrest for an alleged violation. The fisherman was given the alternative of admitting guilt and agreeing on the spot to a fine, or awaiting trial, which because of the highly extended “law’s delay” because of a weak legislative body for these fines, meant losing most, and sometimes all, of the fishing season (Gruening, 385); and thus a whole year’s livelihood. There were even cases where fishermen were not over-fishing, but were charged with doing so by overzealous wardens. The fishermen chose to pay the fine rather than loose a whole year’s wages.
Specific examples of this abuse were detailed in a long letter to Delegate Dimond by Frank A. Boyle. Boyle was a former Register of the General Land office, and an attorney who had been persuaded by the United States District Judge and fellow members of the bar to give up his private law practice to accept the United States commissionership at Juneau. His service there had brought him into a direct contact with these practices. He went as far to say that the government and the cannery owners were still working together and labeled practices of fining fishermen who were not over fishing a, “Blackmailing procedure on the part of the government” (Gruening, 385).
By this time, the General Allotment Act and Homestead act applied to the Alaska Natives, allowing them to acquire 160 acres of land, free of taxes and infringement, but these claims still had to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior, who denied any claims with access to salmon runs or mineral deposits. Natives also had no say over how the rest of the land or resources were used throughout the rest of the state, gravely devastating their ancient culture (Case, 8). Having no option, they retreated in-land, using salmon only marginally. As the fisheries began to lower the salmon population, the livelihood of the natives was vitally affected. It was harder for them to fish because the numbers of fish were diminishing. Native suicide rates continued to climb. Today, with the salmon populations almost gone, the native population is restricted mostly to in-land reservation and they have the highest suicide rate of any group of people in the nation. The Alaskan natives were not just tied to the salmon as a source of food; for Alaskan natives, the salmon were a source of spirituality, of culture.
In the midst of this political mess, a species of life was being lost forever. The fishermen in boats were still over-fishing, although paying a price. The cannery owners were operating nets from the shore, discarding unwanted species of salmon and disregarding the amount that needed to go upstream to sustain the life that they only saw as a profit. The number of salmon that survived to spawn in their place of birth continued to decrease every year that the White Act was in place (Gruening, 387): fewer and fewer eggs were laid; fewer and fewer hatchlings made it to the sea; fewer and fewer made it back to their spawning grounds. A whole life-cycle was being damaged, and with it, a whole ecosystem. The animals that depended on them – Salmon Sharks, Sea Lions, Ling Cod – undoubtedly suffered. Without enough hatchlings to eat the organic matter in the water, nitrogen builds up and algae blooms kill all stream life. The White Act did little to help the natural world of Alaska.
For fifty years before the White Act and thirty years after it (eighty years) the people and natural world of Alaska were exploited by canneries from the states, in combination with the federal government. A race of people, a group of people, a species of animal and all that they affected were being exploited, and all laws being passed through the provincial government to stop these exploitations were being skewed or manipulated by big businesses from the states and the federal government. The only way for Alaska to obtain the power to protect its closest stakeholders, as Ernest Gruening fiercely agues for in his book, was to become a state. Ironically, the main reason Congress sighted for denying Alaska Statehood, was a lack of long-term economic value. With the fish runs thinning out, and gold mines long since depleted, what else did they have?
With Alaska’s salmon runs no longer the economic catalysts that could grant Statehood, Alaska’s businessmen looked for new opportunities. These land and business owners of Alaska wanted to bring big business to the province, but also tax it to provide infrastructure and further revenue to Alaska. Representatives of the many groups included in this stakeholder met weekly for brunch meetings in Anchorage, and were thus locally dubbed the Anchorage Luncheon Investors (Strohmeyer, 24). This stakeholder wanted Statehood, and would do anything to get it.
The Luncheon Investors fought for the rights of Alaska’s fishermen while that was the center of the fight for Statehood, but they did so only because they knew the fisheries’ sustainability was key to long-term economic growth, and thus Statehood, and thus personal prosperity. But when it came to their next two ventures, their push for Statehood often came at the expense of working Alaskans.
The Tongass and the Fight for Statehood
When the salmon runs stopped working toward their ends, the Anchorage Luncheon Investors, led by one of their key members, Alaska’s Regional Forester, Howard Johnson, turned toward the Tongass forest, among whose trees the Russians first walked when they reached Alaska, where they hoped to lure pulp mills. However, by this time, most of the Tongass was, legally, firmly the property of Alaska Natives. But, as I discussed above, what was law for Alaska Natives seldom resembled what was reality for Alaska Natives, and so despite their rights to most of the Tongass, the Luncheon Investors succeeded in selling two-thirds of it to two independent pulp mills.
But even though the legal challenge of Native Rights was a small hurdle, it was not easy for the Luncheon Investors to get timber mills or oil companies interested in this land. Prior to this lull in fishing, few people had been interested in the timber and oil of Alaska. The land was still widely considered uninhabitable and unworkable. Timber mills believed the trees were too old, wet, and small to be removed for the more difficult cost it would take to get them out of the difficult terrain. And almost 200 oil wells had been drilled by Alaskans and small oil companies, and all but one, which spouted for only a day, had turned up dry; so no large oil companies had taken any interest in the land, either.
The Luncheon Investors would have had little to offer pulp mills before the American landmark year of 1953, and subsequent Alaskan landmark year of 1954. Until then, the provincial governor was Ernest Gruening, a lifelong conservationist who wrote the magnificent book from which I drew much of my research about the plight of the Alaskan salmon, The State of Alaska, a book passionately arguing for Statehood. Gruening also protected the federal lands of the Tongass, the land of oil and trees, from development.
But in 1953, Ike Eisenhower was elected president and Ernest Gruening was replaced by Frank Heintzleman, who opened the land for logging by the forest service. Then, in 1954, Eisenhower’s secretary of the interior, Douglas McKay, began selling federally protected land at twenty-five cents an acre. The Federal Governments aim in this was to use Alaska and other federally preserved lands to profit American extractive industries. And it succeeded.
The Luncheon Investors bought in bulk. However, timber interests were still timid, so the Luncheon Investors began calculating the board-value per square-foot of their land with the equation that accurately predicted that of the Northwest Redwoods, even though Alaska’s temperate forests did not grow trees anywhere near the size of Northwest Redwoods, and much of it was covered with shrubs, ice, and rocks. This successfully brought the first mill to Alaska: in Ward Cove, the Ketchikan Pulp Co. still runs an operation.
To keep the mill happy despite production far below its prediction, the forest service allowed them to log far beyond that allowed by federal environmental regulations. Clear-cutting marred the landscape so much that the tourist industry complained that customers on their tour ships constantly verbalized their distress at the sight of Alaska’s famed inside passage being destroyed. In response, the forest service issued a pamphlet on the economic and environmental benefits of clear-cutting for the tourist industry to hand out on their tour-ships.
The following year, the Luncheon Investors proposed a second mill to be run by a Japanese pulp company. This brought outrage from U.S. pulp companies who did not want a Japanese company in the American market. With Japan also considering developing in the land of the other developing super-power, Russia, the Eisenhower administration stepped in again, and said that the development of Alaska was a net gain for the nation, even if it took profits away from the nation’s companies. Thus two pulp mills were established in Alaska, which would clearly foster towns, require infrastructure, and generate profits far into the future.
But the wholesale destruction of these pulp mills brought protest from several other Alaskan stakeholders. As the natural world and its inherent habitats for maintaining wildlife populations was increasingly damaged by logging, two groups started an effort to save it: one all too obvious group, the Sierra Club, and Alaska’s sport hunters and fishers. This odd couple, which would seem unfeasible to the Sierra Club and many circles of Alaskan hunters and fishers today, was brought together by one man, John Holzworth, author of Wild Grizzlies of Alaska, who introduced the world to the bears of Admiralty Island and their pristine landscape and salmon streams with Muir-like nature passages. The Sierra Club contacted him and asked him to accompany their founder, Mark Wayburn. He did so, and on his tour, did not refrain from mentioning the growing plight of the environment and how it would not be stopped without the benefits of Statehood. The Sierra Club vigorously took up the cause.
Meanwhile, hunters and fishermen were flocking to Admiralty Island and sending in long accounts of how beautiful and bountiful it was to Field and Stream Magazine. Through this means, it was actually Alaska’s sport hunters and fishermen, through Field and Stream, that first stopped all logging on Admiralty Island – a battle that resurfaced throughout the fight for the Tongass. But even then, Alaska’s hunters and fishermen realized the struggle for the rest of Alaska’s pristine hunting and fishing locations would not be secure without Statehood.
Natives also unanimously did not want the mills logging the Tongass, but they were divided into two sects, who didn’t want it for two very different reasons. In 1935, the Alaska Reorganization Act established self-government for natives and the ability to borrow money from the U.S. (Durbin, 16). However, most of its claims were dealt with by the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB), a group of natives trained at the Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, which indoctrinated them with the western philosophy of eradicating native languages and religions for the sake of assimilation. This group did not want the pulp mills in the Tongass because they wanted to develop the lands themselves, and only made land claims to this effect.
However, there were other, less well conjoined groups of natives who disagreed with the ANB’s pedagogy, such as the Tlingit and Haida Indians, who were sueing for damages over loss of land, and many groups like them who were trying to prevent clear-cutting and over-fishing. However, the Tlingit and Haida suit remained tied up in the provincial courts, with no clear timeframe for a hearing without the added political pressure of being a native group affiliated with a state. So neither group of Natives would have satisfaction without Statehood.
Thus, oddly, all of these Alaskan stakeholders were petitioning the government for the same thing: Statehood. But this was not enough to convince the Eisenhower administration. The American attitude toward Alaska seemed to have remained consistent from its Russian discovery: it is to be utilized for the economic and political profit it can make us, and not be cared for beyond that. Even most of Alaska’s various stakeholders only wanted Statehood to further their own goals: the businessmen wanted to be able to tax the businesses in Alaska and receive federal aid for infrastructure, a goal shared by those natives and non-natives alike who felt exploited. But this was clearly at odds with the Eisenhower administration, who feared that a state of Alaska would become a Democratic stronghold, and wanted to keep as much money going to America’s businesses as possible. But soon, with another extractive discovery, Alaska would gain political leverage of such undeniable power that even Ernest Gruening would change his stance on conservation.
Oil and the Fight for Statehood
In the 1950’s, when Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh nationalized Iran’s entire oil industry, British Petroleum, among others, was forced to withdraw from what had been its largest oil operation for the past 50 years, and President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, where the biggest U.S. oil firms were based, entered into arms deals with the Soviet Union, a splitting with the west that culminated in his attempt to close down the Suez canal in 1956, and thus all the biggest oil companies in the world were looking for new reserves, new markets, new land. Again, Alaska’s businessmen saw gold.
Not the natives, nor the sourdough fisherman, nor the sourdough loggers, nor the environmentalists, nor the sports fishermen, nor the sport hunters, nor the tourist industry, nor the fish, nor the waters, nor the land would get satisfaction without Statehood, and most Alaskans believed that bringing oil companies to Alaska was the only means to that end. However, the discovery of oil in Alaska had a very unsuccessful history. Actually finding it required a lot of work from Anchorage Luncheon Investors.
The first critical player in this expedition was Irene Ryan, the first woman to fly solo in Alaska, and wife of one of the Luncheon Investors’s main members, contractor, Pat Ryan. Irene, daughter of a Texas oil family, spent many hours flying over Alaska, looking for areas that might have oil deposits. Then she heard about Natives who were selling sea-shells that were three feet in diameter, which they had found along the Glenn Highway. From her plane, she found the line where the tectonic plates of Alaska meet, exposing remnants from the cretaceous period. The Luncheon Investors bought the lots for 25 cents an acre, and began drilling. John Roderick, a Yale football star turned sourdough, began keeping track of where and how deep all the wells went, and how much oil they produced, until finally, the Luncheon Investors got the Richfield oil company involved. Then, working with their best information, and Richfield’s low budget, flying at treetop level in a Piper Cub with a case of toilet paper at his side, another Luncheon Investors member named William Bishop, unfurled a paper trail for the bulldozers to follow from the highway to a red-bark hemlock. Then he returned to the site, twisted a bootheel in the snow, and said, “Drill here” (Strohmeyes, 37).
“Richfield Hits Oil,” announced 3-inch headlines in The Anchorage Times. “Feverish excitement has spread through the area…A lease filing rush starts…The best advice for Alaskans today is that of a San Francisco cable car conductor to his passengers: ‘Hang on, we’re going around a curve.’” Members of the Luncheon Investors estimated making $1,000 an hour for every hour they could stay awake for the next week. Statehood seemed at hand, but still there was internal conflict between Alaskan stakeholders over pressing issues.
In the year following the Richfield discovery, leases for more than 33 million acres of federal land were issued in Alaska. There were no natives among the lease holders. As the hordes rushed in to claim a piece of Alaska, no one considered whether the leasing impinged on Native rights. The Kenai Peninsula had been settled by the Kenaitze Indians long before the arrival of whites. Ancient Indian villiage sites with their moss-thatched log huts were still visible in parts of the peninsula.
When the hunting, fishing, and the landscape of the National Moose Range on the Kenai Peninsula began being affected by oil drilling, Field and Stream stepped in again, putting so much pressure on the government, that the president himself used an executive order to stop drilling in that area, the area with the most known, available oil. Oil companies grew tentative once again, until Ernest Gruening, now Alaska’s provisional senator, stepped in and, so sure that Statehood would bring positive change to Alaska, risked his reputation as a lifelong conservationist by arguing for the re-opening of the National Moose Range. Though the case was not settled until after Statehood, with Gruening on their side, oil companies invested, and, on January 3rd, 1959, Alaska was granted Statehood. Weather this political move would serve Gruening’s end, and what stakeholders would benefit from it, had to wait until after the slew of legislation that came with Statehood.
But there was nothing clear about what would come with Statehood. Those Natives and non-natives for development wanted Statehood for the economic benefits the state would reap in the form of roads and schools, and the Natives and non-natives for conservation were at odds with each other over who would best steward the states resources – the Natives, the sports hunters and fishermen, Alaska’s environmentalists, the nation’s environmentalists, or industry workers – all of whom wanted Statehood to stop the thrust of pro-development Alaskans. With all of these opposing forces at odds with one another in the fight for Statehood and the ensuing legislation it would bring, the only thing clear about what would come from Statehood was a long and hard political struggle that would be much more complicated then the fight for Statehood, since in this struggle, the Alaskan stakeholder would not have a shared enemy, but be fully fighting against one another – industry against industry, native against native, politician against politician, and businessmen against businessmen.
Part 2: Statehood Legislation
The fact that Alaska became a state at the beginning of the 1960s had a profound effect on its future. The State of Alaska encompasses 375 million acres of land, more than twice that of Texas, and 33,904 miles of shoreline, more than that of the rest of the United States combined. At the time of Statehood, there were only three federally reserved lands in Alaska: 1. Mt McKinley National Park, 2. Glacier Bay, and 3. Katmai Peninsula. This left 290 million acres of land and all of Alaska’s shoreline entirely open for development (Strohmeyer, 20). With Statehood, Alaska was allocated all of its shoreline and 104 million acres of its land, an area the size of California, to be selected by the state throughout the following 25 years. They were to have complete discretion over the selection and use of this land and all of its myriad resources (Durbin, 24).
This unique allocation of land to the state became the center of debate among Alaska’s stakeholders. Occurring as the civil rights movement was gaining steam in the continuous United States, it gave Alaska Natives a unique claim to reparations, the furor around which cultivated a Native land claim movement that paralleled the African American civil rights movement in many of its facets and ramifications. The agenda of the other Alaskan stakeholders became a race to influence the state to select the land whose acquisition would most benefit them. So, throughout the decade and beyond, what land the state selected, which resources it contained, and how it was to be used, were an eternal source of internal conflict, and the center stage for the state’s biggest political struggle of the already politically tumultuous 1960s and 70s.
In addition, the rest of the land in Alaska has remained under the control of the federal government: in the north, the Department of the Interior, and in the south, the Forest Service. These two groups quickly became a point of contention with almost all Alaskans: conservationists and sports hunters and fishers because they let corporations log the Tongass and drill for oil, and pro-development Alaskans and Outside businesses because they prevent the development of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
John Strohmeyer argues that this conflict bred a class of chauvinistic, Alaskan politicians, epitomized by Ted Stevens, who have consistently, openly opposed federal control in order to pursue total development (Durbin, 24), representing those Alaskans who pushed for Statehood in order to exploit Alaska’s resources for their own gain, like the Luncheon Investors.
Prior to Statehood, in the Luncheon Investors’s push to get the federal government out of their business, they were supported by the homesteaders who wanted their privacy in isolation to do as they pleased, the working class Alaskans living in the bush who wanted Outside businesses outside, conservationists and sports hunters and fishers who wanted to slow the development of crucial wildlife habitat, and Native American groups that wanted to settle land claims either for assimilation or the preservation of their customs.
But the Luncheon Investors’s push for Statehood had more to do with business in a literal sense than for any other group of stakeholders. Much like the founding father’s of the United States pushed for independence on a platform of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which actually meant the pursuit of profit unbridled by taxation without representation from England, the Luncheon Investors had pushed for Statehood by invoking the plight of all these other stakeholders, while all along their primary goal was to tap the same natural resources the federal government had been tapping, but for their own profit, without the federal government’s hefty taxes.
This fact, and that these stakeholder maintained more power than any other in Alaska, became clear from the very moment these words were read aloud from the Alaskan constitution:
It is the policy of the State to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.
This is the opening to Article 8 of the Alaskan constitution, that dealing with the ever-so-important issue of natural resources. The following 18 sections further detail how this first principle will be upheld, in equally ambiguous terms, but questions arise from the start: what exactly does it mean to make resources available? What is the maximum use consistent with the public interest? And is there a single public interest?
The answers to these questions are obviously very subjective, and were dealt with quite differently in regards to each natural resource: the fishing industry immediately built a strong set of regulations to oust the Outside fisheries and protect the sourdough fishermen, but it neglected the fish themselves and their habitats; the timber industry primarily remained under the control of the federal government the Alaskan branch of the Forest Service, who allowed Outside firms to log at a rate that was devastating to all Alaskan stakeholders; and the oil industry opened up a pipeline that delivered a huge amount of money to the state as a whole, but its acquisition of huge plots of land that took priority over all else show a disregard for the Alaska Natives who had lived there before, and all other Alaskan stakeholders who were pushing to save their land from federal encroachment in the south. While these three developments were taking place under the words of the state constitution, Natives from all over the state were joining together and seizing on laws of their own to write their own legislation: a statewide land claim.
Natives After Statehood
Across the board, after Statehood, the immense, resource-rich land of Alaska was still viewed as a prize in various political battles for profit. However, this world view was quickly called into question with the settlement of the Tlingit and Haida land claim. The Tlingit and Haida were awarded $7.5 million for the 20 million acres that the government had appropriated to create the Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay National Monument. This settlement of a case which had been tied up in Alaska’s provincial courts for almost 20 years attested to the federal pressure from the BIA and Congress on the state government to resolve pending provincial Native Land Claims, the primary reason Native had pushed for Statehood. The Natives now had the legal backing of the federal government, and thus more power within the state. However, despite this change in power and political lines, the Natives still had reason to fear both the federal and state governments.
Native fear of the federal government was founded on things such as Project Chariot, a plan of The Atomic Energy Commission’s to set up a chain reaction of five atomic explosions to blast out an artificial harbor at Cape Thompson, near the village of Point Hope. This insane project was one of the many to find non-wartime uses for the atomic bomb after World War 2. The harbor was to become a seaport to handle expected coal, oil, and gas production in the area. The Natives of Kivalina and Point Hope were to be temporarily resettled in newly constructed villages near Kotzebue and Nome, a clear case of forced migration. The Natives held meeting and petitioned against the project because of the environmental impact of atomic fallout on flora and fauna, but to no avail. According to the commission report, they dropped the project solely “because of possible international reaction.” In their report, they even went so far as to state that Native outcry had nothing to do with their dropping of the project.
Native fear of the State government was founded on over 150 years of experience with white men, beginning with the Russian occupation. As the State was granted a land acquisition of 104 million acres with the Statehood Act, many Natives feared their land would be taken without a second thought. There is only one mention of Natives in the Statehood Act, in section four, where it states that Alaska will not acquisition any land being used by the natives, nor get involved in any affairs between the Federal Government and Alaska Natives. But the language of section 4 is merely an extension of the First Organic Act of 1884, which we know was far from a holistic solution to Native Claims, and it did not appease the Natives for that very reason: It disregarded all previous contentions over land ownerships. To essentially end all disputes over land claims and say that whoever has it now has lawful rights to keep it will never appease those who think they have been wronged, as we see in continuing reparations cases around the world. The passing of the Statehood Act proved no exception.
This unease, coupled with the precedent set for Native rights to land by the Tlingit-Haida land claim, sparked a Native land claim movement that was aided by many connections with federal politics of the times, and ended up having similar results. Native protests and research, which clearly paralleled the African American civil rights movement and played on the war on poverty, shook up every Alaskan extractive industry. After years of advocacy, it culminated in the monumental Alaska Native Settlement Claims Act (ANSCA), which, coupled with the growing environmental movement of the 1960s and 70s drifting north, the first Earthday, and national environmental legislation, cleared the way for a reassessment of Alaskan politics true to the spirit of the times.
Within the next 20 years, Alaska would pass its own legislation regulating each of its large extractive industries. However, during the 1960s, as the Native movement gained steam and went to court, development continued.
Salmon After Statehood
As with most things in Alaska, the true state of Alaskan politics can be observed in the fishing industry. After Statehood, Alaskan fishermen, who, aside from the environment and salmon themselves, had been the primary stakeholder in the fishing industry since its conception, finally became the stakeholders with the most power in the industry, as well.
An Alaskan Fishermen’s state-wide union was formed to give Alaska’s fishermen the power over big businesses from the lower-forty-eight states (Twomley, 59). This union is still strong today. Gear and vessel restriction, coupled with days of closure declared by scientist who study the salmon runs, were implemented to help sustain the fishermen’s way of life. The greatest step made was giving fishermen subsidies for lost days when closures were necessary due to small salmon runs.
All of these were pieces of a fishery policy that took into consideration many previously exploited Alaskans, and again made Alaska’s salmon industry the most profitable in the world. However, after a brief resurgence, salmon populations began to decline again. So during the sixties, the Alaskan fishing industry re-evaluated what a holistic, sustainable fishing policy looked like, and found that some crucial aspects had been left out on every level: within the industry, among the various Alaskan extraction industries, and among the many nations of the world. In short, all parts of the natural world are wholly interconnected, a fact that has economic ramifications in the increasingly globalized world.
But first the fishing industry realized its internal flaw: that enough had not been done. Although gear and vessel restriction helped to limit the amount of fish that could be caught by one boat in a certain amount of time, the seas were being over-fished and salmon runs continued to decrease in size. The reason for this seemed like an economic progression as more and more Alaskans were taking to the sea to make a living. It seemed like a great time to a lot of Alaska’s fishermen: they were finally profiting off their given right to fish the waters for their benefit that they had been working on for many years. But this movement of fishermen into the water nullified the new restrictions.
Many fishermen fishing for many hours with less productive gear can have a more depleting effect on a salmon population than fewer boats with more productive gear. This was exactly the case, and a depleting effect on a salmon population is eventually going to be negative for the fishermen who make their income off these fish.
More and more Alaskans entered the fishing industry during the years between Statehood and the 1970’s while the salmon population continued to decline. Fishermen were profiting at the time, but it was becoming clear that their economic success was unsustainable as salmon runs declined (Iudicello, 91). Meanwhile, Alaska’s main stakeholders in the fishing industry were still being ignored: the salmon.
Salmon came to be dealt with for two main reasons. The first is that which I hinted at above, the salmon’s depletion came to affect the stakeholder whose opinions were weighty at the time: the Alaskan sourdough fishermen. When their livelihood was being threatened once again, it was clear that something needed to be done. This time the Alaskan fishermen’s livelihood was being threatened because the salmon populations on which they survived was becoming threatened.
The politicians and political economists who saw this as a priority got the ball rolling by, as fishing got worse, pushing for more subsidies (Twomley, 60). However, this was merely a short-term solution which exacerbated the problem because it allowed more and more fishermen to enter the industry. This problem extends to the root of thinking behind all these regulations: that they were based on a system of economics which undervalued the environment – which valued short-term economic productivity above all else, including long-term environmental sustainability, on which that economic productivity was built, thus augmenting their perspective just enough to destroy both.
Unfortunately, the fishing industry did not become aware of this internal flaw until they saw it externally, when their returns were harmed by another extractive industry: the pulp mills, because Southeast Alaska is home of the largest salmon runs, and also the Tongass, the largest pulp producing forest in the state, and also the habitat for Alaska’s spawning salmon. As the fishing industry searched for the problems they needed to address in their own policy, they found that the focus on profits of the pulp industry, and its following increase in logging after Statehood, needed to be addressed, as well. Thus the pulp mills, which began expanding after Statehood, were forced to realize their practices were not sustainable, nor disconnected from many other Alaskan stakeholders, as well.
The Tongass After Statehood
Right after Statehood, the Alaskan forest service opened all their land for logging by the two pulp mills in Alaska. Not surprisingly, as soon as these corporations began logging, they found it impossible to meet the annual board feet extraction that had been projected using the formula for determining that of logging Northwestern Redwood Forests. To accommodate the pulp mills, to fill this gap, and keep the taxation on their profits coming to Alaska, the Alaska branch of the U.S. Forest Service, still headed by Luncheon Investors member, W. Howard Johnson, ignored the complaints of almost every other stakeholder in the industry, and even disobeyed federal legislation to do so.
In 1960, Congress passed the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, directing the Forest Service to give equal weight to recreation, timber, forage, wildlife, and watershed protection in the management of national forests. As this list, and the history of Alaska indicates, these “Lands of Many Uses,” often over extend themselves and become lands of many incompatible uses, inevitably falling short of every stakeholders expectations.
The Alaska Region of the Forest service released its Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act in 1964. In it, the agency’s bias is clear:
About 95 percent of the commercial forest land of Southeastern Alaska is occupied by overmature stands of hemlock, spruce, and cedar. Silvicultrually, these decadent stands should be removed by clear-cutting methods as soon as possible to make way for new stands of fast-growing second-growth timber.
Their immediate plan for achieving this goal was to build a web of interconnected roads between the isolated communities of the backcountry. This may sound very altruistic, but, as Durbin illustrates very thoroughly through case studies and compilations of town hall meetings and hearings, this was simply not true: almost none of these towns wanted to be connected to the rest of Alaska, most of these people wanted to be left well alone, in a pristine wilderness, and so you can bet none of them, even those opposed to the environmentalists that led the causes against logging, liked the results of these roads.
The result of these roads was exactly their intent: to systematically clear-cut the Tongass. It was a clear move by the businessmen of Alaska to keep taxable money coming into the state, by exploiting the environment to help the pulp companies meet their quotas.
The development of potential recreation sites, a continuing and expanding timber harvest, and distribution of hunting and fishing pressures all require a vastly expanded system of roads. To date, high road construction costs and limited road funds have permitted only a token effort in this direction…New roads will pass through fishing and hunting areas now visited only by bear and deer and an occasional adventurous man.
The reality: “The road system made it possible for Alaskans and visitors to see firsthand the clearcuts, landslides, and trashed streams left in the wake of national forest logging” (Durbin, 75)
And that is exactly what happened: The fishing industry realized logging practices were killing valuable salmon runs; the “sourpuss homesteaders” as W. Howard Johnson referred to those Alaskans who had aligned with the Luncheon Investors and pushed for Statehood because they did not want the federal government bothering them, and now, with Statehood, as an extension of their isolation-oriented mentality, fought against logging companies ruining the pristine wilderness in which they lived; many sports hunters and fishermen became outraged with the desecration of the Tongass and its many beautiful salmon streams and wildlife habitat: as logging began ruining river drainages in the Southeast, Dixie Baade founded the Alaska Sports and Wildlife club, one of the first outdoor recreation clubs in Southeast, to oppose them; Local and national environmental groups joined in on the fight for obvious reasons: Alaska Conservation Society, the only conservation society in Alaska at the time, was fighting for the environment all over the state, so its president, Celia Hunter, invited the Sierra Club founders, the Wayburns, to come observe the wholesale damage, and they immediately took up the fight, especially for Admiralty Island – home of the densest population of brown bears and bald eagles in the world, and also Johnson’s lure for snagging a third pulp mill; and Alaska Natives began making claims to this land, for somewhat ambiguous reasons.
Thus, an odd, yet massive and inclusive coalition was born, and they all opposed the over-logging occurring in the Tongass, and their complaints are well documented: That same year, Walter Kirkness, commissioner of Alaska Fish and Game, wrote a long letter to Alaska Governor William Egan, detailing the environmental damage being sustained for timber extraction. He highlighted impacts on salmon streams, stating, in an attempt to assuage hash criticism from the logging operations of the day, that, “All must recognize that some damage to salmon production will result from even the best run of logging shows.” But adding that, “What we must attempt to do is hold it to a minimum.”
He concluded that the greatest damage to watersheds was being inflicted by improper logging, including photographs of an estuary on Chichagof Island, in the North Tongass, where no salmon spawned that year because the water ran brown with silt from upstream roads and bridges that were improperly built. The previous year, three thousand spawning salmon had been produced in that stream. Yet nothing was done (Twomely, 28).
W. Howard Johnson was so indoctrinated in the timber culture of the Tongass, typified by his response to the complaints of the tourist industry, as to respond to this letter by saying that the Alaska Forest Service was committed to “provide the combination of materials and services from the land that will best meet the needs of the people.” And added, without apparent irony: “Resolution of conflicts by favoring one resource over all others will not meet this requirement” (Durbin, 28)
Despite early pleas from state fishery biologists, the plan proposed no salmon stream buffers. Despite pleas from the Alaska Sports and Wildlife Club, the plan proposed no wildlife habitat reserves and no wilderness areas.
Oddly, the only non-businessmen who supported Johnson, like those unfathomable residents of Kansas who consistently vote Republican, were the other Alaskans in the timber industry, who, convinced by the Forest Service and pulp companies, thought that they weren’t getting a fair chance at lumber contracts because of the federal government, when in actuality it was the very forces they aligned with that held them back. Because these loggers also typically lived in the woods, and survived as sports hunters and fishers, this created a divide in the Hunting and Fishing world that remains today, with some thinking that all environmental regulations are contrived by the environmentalists and government to stymie their way of living, while others wish to protect the wilderness they love to enjoy.
However, as Johnson made plans to sell Admiralty Island to a third pulp mill, and proposed to have all old growth in the entire Tongass clear cut by 2015, Edgar Wayburn, president of the Sierra Club, wrote a letter to the National Forest Service asking how this was obeying the Multiple Use-Sustainable Yield Act, because it did not appear to be allocating for long-term logging, nor protecting fish populations – the basis for another industry – and with three pulp mills, allowing no room for small logging operations.
Wayburn brought the case to suit on this basis. Because the Forest Service had kept the sale under wraps, the suit was filed almost six months after the sale had taken place, and was thus thrown out for having been filed in an untimely manner. But after he found a report done by the timber mill buying the island, U.S. Plywood Champion, which discovered that it will have to harvest the island every 5 years to meet the amount of board feet the Forest Service offered them, instead of every 100 years, as is permitted by the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, U.S. Plywood Champion gave up its $1,000 deposit it had made on the island, and backed out (Durbin, 37).
Just as the Forest Service was going to re-double its efforts to draw up a new plan, in 1966 all transfer of lands were frozen pending a Native land claims settlement (Strohmeyer, 89). This unprecedented freeze was the result of the hard work of the native movement that had been organizing and petitioning for the freeze since Statehood, and finally found the leverage to get the freeze enacted, far to the north.
However, in the meantime, the State of Alaska found its biggest gold mine yet, in lands far to the North that had been forgotten about because they had been controlled by the Federal Government for so long before Statehood.
Oil After Statehood
From World War 2 until Statehood, Alaska was treated like a war zone by the Federal Government, to the extent that mail was frequently confiscated and read. This coupled with the fact that Alaska was largely populated by people trying to keep others out of their business, leaves no room for the imagination to dream up why so many homesteaders wanted the federal government entirely out of their state. During this time, the federal government had sole control of lands north of Fairbanks, where there were many naval bases commissioning coal burning ships into the north Pacific and Arctic oceans. During this time, the navy found such an abundance of oil in a section of this land dubbed the National Petroleum Reserve #4 (NPR4), that they converted all their Alaskan battle ships from coal to oil burning vessels, fueling them entirely on oil extracted from the NPR4.
NPR4 is at the heart of what is called Prudhoe Bay: an unusual Sadlerochit formation, a sequence of sandstone and gravel deposited by an ancient and thrusting of earth over time locked in deep formations of porous rocks, like coral reef, which were capable of capturing migrating oil. It was not until 1964 that any non-government agency blazed a track to this part of Northern Alaska, commonly referred to as the North Slope, and when it was reached, it was reached by the international corporation Caterpillar.
However, this was no easy task. Back then, Alaska’s road system extended only to Fairbanks. From there, it is 472 miles to the North Slope, across land that is permafrosted 1,400 deep, covered in ice in the winters, which is easer to cross than the swamps that form on top of that permafrost during the summers, which is easier still to cross than the state of flux between frozen and swamp that this land transmutes between during the rest of the year, when Catipillar made their journey.
Early oil companies reported that under these conditions, their best steel fractured, and their coldest-weather lubricants froze. It took Caterpillar 22 days to make that first trip, and along the way their lead bulldozer fell through the ice into a swamp, where it remains today.
Yet after Caterpillar made it, a veritable line of oil companies followed. As you can imagine, this was detrimental to the environment. While pulp mills and the Forest Service were slowly marching across the Tongass, leaving no lumber in their wake, oil companies and the Alaskan government began paving a road to the arctic. And if bulldozers plowing to the Arctic negatively affected the tundra ecosystem, the road that was built desecrated it.
The road that was built, unlike the bulldozers, ploughed into the permafrost, permanently affecting the ecosystem. It was also a poorly designed, quickly constructed road. John Strohmeyer argues that the only reason it was constructed at all was to pay back a favor owed a local contractor by a prominent senator. It leaked toxins into the ground, needed constant repair, and, of course, facilitated the exploitation of the Alaskan Environment and Native Peoples. But this paled in comparison to the fact that Richfield once again struck big, finding that NPR4 held the largest oil reserve in the world outside of the middle east, and California Standard, Philips, Texaco, Chevron, Renneco, BP, Pure, and Shell all immediately expressed interest in. The State saw gold.
Of course, once again, this did not directly benefit many Alaskans. Yet Prudhoe Bay, this land nearly impossible to access, which when accessed leads to human and environmental exploitation, which lays under a layer of frost and was considered totally useless by homesteaders, fishermen, and loggers, was the first piece of land Alaskan politicians chose to acquire through their federal allotment.
Once Alaska acquired the land from the federal government, they auctioned it off. Richfield was the only oil firm that made it their priority, and so bought almost all of it at the highest price ever paid per acre of land for oil exploration, but BP also bought up all the surrounding land, and every single other company that had found oil there also invested in a small percentage.
Shortly after this, because of illegal Senate donations from Richfield to the Republican party, which Strohmeyer details beginning on page 54 of his book, Extreme Conditions, Richfield was brought up on an anti-trust suit, and caused to join with another company, becoming Atlantic-Richfield.
Then, with court cases out of the way for the time being, Atlantic-Richfield pushed for the state to build a pipeline to transport oil across Alaska. Both the pro-development politicians, and politicians like Ernest Gruening, who were still advocating for development for the good of the plighted homesteaders were behind this flow of cash to the last frontier. Everyone knew the pipeline was going to bring more money to Alaska than anything else. And only one thing prevented it: the land freeze imposed by the Alaska Native land claims.
Alaska Native Land Claim Movement
In the continuous United States at this time, National attention and debate on the Civil Rights Movement was intensified by the courageous act of one woman: Rosa Parks. After a long day at work, she was arrested for refusing to stand and move to the back of the bus. This action spawned a backlash from insecure, white Americans, but also elicited public outcry from others, and worked as a foundation for solidarity within the Civil Rights Movement itself.
The “Rosa Parks” of the Alaskan Native land claims movement were two native hunters from Barrow, who, in the spring of 1961, were arrested for shooting ducks out of season. This brought into question what rights white courts had to tell Natives when and where they could shoot ducks on lands they had been sustainably hunting for thousands of years. More than 100 Natives shot ducks in protest, and demanded to be arrested. They argued that they were entitled to aboriginal rights to hunt, especially during the short time when the ducks were present on the coast. The unity and determination of the Natives received wide, sympathetic coverage in the state and national press, and in October, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that the 140 Native hunters would not be prosecuted. But it also created resentment against Natives from many white Alaskans who feared for their own lands, or wished to develop Alaska for their own profit.
That same year, Native nightmares about the Statehood act became a reality: the state selected about 1.7 million acres, some in the Wood River area near Fairbanks. The result was a massive filing by four Native villages of Minto, Northway, Tanacross and Lake Alegnagik for land claims. The claims in the area eventually totaled over 5,860,000 acres, conflicting with the 1,750,000 acres of state selections.
In the November following the Tlingit and Haida land claim and these events, the first meeting of the Northern Eskimo leaders was called. The Inupiat Paitot (Peoples’ Heritage) meeting was organized with financial help from the Association on American Indian Affairs. This resulted in subsequent meetings across the state. At the second state-wide meeting, Dena’ Nena’ Henash (Our Land Speaks), the Tanana Chiefs Conference was established, to meet once yearly and discuss all local Native matters. The following years, the Tanana Chiefs started their own statewide newspaper, the Tundra Times, edited by Howard Rock of Point Hope, who described this grassroots movement thus:
The reason for the formation of these groups, of course, was that we had begun to realize that we, as Native people of Alaska, had many problems. We also found that by speaking as a group, we were heard.
However, the state continued to try to acquisition land through the Statehood Act, and further conflicts arose between The State and The Natives. (These cases are well documented in the second section of Case.)
Eventually, as the number of Native land claims filed with the BLM multiplied, the Tanana Chiefs Conference petitioned Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall to “freeze” state selections. Technically, there are three determinations for freezing land transfers:
As a result of the obligation and authority of the federal courts, under terms of the Organic Act of 1884 and of the Alaska Statehood Act, to preserve the status quo wherever a Native claim is likely.
As a result of a refusal of the Bureau of Land Management to process mineral lease offers or land transfers in the face of Native protests, pending determination on the merits of those protests.
As a result of public land order issued by the Secretary of the Interior.
Clearly, secretary Udall would need a very good reason to freeze land transfers, especially with the state of development in Alaska during this decade: The Alaska branch of the National Forest Service had just committed itself to giving more timber to the two mills already in Alaska than it knew it had, and had signed a contract with a third mill, as well. In addition to the power and persuasion these groups had on Mr. Udall’s decision, independent, Alaskan loggers were frustrated with how few contracts they were getting, and, because of propaganda from the pulp mills about restrictions, were taking it out on the federal government, particularly Mr. Udall. In addition, this is the same year in which oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay. Early tests proved it was the biggest reserve of oil outside of Saudia Arabia. Oil companies were eager to buy it, and the state was eager to sell it. Not unpredictably, Mr. Udall did not freeze Alaska’s lands.
Instead, he appointed the Alaska Task Force on Native Affairs. The Task Force recommended that Congress define the Native entitlement promptly. Three other recommendations were made:
granting of up to 160 acres to each Native individual for homesites, fish camps and hunting camps;
withdrawal of small acreages for villages; and
designation of acreage for Native food gathering activities.
The Alaska Natives opposed these recommendations, but the BIA began dealing with the federal government without the consent of the majority of Alaska Natives. Stopping the BIA from selling their lands without their consent was the main topic at their next statewide meeting, which, in their words, was:
a beginning of understanding between the Indian, Eskimo and Aleut people; an understanding that will have far reaching results. It will be remembered for the beginning of Native political responsibility that has not been given proper emphasis heretofore.
The Native groups agreed that four ways to proceed were to establish reserves, resolve claims in the federal court, obtain legislation at state level to protect their land rights, and win a Congressional settlement. However, the isolated, splintered, and poorly educated state of Alaska Natives, and their profusion of languages and dialects, prevented a unification at that time. But the seed planted was to bear fruit in 1966. And when it did, it resulted in the land freeze that stopped all development in the Tongass and the North Slope.
To this, Gruening publicly announced that, “Alaska ought to pay off the Natives so that it can get on with its development.”
This comment inspired Willie Hensley to write him the personal letter that follows:
Dear Senator Gruening,
You cannot pin the responsibility for the present chaotic state of affairs of Alaskan lands on the Natives. There has been ample time since the Treaty of Cession in 1867 to interpret its provisions. Now that we are finally taking limited action on an issue which has been allowed to ride, I pray that the claims will be allowed to be heard an a just and equitable settlement be made in real property or in cash, depending on comprehensive hearing with full participation of Alaskan Natives.
Gruening agreed to meet with Hensley after this; after the meeting, Hensley said he did not consider Gruening an ally; he said of Gruening, “He had no feeling that we wanted to retain land.”
Willie went home that night, and took a big, black pencil and drew lines on a map, circling what he felt was the drainage area of the Kotzebue region, and submitted the claim to the Bureau of Land Management (Strohmeyer, 66), deciding that is what the federal government would have to give him if there was going to be a Native Land settlement to end this freeze.
On October 6th, 1966 300 Native delegates from all parts of Alaska packed a deserted storeroom above Miller’s Furs on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, and formed the Alaska Federation of Natives, a formal, legal body that replaced the Tanana Chiefs. The AFN annual meeting was composed of one delegate from every regional Native association (plus an additional delegate for every 100 active members over the first 50) and one from each village not participating in any association. Their primary goal was to stop the all land claims on the floor of the Senate that had not been approved by them, and so they formed their own land claims settlement committee and appointed Willie Hensely as chair. This committee, more politically powerful because it was a legal entity, recommended that an immediate land freeze be imposed by the Secretary of Interior, Congress enact legislation to settle the claims, and substantial consultations with Natives take place before any legislative action take place.
Their main leverage – a group of Natives calling themselves the Arctic Slope Native Association claimed rights to the lands over which the pipeline was slated to flow. Secretary Udall imposed an informal land freeze, suspending issuance of leases and all other proceedings under any of the public land laws under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department.
The development-bent state sued Udall to have the ban lifted, but the U.S. Supreme Court supported the land freeze, holding that the state’s selection rights took second place to aboriginal rights, a ruling surely influenced by the simultaneous civil rights movement occurring in the continental U.S. This example of the political continuity of the United States sparked a rush for a settlement to Native Land Claims from almost every Alaskan stakeholder. Though most of Prudhoe Bay had already been auctioned off to oil companies, the freeze prevented the transfer of lands needed to build the pipeline.
Obviously, the extractive industries wanted the freeze to be lifted so that they could buy more land to fuel their production. The politicians and development minded Alaskans wanted the freeze lifted so that they could sell the extractive industries their lands and surge their economy, particularly through government funds to build the pipeline, and royalties and severance taxes from extraction, in addition, the State wanted to proceed with its land selection. Even Alaska’s growing conservation movement was anxious for the claim to be settled, but for very different reasons: they fear the natives would be granted lots of land, and would sell it to the corporations even cheaper and faster than the state would.
There was precedent for this concern: After the Tyonek reservation was granted land rights and oil leases for the oil found to be theirs, they sold nearly all of it to various oil firms for less than 13 million dollars. Unfortunately for environmentalists, pro-development Alaskans recalled this, as well. The anti-settlement state Attorney General of the day was replaced by one who viewed the federal ownership of 90 percent of Alaska’s land as stifling to the state’s economy and saw Native ownership of lands as beneficial, recalling the Tyonek case, and deducing that the Natives were likely to sell off their lands at a low price and not take their wealth out of the state. This Attorney General, Edgar Paul Boyko, suggested a state Land Claims Task Force be created, with Willie Hensley as chairman. Hensley took the job, bridging the gap between the natives and the Luncheon Investors.
The task force issued a report in January of 1968, recommending:
Forty million acres in tax exempt and all lands currently used for fishing and hunting to be available for up to 100 years. The Native Allotment Act was to remain effective.
Ten percent of the income from sale or lease of oil rights be paid to the Natives (with a minimum of $65 million).
The settlement was to be carried out by business corporations organized by villages and regions and one statewide. Natives were also to be paid up to $50 million from state mineral revenue if the land freeze were lifted before the end of 1968.
Three Native Land Claim Settlement Acts were issued to Congress that term, one from Senator Gruening, one from President Nixon himself, and one from the State Land Claims Task Force.
Those stakeholders who opposed a claim finally spoke up. The Alaska Miners’ Association and Alaska Sportsmen Association released a joint statement, saying that:
Neither the United States, the State of Alaska, nor any of us here gathered as individuals owes the Natives one acre of ground or one cent of the taxpayers’ money.
Ted Stevens, the fiercest advocate for development in Alaska’s history, had recently been appointed senator after Bob Bartlett’s death (despite being an appointee for the liberal Democrat, this conservative Republican remains in office today). Fearing the growing conservation movement more than the Natives, he quickly jumped on the bandwagon for revenue sharing between the state and the Naives, and though he supported a bill which reduced said sharing for the 100 years proposed by the Task Force to 10 years, he chastised those parties that were against revenue sharing, arguing that if anything else were done, “preservationists will lock up Alaska as a wilderness…and without a settlement, the Natives will eventually become expensive wards of the state.”
Meanwhile, the oil companies were proceeding with their buildup. It was estimated that by 1969, 800 oil-rig workers were busy on the North Slope (Stohmeyer, 83). British Petroleum, Atlantic Richfield and Humble Oil together formed the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). TAPS organized a public opinion survey of Alaskan residents in 1969, in which 75 percent of those surveyed agreed with the proposition that Alaska wilderness areas should be preserved exactly as they were, 53 percent disagreed with the proposition that too much land had been set aside for wilderness areas. The survey showed that Alaskans had little confidence that the oil industry could prevent massive oil spills. If they were planning on documenting public support for oil exploration with this survey, it totally backfired.
In 1970, Gruening’s bill passed Congress’s approval, but the AFN rejected it and submitted their own land claim, based primarily on lack of land reparations. On the Senate floor, Notti, head of the AFN stated:
To deny the Alaska Natives an adequate land base of at least 40 million acres will contribute to their dependency, to the disintegration of the communities, and to the erosion of their culture. To strip Alaska Natives of their land will destroy their traditional self-sufficiency, and it is certain to create among them bitterness towards other Alaskans and a deep distrust of our institutions and our laws.
He went on to threaten that if Congress passed a bill that did not grant the Natives an acceptable land base, they would seek a new solution: they would petition to form a separate nation in Western Alaska.
And the Natives did not lack allies in their fight. Their support network and financial backing included the National Congress of American Indians, the Association on American Indian Affairs, the Ford Foundation, the National Council of Churches, and the United Auto Workers among many others. Even the oil companies were lobbying for Congress to give the Natives whatever they wanted, so that they could proceed with their development on the North Slope at a time when the Middle East was so unstable and unfriendly toward American business. Surely as a result of all this pressure, the land freeze was extended by Congress three times, twice after Udall’s resignation.
With a massive land redistribution on the cusp, the battle lines were once again re-drawn between the various Alaskan stakeholders. For the first time ever, the oil companies were pushing for the rights of the natives, because with their dealing with both the Natives and the State of Alaska, they had been able to buy land much cheaper from the Natives than the State. And yet the State was advocating for quick solution to the “Native Problem” as well, because they wanted to start drilling, and making money off of it as quickly as possible. The Forest Service and the federal government also wanted to delay the process for obvious reasons, and they were supported by sourdough fisherman and loggers who worried that they would lose their land and right to hunt and fish, and, counter-intuitively, by the Environmentalists, both local and national, who thought that the Natives would quickly sell their land to the highest bidder. It was impossible to tell what the Natives had in mind, because it was impossible to tell who “The Natives” were. They were as varied in political, economic, and traditional position as they were in location in Alaska, tribe by tribe, region by region.
While all of these stakeholders were frantically filing suits and making claims during the 5 years it took for the Native Land claim to be settled, the environment continued to fall prey to the developers who already owned the land. Satellite pictures showed a steady progression of deforestation across the Tongass, Salmon populations dropped ever year, and Richfield proceeded with its seismic testing, setting off huge explosions in the bowels of the earth to find out if their land had oil. But, after one internal dispute between the natives, this was about to change.
The lawyer for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act framed the plight of the Alaska Natives in the context of the national War on Poverty. The average Alaska Native died at the age of 34.2 years, and thus had half the life expectancy of other Americans; death for Natives from influenza and pneumonia occurred at twenty times the rate for Alaskan whites; fifty-two out of every thousand Native Alaskans died before reaching their first birthday, and the Native infant mortality rate was twelve times that of white Alaskans; more than half of the Native work force was jobless most of the year. And out of some seventy-five hundred residential dwelling in Native villages, seventy-one hundred needed replacement. This comparison struck a nerve in Congress. Victory was at hand.
But all movements have their internal division. In America’s civil rights movements, there was a stark divide between the violent and peaceful approaches to fighting for change, epitomized in the philosophies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. There was a similar division in Alaska between the bulk of the AFN, which wanted to pursue their goal through unified, legal means, led by Willie Hensley, and another leader – a Native named Charles Edwardson, head of the Arctic Slope Native Association, and an advocate for violent resistance.
When the AFN’s land claim, which would have established 12 regional corporations, re-paid the natives $500 million and two percent share in oil revenues, as well as grant them 60 million acres to be selected by the 12 corporations, evenly, Charles took his group and seceded from the AFN, claiming that his group deserved a greater share than the others.
Edwardson had obvious grounds for his claim, since his group was the one who had proved their rights to the oil rich land of the North Slope – arguably the biggest step in getting the land freeze. Their land was clearly the most commercially valuable in Alaska, and proved to be a deal breaker for ANCSA: without Charles’ group on board, the State government pulled out of the deal.
Willie and Edwardson, unlike Martin and Malcolm, because of their different times of leadership, then went head to head in a series of public debates. After a year, the two finally came to a solution: a “land loss” formula would be created to reflect population as the basis for dividing land, but the Arctic Slope would retain 50 percent of its mineral revenues, distributing the remainder to the other regions on a population basis. The Arctic Slope Native Association promptly returned to the AFN, and ANCSA was signed into law, granting Natives $965.5 million and 44 million acres of federal land – the largest land claim settlement in history – in exchange for all land claims being dropped, forever.
However, no movement ends on a single day: the realization of ANCSA’s promises would take longer than anyone anticipated. And no movement appeases all of its members: there was a large minority of natives who were upset the money and land was going to native “corporations,” and not tribal governments. Willie Hensley has described this as a compromise that had to be made to work within the western framework; but that minority of Natives felt they had the greatest claim to land in all the world, and should not have compromised. These Natives touched on the greater compromise made by ANCSA – that of the natives values to western priorities. To protect their right through ANCSA, Native would have to participate in the practices of the west not only in the legal world, in which they had recently found success, but also in the much more heartless economic world, where they would not find such national unity. In fact, from the very passing of the bill, they found they were treated like pawns in a game much larger than their land claim.
In addition to the 40 million acres ANSCA granted the Natives, a rider to the act stipulated that another 80 million acres – twice that of what was set aside for the natives – be set aside for “national interest use,” (Dubrin, 51) called D-2 land. (D-1 lands are those reserved for mineral development.) Kathie Durbin explains this rider by saying that the head of the Sierra Club received a call from the head of the Alaska Conservation Society, who said that they had lost everything to ANCSA. She says that Wayburn then called up one of his friend’s in Congress, and simply had the rider attached (103). Even if this is not true, the fact that it was believe so, attests to the power of the environmental movement in the 1970s, and the fact that, with the doors of re-evaluation ANSCA had opened, it changed Alaska forever, in a way that again paralleled the African American Civil Rights Movement.
Part 3: Alaska and the 1970s
In the 1970s, after the passage of ANCSA, the political dynamics of Alaska changed forever. Alaska Natives suddenly had much more political power, but also much more ambiguous political ends, as a political group once represented by disparate tribal governments suddenly represented by relatively like-minded Native Corporations. In addition, their struggle, through the section seven (d) (2) provision of ANCSA, directly aided the struggle of Alaska’s growing environmental movement, which was part of a booming national environmental movement that also became a prominent figure in Alaskan politics during the 1970s. But with ANCSA settled, the State could resume its land selections, as well, and the timber and oil companies could continue their development projects.
In the lower 48, the environmental movement really began to gain power in 1970 with the first Earth Day and the passage of two large pieces of legislation defending the environment: the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Clean Water Act of 1970. These Acts were reactions to some of the worst environmental problems the world has ever seen. Because of man-made pollution in the United States, rivers were catching on fire, America’s air was beginning to kill the Americans breathing it, and serious thought was being given to the sustainability of a culture that was wreaking this much havoc on its resources.
The environmental movement attacked all industries and policies that were not treating the resources otherwise known as the environment with due respect. Due respect in the pure environmentalist terms would have been viewing the environment as a stakeholder on par in power with any other stakeholder. This ideal was never fully realized, but when a creation of this ideal made sense in the economic paradigm, it was adopted and positive change ensued. This amalgamation of ecological and economical sustainability based on cost-effectiveness is the core of environmental economics (Harris, 9), an important step in the battle against environmental destruction. Environmental economics can be seen at the core of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the Clean Water Act of 1970, and it can also be seen beginning to take root in the great development state of Alaska during this time, as well.
In Alaska, the environmental movement really began to gain power in 1973, with the establishment of the d-2 lands promised by ANCSA, the halting of the oil pipeline production by the nation’s newly formed EPA, and the passage of the Limited Entry Act of 1973. What and how federal lands of Alaska would be protected, how and if an oil pipeline would be built, and how thoroughly Alaska’s fisherman would be able to protect the State’s salmon were the big political battles of Alaska in the 1970s. That these issues became battles at all testifies to the fact that the environmental movement of the 1970s and its new form of economics thoroughly entered Alaska’s political life, but, in turn, these battles for Alaska’s resources came to came to be an important part of the nation’s environmental struggle itself. As we will see, Alaska in general and each of these battles in particular, came to represent something to the changing American psyche. Alaska has always been America’s last frontier, but up until the 1970s it was widely treated as America’s last frontier of development. But with this change in the nation, the troubles of the last frontier became much more important to average Americans – what was happening to Alaska came to represent what had gone wrong with all of the United States that led to the environmental problems of the 1970s, many viewed the State’s future as America’s last chance to do things right, and its Last Frontier of development status began being rivaled by a status as the Last Frontier of the environment.
Thus Alaska, its political divide, and its environmental battles, became battlegrounds for a national debate. In the end, the results of Alaska’s political battles were ambiguous at best for the national environmental movement. The most lasting effect of the relationship was dividing the State and altering Alaska’s political demographics forever, creating a distinct divide between residents for development and residents for preservation that survives today. And with most conflicts in Alaska, it began and ended with the salmon.
The Limited Entry Act of 1973
In 1973, Alaska’s fisherman passed the Limited Entry Act. The act itself was a clearly based on environmental economics, a clear sign that the environmental movement had made its way to Alaska, and it made leaps and bounds in the protection of Alaska’s salmon and the livelihood of Alaska’s fisherman, until it had to deal with the other political battle of the day.
The Limited Entry Act of 1973 protected salmon as part of the environment. This ideal gave the salmon the power of stakeholders. The Limited Entry Act laid down the current fishing laws and created the current regulatory bodies that have become a milestone not only in environmental economics, but also political economics, the study of economics valuing equality most heavily (Foster, 3), and ecological economics, the study of economics valuing the future and environment most (Harris, 3)
The tactic to protect Alaska’s salmon while not sinking the economy was to regulate the entrants into the fishing industry by creating a certain amount of licenses, which would be required to commercially fish salmon in Alaska, and combine this with catch limits and gear and vessel restrictions. The amount of licenses, gear and vessels allowed to fish were a continuation of the revolutionary idea called escapement. Escapement was part of the White Act, but was not enforced properly until the Limited Entry Act of 1973. The “escapement” level is the minimum amount of fish needed to return to spawning ground to sustain a healthy salmon population. Since most salmon are caught when they return to spawn and die in the rivers in which they were born, the Limited Entry Act strove to allow a sufficient number of fish upriver to reproduce for maximum sustainability while allowing commercial fisherman to catch all the fish not needed for escapement.
Escapement levels are set by fishery biologists with consideration for run timing, size species, year class, and so forth. Each salmon fishing season opens when the required number of fish have passed upstream. The group of biologists that set escapement levels is part of the Alaska Board of Fisheries which was created by the White Act and given stiff enforcement power by the Limited Entry Act. They also set seasons, designate gear and vessel limits, allocate among gear types and fisheries, and promulgate other management measures (Twomley, 62).
The main establishment of the Limited Entry Act of 1973 was a three-member commission known as the Limited Entry Commission. This small group of individuals is authorized to limit entry into commercial fisheries to,“Promote the conservation and sustained yield management of those fisheries and the economic health and stability of commercial fishing… by regulating and controlling entry into the commercial fisheries in the public interest and without unjust discrimination.”
Members of the Limited Entry Commission are appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the legislature to two-year terms. Commissioners are to be persons with broad professional experience but without,“A vested economic interest in an interim-use permit, entry permit, commercial fishing vessel or gear, or in any fishery resource processing or marketing business” (Iudicello, 93). The commission is empowered to establish a moratorium on entry into fisheries, regulate entry into all state commercial fisheries, establish priorities for the fisheries, establish the maximum number of entry permits for each area and gear type, establish qualification for entrants, and administer the issuing, transferring, and buyback of all permits. The state enables the commission to collect fees and to administer its programs in accordance with the state’s administrative procedures and rules of evidence and due process (Iudicello, 93).
The Limited Entry Act also created a body to enforce all of these new regulations (Iudicello, 90). This body is called the Alaska Fish and Game department. The Alaska Fish and Game department has become a part of almost all Alaskans’ lives, providing research, management, and enforcement of regulations on all commercial, charter, and private hunting and fishing. As we will see, they also represent all manner of hunting and fishing agendas against the encroachment of other industries.
All of these policies and government bodies created by the Limited Entry Act of 1973 have been the basis of the laws on Alaska’s commercial fishing industry since the day it was enacted, and still are. Over the last 30 years they have benefited the various stakeholders in Alaska’s fishing industry by progressing the three different types of economic thought: environmental, ecological, and political.
The Limited Entry Act was enacted to create the most profitable long term fishery system possible, looking out for resources and the economy.
When creating a limited entry system, if the legislature had been committed only to simplicity and economy, it could have conducted a lottery, or it could have authorized auctioning a limited number of property rights to its fisheries. These approaches were rejected by the legislature because they would not have been consistent with the State’s most important objectives of protecting the resource and those who rely on the harvest of the resource.
This quote from the justification letter of the Limited Entry act shows mindfulness of the fish and the need for a sustainable fish harvest to continue economic growth. They are clearly looking out for Alaska’s resources by protecting the salmon. But they are looking out for the economy first and foremost by ardently worrying about those who rely on the resource.
When looking at the value of these resources commercial fisherman had to make a decision. This decision was whether or not it was more valuable to allow over-fishing to continue because of the economic value it would bring in the short run, or if the fish population would be more economically valuable in the long run by implementing rules to create sustained harvesting. They chose the limited entry system because sustainable, long-term use of the resources was viewed as more economically valuable. This is a huge enactment of environmental economics, and a success story. By limiting the amount of money that can be taken in a particular year, Alaska has created one of the strongest, most profitable industries in the United States. Alaska’s salmon markets are once again the most profitable in the world.
The consideration of the salmon as a long term benefit to human life signifies a step in ecological economics, which values the natural world on par with the economic. Although this was not intentional, having a piece of legislature with this idea at its core may mean a lot for the theory in the long run. It has definitely been an ecological success with salmon populations coming back to a sustainable rate. Scientist have declared that all salmon populations have reached a point where they are all above their long term potential yield (Iudicello, 96). Whether or not the exact numbers are right, the feel of the Alaska rivers during spawning season is something to behold. Contrasted against the depleted rivers of Oregon, it is absolutely breathtaking. Watching thousands, literally thousands, of salmon push their way up the Kenai river in summer, glistening in the sun, being preyed upon by bears and eagles, is something that everyone should experience. It is the picture of a balanced and healthy ecosystem. It is the picture of life, strong and enduring.
With no specific regulations for who can obtain an Entry permit coupled with the $202,000 price of one, the Limited Entry Act could seem politically unfair to poorer fishermen. One would imagine that all the permits could easily be bought up by the large, established fisheries of the lower-forty-eight states. However, the Limited Entry Commission seems to be the Political Economic balance to this bill, as they have maintained Alaskan’s advantage.
This governing body of law (the Limited Entry Commission) has successfully upheld an intent of the legislation to keep the permits in the hands of those who most depend on their fisheries for their livelihood. The percentage of permits held by Alaska residents has remained relatively stable. Today, approximately 78% (more than 10,000) of all limited entry permits are still held by Alaskans, and more than half of that number are held by rural Alaskans.
This second quote from the justification letter of the Limited Entry act shows mindfulness of the political abuse that had been taking place by the fishery owners of the lower-forty-eight states against Alaskans for many years. The permits are allowed to be inherited and transferred by those who purchase them, but they are only allowed to be transferred back to the Entry Act Commission. This allows the Commission to keep the permits in the hands of the people that they feel need them most (Twomley, 66). Alaska’s fishermen now have even more power in the decision making that goes on in their industry, and greater representation in larger conflicts. This is an example of exactly what political economics strives for.
However, fishing is not an isolated industry within itself. As we’ve seen, the overzealous practices of Alaska’s timber industry had already been affecting the fishing industry. These practices continued in Alaska during the 1970s despite the battle over d-2 lands, and the oil industry also began to harm salmon levels. Yet the environmental movement had their victories in each of these industries before the decade was over. The fact that it did not go far enough was the result of an underlying problem with environmental economics itself – as long as an economic policy is based on maximizing profits, even in the long-run, it will inevitably jeopardize the environment, and often desecrate it.
As well see, the salmon got pushed aside, and the Tongass got logged, and the pipeline got built because it was more profitable to log than save the salmon, and more profitable to build the pipeline than put tight regulation on logging the Tongass. But, as I said, the environmental movement did have its victories along the way.
The Battle for D-2 Lands
Beginning immediately after ANCSA, section 17 (d) (1) automatically withdrew all unreserved public lands for ninety days and permitted the Secretary of the Interior to classify such lands for any authorized purpose in order to protect the public interest in those lands, and section 17 (d) (2) directed Secretary Roger Morton to withdraw up to 80 million acres for possible inclusion in the national parks, forests, wildlife refuges or wild and scenic rivers systems. In the debate surrounding the Secretary’s selections, the lands he declared for “public interest” came to be known as d-1 lands, and the lands he declared for “national interest” came to be known as d-2 lands. The debate surrounding where they would be and how thoroughly they would be protected was central to Alaskan politics of the 1970s, and thus the national environmental movement, as well. How politicians, both national and within the state, stood on the protection of d-2 lands reciprocally defined and reflected their stance on development and the environment. Some wanted all 80 million acres to be totally withdrawn from all development, others wanted them to be accessible only when necessary to the economy, and some thought certain areas should be allowed to be developed in different ways. In short, all economic types of the day were represented. To begin, the secretary had sole say as to what lands would be chose, but after that, how they would be protected was essentially out of his hands and in the torrents of this economic ideological war of the Senate.
Secretary Morton had nine months to withdraw the land and make recommendations for its disposition to Congress. Congress then had five years to make a final say on the disposition. In short, ANCSA set the clock ticking giving the federal government seven years to decide on the inclusion of up to 80 million acres of Alaska lands in traditionally restrictive public lands classification. In the meantime, Morton’s time would be spent sorting through recommendations submitted to him from groups as widely differing in their ideology as the Luncheon Investors and the Sierra Club.
As such, the debate over which lands would be chosen quickly took on the dichotomy and weight of that enveloping the nation that I discussed above. The battle for d-2 lands was a battle for Alaska’s land, environmental economics, and environmentalism itself, against the forces of development that were still ravishing the whole nation, symbolized so clearly in this bastion The Last Frontier.
In Alaska the forces of development were numerous. After the land freeze, Alaska’s two pulp mills continued buying up land at the rates they had been before, and now they had a new, easily manipulatable seller: Alaska Native Corporations, which quickly began auctioning off their land at wholesale prices, as if it had no inherent value to them, but more likely because some native tribes did not understand all the inherent value of western ownership, and because others had already began to value western profit over their own culture and tradition – both of which became obvious as the Alaska Native land claim movement progressed.
Durbin suggests that as the native corporations auctioned off the rest of Alaska, the two Alaskan pulp mills had divided the state in half: one bid exclusively in the north, one exclusively in the south, and neither ever bid against the other, though both often bid through fronts of independent loggers, who, she found, had no monetary backing, no employees, and no equipment.
Of all 12 regional Native Corporations, the Tlingit were the only even slightly conservation minded group – they were the only ones to stipulate limitations to the development on their land, and they only did so after fierce debates, and finally giving in to the recorded voice of a long dead chief, expressing the importance of Admiralty Island to Tlingit history and heritage. Then, to save the Island, they had to file suits against three other Native Corporations who also laid claim to Admiralty.
These development forces were clearly still having their way with Alaska. Satellite photos begin showing an ever-increasing strip of clear cuts, as wide as some mid-western states, steadily making its way across Southeast.
Fortunately, the forces of environmental protection in the battle for d-2 lands were just as numerous and far-reaching. Many scientists were moving to Alaska during this period to work for the Forest Service in the Southeast as a way to get close to the nation’s last frontier. But after witnessing first hand the wholesale destruction of the Forest Service’s practices, observing their shady dealings with the pulp companies, and finding out that the mills were not in compliance with the nation’s clean air and water regulations, these nature loving scientists quickly became disenchanted, quit their posts and began fighting to have the mills shut down. This was a clear, physical influx of the environmental movements ideals to the last frontier, and it would have lasting effects, as many of these scientists created advocacy groups, and all can use their vote to support green governments in Alaska. Don Muller and Larry Edwards were two such scientist. They founded the Sitka Conservation Society. Many others like these two formed a multitude of small conservation societies, documented in Durbin’s chapter on the Alaska grassroots movement.
Even the Native Corporations inadvertently helped the environmental cause. After they had been granted ownership of land with logs, a new Forest Service allotment for board feet sales in a year was drafted, detailed on page 83 of Durbin. Even though it was a decrease consistent with the national trends of the time, Native Corporations claimed the Forest Service was flooding the market. This use of political leverage sadly signaled how quickly the Natives were becoming westernized, but though the Native Corporations’ plans were not aimed at saving the environment, that is what it did: because the nation had grown warm to civil rights cases as well as the environmental movement, the National Forest service put heavy pressure on the Alaska Region of the Forest Service to appease the natives.
When the Tongass Land Management Plan was finally signed in 1979, it established standards for culverts and roads, required loggers to leave narrow coastal “shelter strips” to provide deer and other game access to beaches, better control of soil erosion and more protection for scenery, and put a cap on the southeast timber industry’s growth.
In 1972, many of the grassroots conservation groups got together at the house of Dixie Bade, future head of the Alaska Coalition, and formed the Maps On Floor group. They drew up their recommendations for the D-2 land: 26 areas including the Brooks Range, the Coastal Plain, the Yukon Delta, and Wrangell-St. Elias Range. Shortly thereafter, Secretary Morton recommended 79.3 million acres of d-2 lands, and another 60 million for d-1 lands, including all of Maps On Floor’s requests (Durbin, 90).
This seemed like a huge victory for the national environmental movement, but one hurdle still stood in their way – the United States Senate. The Senate still had to decide as what type of national lands these selections would be classified before any of them would be set aside for any type of protection. Here, before the Limited Entry Act, Alaska showed itself to be behind the times in environmental mindfulness, as its two senators, Mike Gravel and Ted Stevens, fought, filibustered, and did everything else within their power to prevent the Senate from voting on any resolution to protect the d-2 lands. In the end, the Senate simply did not asses the lands in the time alloted.
But in the meantime, there was a presidential election, and the winner was Jimmy Carter. He swiftly appointed Cecil Andrus as Secretary of the Interior, an outspoken environmentalists of the 1970s. Just before the d-2 lands were made available again, Secretary Cecil Andrus set aside 110 million acres in temporary three year withdrawals, then Carter himself used his power through the Antiquities Act of 1906 to turn 17 areas including Admiralty Island and totaling 56 million acres into National Monuments, which are entirely off limits to development. The pro-development coalition tried to sue, but repeatedly had their cases thrown out. It was clear that developers were going to have to start dealing with conservationists in the battle for the last frontier, and that environmental economics would have its day.
The Alaska Coalition was formed shortly thereafter, including 53 State and national environmental organization. One such State group, led by Shoen and Walmo, two scientist who were also part of that trend of Forest Service employees who came to work in the last frontier and quickly joined the fight against logging in the southeast, published an important report in 1980. The Shoen-Walmo Report proved that there was a connection between logging and the declining deer population, which was beginning to threaten the livelihood of many people living in the areas that were supposed to have had their standard of living increased by all the forest service roads that were now polluting their water.
By now, some of Alaska’s homesteaders, sport hunters and fishers, and even loggers were already getting behind the national environmental movement. Fishing families of Ketchikan spent the summer months at sea, selling salmon and halibut right off their boats. In fall, they went deer-hunting in the rain forest that blanketed the nearby hills. In winter, they gathered at a floating community center in Point Baker and visited each other in open skiffs. They were self-sufficient, and they had no love for government. Until the logging began. Some cared about their way of life more than ideology, and sided with the Alaska Coalition, others sported “Sierra Club Kiss My Ax” bumper stickers. The town was divided between loggers and fishermen, but also between fisherman for logging, and those against. Things were so heated, after one debate, Dixie Baade was shot at.
Southeast Alaska Conservations Coalition (SEACC). A coalition of 17 grassroots organizations, used Shoen Walmo report to bring many of these loggers and fisherman to their cause, which was saving the southeast forests, namely the Tongass. Fisherman were relatively easy to win over, but even some loggers were coming to hate Ketchican Pulp more than they hated environmentalists. The Sierra Club, who was working with the Alaska Coalition, still fighting for further protection of the d-2 lands, chastised the SEACC for showing up to court in rubber boots and plaid shirts. But the SEACC said it gave them credibility with the frontiersmen. And it worked – the SEACC membership grew to rival the size of the Alaska Coalition.
But in the mean time, a plane crashed in the Tongass, killing twelve, including senatorial candidate and front runner, Richard D. Obenshaim. This now forgotten accident was used by pro-loggers to play on the heart strings of all: they argued that with a proper road system through the Tongass, fewer people would fly over it, inevitably resulting in fewer tragic deaths like this one. They proposed a new plan to put roads through the Tongass, which also required clear-cutting 68% of it.
Suddenly, the forces who had fought for the d-2 lands were now fighting against the 1978 Forest Service plan. At this crucial moment, the Alaska Coalition and the SEACC joined forces and proposed House Resolution 39 to put strict restriction on Alaska’s wilderness. In Congress, House Resolution 39 came to be called the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act, or ANILCA. It was a continuation of the fight for d-2 lands spawned by ANCSA, and it was set to be the biggest land conservation act in history, making great use of the Alaska battle that was so central to the national environmental movement.
Field hearings were held across the nation to determine how average Americans felt about preserving Alaska’s lands, and according to House reports, the overwhelming response was a resounding, “Save our last frontier.” The sense that it was a noble occupation to tame, subdue, and harness the natural world seemed to be waining. A new era of preventative environmental regulation seemed to be on the cusp. It was a huge success for environmental economics. And as ANILCA was drafted, it proved to be a large step for political economics, as well. Natives joined the fight for ANILCA in return for what became section 8 of the bill, which protected subsistence rights of all rural Alaskans, natives and non-natives alike, representing Native rights in a fundamentally traditional and non-discriminatory way.
The environmental movement was so strong in Alaska at this time, it had even stopped construction of the Alaska oil pipeline. Unfortunately, events surrounding this environmental debate, which were either outside of Alaska’s political power or wholly fabricated because of it, depending on which version of history you choose to believe, quickly turned the tides for the pro-development coalition on that project, and the result was a wave of legislation that washed all the way down over the southeast, and its forests, and its salmon.
The Alaska Pipeline
Immediately after ANCSA was settled, the battle over Alaska’s pipeline seemed to be the biggest victory for the environmental movement, environmental economics, and political economics, in all of Alaska. Prior to the land freeze inspired by Native Land Claim, environmentalists and one group of Natives were trying to stop the building of the pipeline for two very specific reasons. Unfortunately, their concerns foreshadowed two future political debacles that the eventual pipeline did create.
Like all development projects of its scale, planning the transportation of oil from the North Slope was rife with politics, and the end result was the struggle of the most powerful political group involved. First, Exxon mobile proposed taking the oil out by barges straight from the North Slope. They spent $50 million sending a giant, ice-breaking tanker through the water system, and concluded that oil tankers would be able to safely navigate the waters with the assistance of two ice-breaking tankers. This plan was stopped largely because of protests from environmentalists, who foresaw a nightmare scenario of an oil tanker spilling its devastating cargo and destroying the pristine aquatic ecosystem of Alaska’s waters. This environmental coalition, headed by Friends of the Earth and the Wilderness Society, opposed all shipping of oil by sea. This could have been achieved by building a pipeline all the way to Chicago. Luckily, this environmental coalition did stop the use of tankers in the northernmost waters of Alaska. Unfortunately, they did not stop all shipping of oil by sea, and their nightmare became a reality even in the safer water of Alaska’s inside passage – the place most renown for its beauty in all of Alaska, a state which is itself renown for unparalleled beauty. In 1964, David Brower, head of Friends of the Earth, predicted that, “If oil is pumped out of Prudhoe Bay and then shipped down the west coast, we will eventually have an oil spill leading to the greatest kill of living things in history.” On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground, desecrating the waters around the city of Valdez. This environmental disaster, its international coverage, and ensuing debate, was the first future conflict foreshadowed in the debate over how to get oil from the North Slope to the rest of the world, which was initially, entirely stopped by ANCSA.
The second conflict foreshadowed in the debate was actually suppressed by the passing of ANCSA. One group of natives that were part of the minority group who voted against ANCSA, did so because they claimed that the pipeline would prevent the migration of a herd of caribou on which their tribe sustained themselves. The pipeline has done exactly that, and the case is currently on its way to an international human rights tribunal. But both of these are in the recent future, as I said, right after ANCSA, the environmental movement seemed to be winning a huge battle for environmental and political economics, by completely halting pipeline production for four years.
After ANCSA, oil companies were ready to continue building the Alaska Pipeline. Richfield, Humble Oil, British Petroleum – the biggest companies on the Slope – had formed TAPS, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. And they had began working with John Kelsey, owner of the Valdez dock company, to make a pipeline to Valdez.
But while ANCSA was being settled, the first Earth Day came around, and the newly fledged EPA saw stopping the construction of the Alaska pipeline as its first big project. And they did so, by pointing out that the proposed plan to Valdez violated the right of way provision in the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Though the law was out-dated, it stopped TAPS cold, giving environmental organizations and the EPA time to file several more suits, the settling of which resulted in ban after ban on building the pipeline. While it seemed that the pipeline had been stopped cold, the ensuing debate turned far more ferocious than today’s debate over opening ANWAR.
Environmentalists proved again and again that piping hot oil over the Tundra would destroy its fragile ecosystem, and that oil would inevitably be spilled. They showed the results of the 600 oil spills that year alone, and showed satellite evidence of what human intrusion had already done to the tundra.
But the development coalition was reaching far and wide in their defenses of the pipeline. The Mayor of Fairbanks said that, “God placed these things beneath the surface for a purpose. For us to say that we shouldn’t use them is to be anti-God.” This public statement, from the political head of the second most populace city in Alaska, clearly defines the dichotomy between religion and development that Christian Americans were making in this era: To be pro-development is to be pro-God. This odd alliance is still a powerful political force in Alaska and all of the United States, but to my knowledge, no one has clearly defined how or where this dichotomy comes from the scripture. There is an interesting discussion of the how the second of the two Eden stories of Genesis have been used to defend a development-oriented view of man’s relationship to nature in the second chapter of Emily Merchant’s book, Reinventing Eden. But if all of the Bible is to be taken as God’s work, the first Eden story must also be considered, and as many people have pointed out, in the first Genesis story, God implores man to be good stewards of the earth. I would argue that the primary reason the pro-development line has been associated with the development line, is by choice – because pro-development sects have used select passages from the Bible to further their cause – and this has had a profound, and disturbing effect on American politics.
Fisherman stood beside their newfound environmentalists allies, and expressed their concerns, but senator Ted Stevens played to them with the development banter of the day, saying, “Wernher von Braun, you know, the spaceman, assured me that all of the technology of the space program will be put into the doggone tankers and there will not be one drop of oil in Prince William sound” (Strohmeyer, 80). Fortunately, the fisherman did not buy it, and they have been one of the fiercest critics of oil companies throughout Alaska’s history.
After all, it’s no wonder that pro-development Alaska were stretching their arguments so thin to get the pipeline build, it promised unforetold wealth to the state, and to Valdez and Fairbanks in Particular.
The history of Valdez is much like all small Alaskan towns. Its population has been a boom and bust cycle based on the current economic value of its resources. During the gold rush, it was a boom town because by entering Alaska via Valdez, immigrants could avoid Canadian customs. The town had little other geographic benefits besides this, however. And many geographic impediments. To reach Valdez by land, immigrants had to hike 20 miles over a glacier. While this testified to how badly many sought gold, it did more to keep potential residents away after the gold rush was over. It is also the northernmost ice-free harbor in Alaska – a constant route out to warmer climates, even within Alaska. During the gold rush, the population of Valdez required thirty-two churches, and by the depression the population sunk to five hundred, where it remained until oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay. (76) Valdez was also the Alaskan city that was hardest hit by the Good Friday Earthquake. At just 20 miles from the epicenter of the quake, not only did it suffer the house cracking and foundation sinking adjusting of the earth’s tectonic plates, but it was also hit by several tsunamis, all towering over 50 feet high. 32 Valdez residents died, and many more abandoned their homes, the ruins of which remain today. The sudden revealing of this fault line seemed another barrier to the success of Valdez as a city, but just 3 years later it would become one of the most profitable towns in Alaska, with the building of the great Alaskan oil pipeline, as the northernmost ice-free port suddenly became a much more valuable geographic feature, and John Kelsey, owner of Valdez’ port, knew it.
John Kelsey was also a childhood friend of then governor Bill Egan, whom he implored to gets TAPS bonds for the project through the city, avoiding environmental regulations on oil companies, and saving the oil companies four points in interest (Strohmeyer, 80). Valdez, guaranteed by TAPS, floated a $2 billion bond, the largest tax-free industrial bond ever issued up to that time, poising themselves to make a one percent dividend each time the bond is refinanced. They would eventually establish a permanent fund for city improvements with this money. And the project as a whole was estimated at $900 million dollars. The New York times called this: “Possibly the largest single, private construction project and private capital investment in history,” the money from which would create the well that supplies Alaska with its notorious oil revenue dividends for each and every citizen.
But this didn’t seem to matter. It seemed that development had been trumped by the nation’s feelings for the last frontier, as expressed through the new EPA. That is, until the gasoline shortage of 1973, when OPEC embargoed the U.S. for supporting Israel. Suddenly, moving oil from Pruhdoe Bay became a patriotic mission. After which Congress overturned all of its decisions on the pipeline for the last four years, and amended the Mineral Leasing Act so that its right of ways could be violated, “when any specific project merited it.” A “pipeline bill” was then introduced to Congress, banning all future legal action against the pipeline construction.
This bill would have essentially torn the heart out of the fledgling EPA, and half of America’s senators opposed it for this reason. Despite America’s desperation for oil, the bill was frozen at a 49-49 vote to save the environmental movement’s Congressional muscle. But the vice-president had the last word on this vote, and then vice-president Spiro Agnew weighed in for the oil companies. Construction continued on July 23, 1974, with the total estimated cost raised to $6 million, probably also because of the rising price of oil
TAPS was replaced by Alyeska Pipeline Service, headed by Edward L. Patton, from Humble Oil. After this, every part of the production of the pipeline was a step backward in environmental and political economics, and every part of Alaska again began falling prey to the unbridled race of classical, capitalistic economics.
The fact that the Alaska pipeline was built, causing uncountable environmental destruction, simply because of our support of Israel is already a disturbing prospect. But David Brower of Friends of the Earth has an even more terrifying theory: “I felt it was a contrived oil shortage then, and I still think so today. It was contrived to get Congressional support for the pipeline.” Whichever theory you subscribe to, the results both on the North Slope, and as a result of the social ramifications, across the rest of Alaska, and as a result of future needs for oil, the rest of America, and as a result of global warming, the rest of the world, are horrifying. In my opinion, the truth of this terrifying situation are probably between the accepted ideas and David Brower’s theory. I do not doubt that OPEC would have placed an embargo on the United States, but it is also not unlikely that oil companies would have played up the effects of such an embargo in order to explore further prospects.
Every aspect of the pipeline project was extremely lavish, from camps, to cooking, to wages. It was estimated that the pipeline would produce 660,000 barrels of oil per day at start up, so Alyeska was pushing for a speedy completion, and they knew the best way to do it was to pump as much money into it and keep their employees as happy as possible. But this practice bred intense corruption on both sides of the dollar.
“Well in advance of construction, Alyeska got the seventeen international craft unions working on the project to sign agreements that no strikes, picketing, work stoppages, slowdowns, or other disruptive activity would be tolerated. In return, the unions won the most lavish worker wages in the United States” (Strohmeyer, 85).
Welders on the pipeline made an overage of $90,000 a year. Granted, these were the best welders in the world, and all of their welds were supposed to be spot checked and then double checked by x-ray, but as we will see, these incredibly high paid employees were not always held to such a high standard.
Commercial drivers on the the pipeline were paid for 18 hours of work per day no matter how long they worked, and average laborers, who were mostly right out of High School, were paid $10.67 an hour. While this may seem fairly standard now, it was not then. It was more than double the standard construction wage of 1974. In addition, overtime was abundant, to say the least. The average workweek during pipeline construction was seven-tens, three-on, one off. That means each worker worked seven days a week, ten hours a day, for three straight weeks, then had one week off, then seven days a week, ten hours a day, for another three weeks.
With this much power, essentially nothing could stop the Teamsters from doing what they wanted. To avoid the agreements they’d signed before operation began, Teamsters would stop construction in protest by holding mandatory safety meetings. Teamster Local 959, led by Jesse Carr, abused its power so much that it was taken down by the Anchorage Daily, who won a Pulitzer Prize for their investigative journalism of what they called a mob operation. As they pointed out, Teamster Local 959 was an empire. Not only were they the biggest union on the Slope, but they were also the union for the police, fire department, and other emergency services of Fairbanks, Alaska’s nearest city. When members started going missing on the North Slope, only to be found months later, ridden with bullet wounds, Alyeska simply stayed out of what they considered internal union politics. This is when the Daily stepped in and found out that the deaths were in fact Teamster orchestrated, the whole fascinating story of which can be found in Strohmeyer’s chapter, The Iron Fist of Jesse Carr.
What concerns me here is not the internal politics of the Teamsters and their negotiating with Alyeska, as fascinating as that may be, but what effect all of this had on the political economics of Alaska. And it was devastating. The pipeline bill itself was not the problem on this count, but rather Alaska’s implementations of its provision. The bill stipulated that Alaska residents were to get priority in hiring, and that all hiring had to comply with the nation’s affirmative action laws. But as Strohmeyer documents through heartbreaking case studies, women had an incredibly difficult time being hired, and the selling of “Alaskan” citizenship was so rampant in Fairbanks, that judges threw out every case brought to court in which the dealer of said cards was honest about their forged status, because in those cases, the dealers were not swindling anyone, or so the judges said. However, this is true only on the smallest level. Sure, the dealers were not swindling the Outsiders to whom they sold the cards, but they were swindling the Alaskans whose advantage they were displacing, they were swindling the oil companies by putting them in potential harm of legislative action, and they were swindling the Senate itself, and thus the people American people represented by them by not abiding by their mandates. It also seems probable to me that they were harming Alaska’s environment by allowing Outsiders, who were surely less concerned with Alaska’s lands, to do such environmentally sensitive work on it.
The pipeline was a step backward for political economics in its relationship to Alaska Natives, as well. The dichotomy of Natives in the cash economy is nowhere clearer than in the construction of the Pipeline. Natives hired to work on the pipeline either found the culture intolerable because it was too demanding and did not take breaks for the salmon runs or migrating of the caribou, and were thus kicked off the biggest project in their own state, or were consumed by the culture, obsessed with the amount of money they could make, and never returned to their villages again.
Strohmeyer argues that even the male Natives’ adjustment to life on the pipeline was not as difficult as that of any woman. With all the heavy drinking, men came to their doors propositioning them at night. Strohmeyer reports of women being given potentially lethal jobs because they would not sleep with their foremen. And the ceilings of the convoy buses were plastered with pornography.
The last twist of irony to the key note project of Alaska’s development in the decade of progressive environmentalism and progressive economics, were that all the steel for the project came from Japan, because America’s steel manufacturers were not equipped to build the necessary pipe, and when the pipeline finally did start pumping, on June 20th, 1977, a faulty valve caused the first pipe full of oil to blaze into an inferno just 4 miles down the line from Prudhoe Bay. One man was killed, and the very first drop of oil to pass through the pipeline polluted and scorched the fragile arctic tundra. It was not until July 29 that the first flow made it to Valdez.
The total final cost of the pipeline was $8 billion. In 1977, when the pipeline was completed, a barrel of oil was worth $10 , and it cost more than twelve dollars a barrel to transport Alaskan oil to the nearest refineries, in California. Obviously, this would have made shipping oil from the new, state-of-the art, incredibly expensive Pipeline, from which the money much of Alaska was depending, and for which the State had sacrificed many of their social and environmental policies, almost worthless. And then, the 1979 Iranian revolution tripled the price of imported oil. World politics played to the hand of Alaska’s development coalition and the oil companies once again. In 1979, oil prices from Iran tripled, and oil revenues poured into the Alaska treasury by the billions.
In the meantime, Alaska was changed forever, and the environmental and progressive economic movements of the 1970s were hugely set back in the ever so important last frontier. It is needless to say that the debauchery that consumed the North Slope would never have flourished in those icy condition without the building of the pipeline, but because of the pipeline, it remains there today. Working on the North Slope is still incredibly lucrative, even for unskilled laborers straight out of high school. The wages are still nearly double that of construction laborers anywhere else, and the shifts are now seven-tens, two-on two-off. In fact, as an Alaskan resident, I considered going to work on the North Slope despite my opposition to their environmental practices. It is hard to deny the power of that much money. The North Slope is still riddled with alcoholism, drug use, and stories of sexual abuse. The Native problem has only exacerbated, something I will discuss later, and the lifestyle and political paradigm have trickled down from the North Slope over all of Alaska, as is most evident in Alaska’s politics and politicians on the national stage. Despite it being the Last Frontier of the nation’s glorious environment, its senators are fiercely pro-development, and the minority of conservation minded Alaskans are reduced to fighting their battles within the state. And this began with the construction of the pipeline, killing the movement that seemed to be changing Alaska in the 1970s, by the dawn of the 1980.
First, immediately affected by the pipeline production was the city of Fairbanks. As I briefly touched upon above, the city was infiltrated by Jesse Carr and his all powerful union. Much like Valdez, Fairbanks has a history of a boom-and-bust city, booming during the gold rush as it was a center trading town. It’s economy collapsed for the most part after that, until the route for the pipeline was chosen. Then people flooded into the trading post, mostly in search of money, and the result was a society much like that of the gold rush days, notoriously filled with prostitution and gambling. During this time, two army bases were build there that still dominate the town today. In the same way that the environmental movement brought votes and advocacy groups for conservation to Alaska through its jobs with the Forest Service, who flourished because of the ample, pristine lands to fight for, so the North Slope brought votes and advocacy groups for pro-development to the state, who remained there and remained pushing for development all over Alaska because it continues to be economically profitable.
The pipeline provides 25 percent of the nation’s oil needs, and funds about 85% of Alaska’s budget, which grew from $368 million, to $4.5 billion in the one year after it opened. After a lengthy dispute and a modern coup in Alaska’s government, it was decided that one-third of the oil revenues would go to each branch of the government (governor, Senate, house), and none would ask questions about the others’ spending. It was this influx of people, and the clear value of developing the state, that tipped the tides on the battle for the d-2 land, the Tongass, and Alaska’s salmon.
Back to the Tongass: ANILCA
On May 18, 1978, House Resolution 39 passed in the House of Representatives by a 277 to 31 vote. Again, as with the original vote on the d-2 lands, the Senate was the last hurdle between the conservation groups of Alaska and the Nation, and preserving more than 104 million acres of Alaska’s pristine lands. And again, the bill that could have preserved so much land was stopped by Alaska’s senators. Only this time, it was Ted Stevens and Mike Gravel, and they didn’t want to stop the bill entirely, they only wanted to amend it.
The bill was pulled from the Senate floor by Alaska’s two senators and modified behind closed doors without the consultation of any of the groups that sponsored the bill, or any other member of the Senate, or any member of the house. When they reintroduced the bill, two amendments had been made, one which stated that oil and gas development shall not be entirely restricted in ANWR, and another, which comprised Section 705 of the bill, which states that “at least $40 million or as much as the Secretary of Agriculture finds is necessary to maintain the timber supply from the Tongass National Forest to dependent industries at a rate of four billion five hundred million board foot measure per decade” was still allowed to be logged from the Tongass.
Though it’s not often pointed out, the reason for the first provision seems clear to me – it was more than evident that development and Alaska’s economy was stemming from the oil in the far north, and the result of this was the outlandish pro-development spirit of that region infiltrating all of Alaska’s political moves, especially since they were all in the hands of two senators. The second provision shows how thoroughly the North Slope had won developmental groups’ power back in the Last Frontier. Before the development of the pipeline, it seemed that environmental groups were making leaps and bounds in winning power over the pulp companies, but just as regulations were rolled back in the North Slope once OPEC oil became expensive, restrictions on Tongass logging were rolled back when people saw how profitable development in the Last Frontier really was. And so power was given back to those who had been logging the Tongass for so long now.
I don’t mean to understate the importance of the environmental movement of the 1970s or ANILCA to the state of Alaska. When the Alaska National Interest Land and Conservation Act passed, it preserved 104.3 million acres of Alaska, more than was projected at the turn of the decade during the original debate over d-2 lands, and this only came about because of the nation wide environmental movement. But only 5.4 million acres of these lands were in the environmentally and economically valuable Tongass, which along with ANWAR, was guaranteed by the bill to be open to further debate. And as the decade rolled to a close, Jimmy Carter was voted out of office, to be replaced by Ronald Reagan, who was quoted as saying that if you’ve seen one redwood you’ve seen them all, and the environmentalists feared a full on raid of Alaska’s environment through the holes Stevens and Gravel put in their legislation.
In the end, ANILCA stamped an ambiguous seal on Alaska’s political history of the 1970s. Only the future would show what form of economics ANILCA would really support. And once again, the true state of Alaska at that time was clear in the resource most important to most Alaskans: the salmon.
Salmon at the end of the 1970s
As the pipeline had its negative affects on the Tongass, ANILCA had its negative affects on Alaska’s salmon. As the seventies progressed, and the commercial fishing industry worked out its internal problems, salmon populations did begin to climb, but not at the rate they should have. And the forest industry already knew what was preventing the salmon populations from making a full resurgence: the logging of crucial ecosystems in the Tongass. During the debate over ANILCA, the newly created Fish and Game Department was constantly asking the Alaska Forest Service not to log certain watersheds, and they were constantly denied; the second Stevens-Gravel provision to ANILCA only furthered this abuse.
In addition, section 8 of ANILCA, which was such a victory for Alaska Natives for ensuring the rights of subsistence fisherman to fish as they had for generations, also caused much strife between commercial fisherman and Alaska’s sport fishermen that exists today as a daily reality during salmon season. Section 8 of ANILCA actually puts the rights of subsistence fisherman before commercial uses. My opinions on this are divided. I am highly in favor of the fact that it assures that Natives will never be stripped of their cultural staple because of commercial fisherman cutting too close to escapement levels. But Section 8 assures the rights of non-natives as well as Natives, which includes assuring that all sport fisherman can get their limits before commercial fishermen are allowed to begin making their limit. What this means in reality is that I, and every Alaskan citizen like me is allowed to harvest 15 salmon every year by sticking giant nets in the Kenai River while the salmon are running. While I fundamentally support the rights of the commercial fisherman, I also enjoy being able to catch and eat salmon I have caught myself.
This internal ambivalence of mine is essentially the division in the state among fisherman. The Fish and Game Department is in charge of maintaining a balance between the two groups, closing fishing to commercial fleets for sport fishers some days, and opening it others. This has of course made them hated on both sides. And from the very first year of its authority on the matter, sport fisherman have consistently taken them to court over section 8, forcing the federal government to step in and review regulation, as documented in Case. If I were to devise the regulations, I would first establish a difference between Native and non-native subsistence fisherman, thus making it easier to regulate sport fishers without stepping on Native rights. I would then, in theory, put the rights of the commercial fishermen over the rights of sports fishermen, because the former is making a living and the latter is, let’s face it, just having fun, as most of sport fishermen in Alaska are urban fishermen, not back-woods fishermen sustaining themselves: and, in the end, with gas, and nets, and days off work, it costs urban sports fishermen just as much if not more to catch their own fish as to buy it from the canneries. But this has not happened, the fight rages on, because most Alaskans, including its Senators, either actually think that its environment is too abundant to ever be depleted, or that it is simply worth less than the money that can be made off of it. But one only needs to look at the Brower’s predictions about shipping oil by see to see that the first is not true, and observe the power of the environmental economics at work in The Limited Entry Act to see that the second is not true.
Part 4: Alaska and the 1980s
On a political history map of Alaska in the 1980s, two events would dominate the landscape: the mid-eighties recession, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. In the start of the 1980s, Alaska began developing wildly, forgetting the lessons of their past along the way. They put all their faith in Outside companies to keep them afloat, and ignored the one, solid, Alaska run industry in the state – Alaska’s commercial fishing industry. Even as the rest of the Nation went through the worst recession it had seen since the depression, because of the Reagan Administration’s bad reaction to the stagflation of the 1970s, Alaska’s government remained confident that its economy could not be affected by by Outside forces. And then, when oil prices dropped in the mid-eighties, Alaska’s economy was hit by Outside forces as much as it was aided by them in the 1970’s.
When this mid-eighties recession hit, Alaska had a unique opportunity to reassess their decisions and allegiances of the early part of the decade, but instead of learning from the example of Alaska’s fishermen, and heeding the examples of their political history, the state invested more heavily in its Outside corporations, a mistake that would eventually lead to the greatest disaster in Alaska’s history.
In the 1970s, the growing power of the environmental movement in Alaska, that was in the midst of saving the Tongass, was stunted by the wild development furor set off by oil revenues from the North Slope. But while the development furor continued in the 1980s, environmentalists in the Tongass fought a valiant fight, that with the harsh realizations of the Exxon Valdez oil spill won them an even greater battle then they could imagine.
The Early Effects of Oil
Between 1979 and 1986, Alaska’s population mushroomed from 412,000 to 542,000. This population growth could have expanded the budget through more income taxes, but instead, while the rest of the nation was in an economic recession, Alaska repealed all state income taxes in 1981, and in 1982, it established the ill-conceived permanent fund, which is given 25% of State revenues from oil leases and royalties and annually distributes a portion of that money not for public projects that benefit the needy, but evenly among all of Alaska’s citizens. In addition, it was made illegal for the state to ever use the permanent fund for any other purpose, and it fixed the pay-out from the permanent fund at $1,000 for every man, woman, and child in its first year, to be adjusted every year for inflation only, regardless of any rise or fall in oil revenues.
I can’t actually say with any conviction that it would have been wiser for the State to use this money to fund social projects, because as you will see in this section, the state did not use the rest of its oil revenues very wisely, to say the least. But the distribution of this money could have been used as a unique opportunity to right social injustices in the State. By distributing the money equally among all its citizens, the state ignored all the progress made in the field of political economics during the 1970s, both outside of the state, and within it. In addition, the permanent fund instantly had, and still has, very negative environmental impact, in that it clearly influences Alaskans into being pro-oil specifically, and pro-development, generally, at the obvious cost of the environment, as oil is so environmentally destructive. The permanent fund almost seems like it could have been an intentional political maneuver to garner support for the oil industry and ignore the looming environmental issues, which environmentalists, fishermen, and naturalists alike were constantly bringing up . But it is the State that should have heeded looming issues when proposing the fund. By eliminating a guaranteed source of revenue like income tax and depending almost entirely on revenues from a single industry that is based on a limited natural resource, the State put all of its proverbial eggs in one basket. The state should have known better than this considering its experiences fighting for Statehood. Instead, it learned the hard way, again, during the mid-eighties recession – and even then it did not change its tactics. But in the meantime, the state spent lavishly on a myriad of ill-planned projects.
After his chapter on the building of the pipeline, John Strohmeyer spends nine of the 19 chapters in his book explaining the negative effects on Alaska’s society and economy directly funded by oil money rushing into Alaska until the 1984 recession. Here, I will reiterate some of those issues that have created lasting features in the political landscape of Alaska, including the Alaskan agriculture industry, the creation of the AARC, the creation of the Alaska Power Authority, the creation of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, the building of Alaska’s first metropolis, an introduction of a new level of corporate corruption in the state, and the birth of Alaska’s anti-union sentiment.
Just after the pipeline was built and money started flowing into Alaska, then governor Jay Hammond decided he was going to start a project to appease both the growing environmental movement, and his core development oriented constituents, in one, State-wide agricultural program. His plan, supported by a University of Fairbanks report, was to grow enough barley in an 84,000 acre delta 75 miles southeast of Fairbanks, commonly referred to as the Matanuska Valley, to entirely support an egg and milk industry that would make Alaska self-sufficient in those areas, and still leave the State with excess barely to export. Critics said the subsidies for farmers would come to 10 to 1 in dollars produced. The project also did not excite environmentalists as much as Hammond had hoped, since farming the 84,00 acres required cutting the natural stand of Spruce trees that stood on the land to begin with.
None-the-less, the project was in high gear by 1982, funded by the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund, which loaned farmers the money to buy plots of the land. In addition, the State spent nearly $1 million on railroad grain cars to transport the grain, $8 million on a grain terminal in Seward, and another $15 million on a separate grain terminal in Valdez, and it did so without a single pre-order for the grain (Strohmeyer, 102).
Hammond thought it was clearly time to start the dairy project to be built on his revolutionary grain project, so the state turned 14,000 acre Point MacKenzie, once a wooded home of home of brown bear and moose, into grazing land for cows, and set up a $1 million of credit for anyone who wanted to farm, no experience necessary. State-financed Matinuska Maid was established to buy all their dairy, and Mt McKinley Meats was likewise established to buy all their meat.
After the first milking in the early 1980s, paying $23 per hundred pounds for milk, Matinuska Maid filed for bankruptcy. Ironically, one of the reasons for the failure of this project, funded largely because of the excitement over oil revenue to the state, was that because of Alaska’s oil, the state now had an established shipping route, which, among other things, brought milk on tankers to Alaska that was cheaper than it had ever been before, cheaper than Matinuska could produce it. The company delivering the milk was Sun Oil, not even a member of the Pruhdoe Bay team, but a prospecting company that began shipping supplies to Alaska starting with construction of the pipeline, and quickly changed to hauling food, noting how much cheaper milk was in Seattle. Matinuska collapsed, $3 million in debt, and the invested farmers sued.
William Sheffield succeeded Hammond in 1982, and found that the state had loaned over $20 million for the project, and few farmers had made even one payment before their farms were repossessed. He couldn’t blame the farmers: lawsuits against the state were their only hope. That same year the grain rail cars arrived, but they never delivered a single grain. Seward halted construction of its storage facility and sold its I-beams, while the facility in Valdez still stands, having never housed a single grain. In total, Strohmeyer says the state lost $100 million lost in total. (Strohmeyer, 98-108)
Many Alaskans may find this history of Matanuska Maid quite baffling, because the company is very prominent in the State, particularly at grocery stores, in the dairy isles. They will most likely be disappointed to hear that the Alaskan packaging contains milk largely from the state of Washington.
With the influx of oil revenues to the state, 5% of oil revenues was earmarked for developing new sustainable products, markets, and technologies. To achieve this end, the State created the Alaska Renewable Resource Corporation (ARRC), appointed William Spear the head of the corporation, and gave it $40 million to invest in whatever it chose, with the exception of $15 earmarked for commercial fishing.
The first loan granted by the corporation was quit telling. The loan was for $330,000 to a company called Tepa, that was developing a way to turn fish by-product into commercial protein. This seems like a great idea considering the amount of fish by-product produced by Alaska’s fisheries, but Tepa had no intent on running their operations in Alaska – they opened a plant in Oregon, which failed. The ARRC gave out hundreds of ill-planned loans under the guidance of William Spear, all but one of which failed. William Sheffield was then replaced by Robert e. LeResche, who renamed the corporation Alaska Resources Corporation (ARC), a fitting reversal of its original name, considering the direction the company took under his guidance.
Despite the fact that the National Farm Credit Administration had been broadened to include fisheries in the 1970’s, the ARC established the Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB) – a bank for Alaska residents given a $32 million start-up by the State to be paid back with interest in 2000. After one year, a state audit determined that the CFAB had spent absurd amounts of money on frills for their Anchorage office, and granted $100 million in loans, 35% were non-performing. They invested largely in crabbing while crabs were disappearing from overfishing. They funded a cannery run by fishermen, which went under with a $3 million loan. They loaned the Haida Indians money for their timber operations, which failed with falling timber prices. Roads funded for the project were never built. This program was so mismanaged that it seems almost inevitable that there corruption at work – that some of these loans somehow benefited the individuals giving them out, even though they didn’t work out for the individuals taking them out – as was the case with many other loans being given out in Alaska during this period of relative abundance, as we will see. But further research would have to be done into the companies that profited from these loans to discover any such corruption.
The Alaska Power Authority:
In 1979, the state created the Alaska Power Authority with its surplus of money, in an attempt to build a hydro-electric dam on Tyee lake. The Power Authority was given $39.6 million for the project, which quickly exploded to $96.7 million, but the state formally asked no questions, commissioned no bids, nothing. Strohmeyer refers to this as the “Susitna blackmail clause,” claiming that Alaska’s legislature ignored the poor management of this damn in a push for a long term project for four damns in southeast, starting with Tyee. The legislature paid dearly: the final cost of the Tyee damn was $450 million; local utilities in the area can use only 30% of its power, but they are the only buyers for the damn’s power, so they’ve consistently low balled the Power Authority and consistently gotten the rates they want; and, as icing on the cake, the rest of the dam projects were canceled when oil prices plummeted in 1984. While Alaskan legislators made these poor decisions with the state’s money, Alaskans citizens are ultimately to blame. They would never have tolerated this rampant misuse of money if they were being taxed for it, but because they were blissfully receiving checks instead, they let their civic duties slide.
The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation:
To meet demands of Alaska’s population boom, the State legislator created the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) to give housing loans at less than half the actual interest rate. More than anything else, this led to a surge in the number of Realtors in Alaska. Realtors flocked to Alaska from the Outside to process these lucrative loans. This also started an odd trend of Alaskans getting their own Realtors licenses, which continues today, so much so that almost every small land or property owner is their own Realtor.
In Alaska’s flurry to build a new superstate,, many loans were given out without background checks. As Strohmeyer documents, many of these loans were given to poorly run, environmentally destructive development projects, and when the nation’s real estate market collapsed, so did Alaska’s. The State lost $1.128 billion in mortgage foreclosures.
Alaska’s First Metropolis:
The early 1980s oil boom also created the first metropolis in Alaska: Anchorage. Before the early 1980s, Anchorage didn’t have a single high rise. Now there is a noticeable cluster of high rises on the edge of an inlet of water, dwarfed by the towering mountains around them.
Of the $4.5 billion of state revenues Alaska was making every year, the State distributed $1,000 directly to municipalities for every citizen therein. This left Anchorage, which was, and still is, home to more than half of Alaska’s population, awash in money. The city earmarked $250 million for cultural amenities. Deemed “Project 80’s” this money created the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts ($75 million), the George M. Sullivan Sports Arena ($34.5 million), Loussac Library Building ($41.6 million), the Museum of History and Art ($25.5 million), the Egan Civic and Convention Center ($26.8 million).
The city also became a patron for the arts. While in 1967 it donated only $54,778 to the arts, by 1982, it donated $6.2 million – the highest per capita subsidy for the arts in the nation. Today, Anchorage has a $23 million arts industry that provides income to 4,000 people across the state (Strohmeyer, 151).
The amenities and culture that came with these projects made Anchorage a more attractive place for oil men from Dallas to live, and as a result, the city began blooming overnight. Strohmeyer says that Alaskan residents who drove to work over gravel roads were surprised to find themselves driving home on pavement. While this may seem like a pleasant surprise, I have no doubt that many Alaskans were actually quite disquieted to return home to their secluded shacks to find new developments of small mansions abutting their lots. While Anchorage remains diverse, like any metropolis, the downtown area of the high rises is no longer affordable for a lot of Alaskans, creating a class tension that was virtually non-existent in the state before then.
In 1983 alone, the state issued permits for $1 billion dollars worth of construction, exceeding Seattle, Portland, Honolulu, combined. One indication that a lot of Anchorage’s citizens thought this was out of hand, was the 1984 election, in which a Democrat was elected mayor for the first time in the city’s history, and on the platform of stopping development, no less.
Tony Knowles became mayor of Anchorage at the beginning of the mid-eighties recession. He did not have to worry about keeping his promise of slowing down the development that had engulfed Anchorage. Instead, he was faced with the task of guiding Alaska’s largest city as it went through, and came out, of the mid-eighties recession, which turned out to be a far more difficult task.
New Corporate Corruption:
The city of Barrow, in remote, northern Alaska, is home to 3,300 people, all of whom must take a plane to reach the outside world, and even within the city, the longest road is only 12 miles long. Yet, per capita, Barrow, Alaska is the richest city in the world.
Barrow, Alaska is the richest city in the world because 6 disparate Native tribes voted to conjoin with Barrow to create the North Slope Borough. The North Slope Borough taxes a 56.6 million acre region – making it the largest local government in the world – including all of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, and the North Slope Borough’s government is seated in Barrow.
Before the pipeline, the Natives of Barrow lived a rough life, hunting and whaling for generations. These are the same Natives who still have quotas on the whale moratorium. Now they live in heated houses with in-door toilets and air pollution.
Their first mayor, Eben Hopson was an Inupiat whaling captain (like every mayor since). He said, on record, that heated houses out-weighed the desecration of traditional ways. His idea was to modernize the North Slope so that the Inupiat would not have to worry about the disappearing salmon and caribou, and polluted fresh water, which he viewed as inevitable. Under the name of the Utilidor Project, he created an under-ground, under-permafrost, heated sewer system for the city, and the largest high school in Alaska, which has an Olympic swimming pool, and college basketball auditorium, all for its 250 students.
In 1981, Mayor Eugene Brower, another whaling captain, replaced the deceased Hopson. His two top aides were big players in Juneau politics, and are now infamous state-wide. They moved in on perhaps the most wildly spending group in Alaska, run by perhaps the most previously isolated group of Natives, and exploited Native niavete and foresight-lacking spending for their own gain.
His aids were Lew Dishner and Carl Mathisen. Dishner alone contributed $100,000 to Brower’s campaign, which he quickly recouped, as he was given a starting salary of $250,000 – more than twice that of the mayor himself.
These two aids enlisted a company called W.H. Blackstock to run their operations after Blackstock agreed to pay 30% over cost – money that Brower’s administration funneled into other Democratic campaigns across the state.
In addition, Dishner and Mathisen opened many of their own development companies while aids to Brower, and when their companies wanted a bid, they got it, without any other company being able allowed to compete. Brower would sign these contracts before they could be reviewed.
The Utilidor project started by Hopson rose to $330 million before it was finished, making it the largest public project in Alaska history. And yet the school ended up with a tiny library that contained not a single periodical from the Outside. The city’s boom was so large at this point, that its budget rose to $300 million – the same as Chicago, at the time.
Despite all this, and full employment, Brower was voted out of office in 1984, and replaced by another whaling captain, Feorge Ahmaogak. But Brower left Ahmaogak with quite a legacy, signing $15 million in checks and an additional $7.6 million of contracts, all in his last 5 days in office.
The Brower administration was audited, and it was found that Blackstock had spend $20 millions dollars of the state’s money for which they did not have invoices or products to show. They also found that two contractors – Dischner and Mathisen – upped costs on the state immediately after getting bids from the state.
Unfortunately, Governor Bill Sheffield did not pursue the case despite newspaper findings that $4 million of state money was involved in the fiasco. One reason for Sheffield’s reluctance could be Sheffield’s biggest campaign contributers – Dischner, who supported Sheffield despite his Republican political alignment.
Dischner was, however, investigated by the grand jury for this and other shady leases. George Frampton from the Watergate hearing led the trial against him. Two witnesses for Frampton died during investigation, preventing any convictions. Instead, Dischner was re-imbursed for legal expenses, and Bill Clinton made him dispenser of patronage for Alaska.
Alaska had no experience in dealing with white collar crime. After this fiasco, they wanted to leave Barrow alone, but fortunately, a group of pissed off contractors got the FBI involved, who, with IRS, go after Mathisen and Dischner. The FBI and IRS gave the Department of Justice a bribery, extortion, and fraud case against all of Barrow’s inner-circle: public officials, contractors, engineers, architects, and assorted lesser players.
Mike Spaan, Alaska’s U.S. Attorney, prosecuted immediately, as a statute of limitations was approaching. Spaan’s first indictment was an Inupiat man who had received gifts of a housing remodel, a gun, and mounted trout. This seems like a small first prosecution, but thorough him, Spaan also prosecuted the man who bribed him, who was an executive of one of the large architecture firms involved, and who, Spaan hoped, would help corner the bigger players involved. Brower was then indicted on 14 counts of receiving bribes. This was clearly less than what Spaan could have cornered him for, but he had higher hopes of using Brower against Mathisen and Dischner.
Under questioning, Brower broke down sobbing and gave Spaan everything he wanted. Eventually, for helping investigators, Brower got off with one charge of tax evasion. But in the meantime, the contractors who brought this suit were growing angry that everyone Spaan indicted was getting off easy.
And then Spaan indicted Mathisen and Dischner for $21 million each. In 1981, at the start of Brower’s administration, Dischner had been worth $150,000. By 1984, when Brower left office, Dischner was worth $12 million. In that same amount of time, the city of Barrow had gone into $1.2 billion of debt. Even the reckless state government had warned Hopson not to count on an endless supply of money from oil to pay off these massive debts.
Eventually both Dischner and Mthisen received seven years in prison and $5 million in fines to be returned to Barrow. This was still minimal compared to what the city lost. Barrow was supposed to recoup much more from the prosecution of Blackstock and other companies involved. But these cases went to trial in the lower 48, where people still largely believed that Alaska was a modern, lawless wild west. Despite outcry from the Justice Department, the Outside companies got off with a minimal plea bargain.
Alaska’s Anti-Union Sentiment:
The lucrative nature of the oil industry, that spread to the laborers working for them, and all over the state, through Alaska’s unions, also continued into the early 1980s, only to meet a similar fate, largely because of the boss of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union in Alaska, Jesse Carr. At the end of his project on the North Slope, his union members included all the typical groups of laborers, as well as butchers, bakers, bank clerks, high school principals, and the Anchorage police department (161). Considering his influence over this many people, it is not surprising that the Anchorage Daily called him, “the most powerful man in Alaska…his word capable of shutting down the state.”
During the production of the Pipeline, Alaska’s branch of the Teamsters was depositing $1 million a week into their trust accounts, but internal division was also speculated, as two Teamster members were murdered, and the investigation done by the union-member police department was so poor that it did not turn up a single suspect.
After the pipeline was constructed, Alaska’s Teamsters opened their own Building Corporations, and built a Hospital attached to a mall attached to a professional building, and guaranteed Teamsters free health care from womb to tomb.
However, immediately after the pipeline was constructed was not the best time to make expensive investments. Many of Alaska’s Teamsters were headed home to the lower forty-eight, and bankruptcy seemed inevitable. But in the meantime, Carr had built a Teamster condo estate in Palm Springs, and bought a Lear Jet so that he and his wife could fly there conveniently to manage the Teamsters’ investment, where Carr and his wife, a professional golfer, stayed within walking distance of the first tee.
Again, not surprisingly, an opposition group was formed within the Teamsters, called Ruled Out of Order (ROOR). ROOR claimed that Jesse Carr was amassing a personal empire by subverting democratic procedures within the Alaskan branch of the Teamsters.
In 1981, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was used to stop Carr. It was found that his Palm Springs Resort: Desert Horizons, violated the act by using pension trust funds to acquire property, becoming director of the country club, causing it to be built, and causing the pension plan to bear the total risk of the project (Strohmeyer, 167). The hospital-mall-professional building had to be sold to salvage anything, but Alaskan Teamsters were still incurring debt at almost $10,000 per day.
But Jesse Carr had a plan, he was going to rise through the ranks of the Teamsters, because even with this case, he had less red tape around his projects than any other Teamster at his level. When he became head of the International Teamster’s union, he would use his position to clean up Alaska’s branch, a not-at-all unheard of maneuver. And it seemed like his plan was working in 1984, when he was elected head of the Western Conference of Teamsters, and all of their 450,000 members. Unfortunately he then died on January 5th, 1985 of heart attack, and Alaska’s branch of the Teamster’s lost it’s last sliver of disquieting hope.
When Carr was replaced, Alaska’s Teamsters had to sell everything, trim down their operation, and sell 9 million in debts over next 15 years. In 1976, when construction of the Pipeline was in full stride, there were more than 25,000 Alaskan Teamesters. In 1991, there were less than 7,000, but the affects of Jesse Carr’s era live on today. Average Alaskans still talk about unions being the huge, corrupt operations they were in the days of the pipeline, instead of observing the changes that occurred after Carr left office, and this anti-union sentiment is a huge force in Alaskan politics today.
* * *
Of course, Juneau was the real crux of all of these political issues in the early 1980s. In 1979, when oil began flowing, the State forced the oil companies of the North Slope to do an analysis of how much they were making from the State’s oil, instead of basing their royalties owed to the state on a proportion of what they were making over all, as is the standard practice. It was found that Alaska’s oil was easier cheaper to produce than any other oil from the U.S., despite shipping cost, because it was all pumped from a single, underground source. This recalculation meant the state got $1 billion from oil revenues alone, from 1979 – 1981.
Awash in all this money, the 20 members of the Alaskan Senate ignored the real problems arising across the state, and created more of their own by funding more insane projects with the state’s money. Fortunately, before all of this, after North Slope oil was discovered in ’68, the State legislature did push for big tanker safety taxes, because supertankers haul thousands of gallons of oil, can’t turn sharply, and take 6 miles to stop. In 1976, the state proposed a $30 million fund be set up for immediate clean up, with higher premiums for less safe ships.
But oil companies subverted the state and tried this law in court on the Outside, arguing on the national level that states do not have the right to mandate anything affecting interstate transportation of oil. A court decision was expected by 1985, and the state was expected to win. The monetary total would be more than $7 billion with interest.
I believe its fair to assume that the state was betting on getting this money while continuing to fund their development projects, but when the 1984 recession occurred, and the state’s development projects did stop, the state would receive the court decision in a way no one could have expected at the time, but in a characteristic move that gets very close to defining what Alaskan politics are like today.
The Battle for the Tongass in the Early 1980s
Though things looked gloomy for the Tongass after it got the short end of the protection deal from ANILCA, and the state was in a development furor, grassroots environmental and social justice movements continued to quietly work against the pulp industry in southeast, and manage to win many small successes while the rest of the state crashed wildly.
With the passage of ANILCA, the SEACC had fallen apart. They had racked up huge attorney fees, and burned bridges with national environmental groups by accusing them of selling the Tongass short to save the land they deemed more important. The SEACC’s ties with southeast environmental groups were also strained, because these southeast groups felt that the SEACC had sold out the Tongass. Jim Stratton became the new head of the SEACC, essentially on his own, with no resources and no staff.
He was put in a position to try and save as much of the Tongass from the pulp mills as he could. But in 1980, the Regan administration had taken over from Jimmy Carter, and Alaska’s national delegates were Ted Stevens, who we all know by now, Frank Murkowski, a Republican with close ties to the Timber industry, and Don Young in the Senate, who called environmentalists, “a waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual bunch of idiots.” No one wanted to re-open ANILCA because they were afraid Alaska’s representatives would have it gutted and the White House would support it. The Forest Service felt the fate of the Tongass was resolved. Nevertheless, Stratton began a direct due-drawing program to fund the SEACC through its affiliated organizations.
A plan for an 11 mile road along the Kadashan watershed of Chichagof Island quickly became Stratton’s first big fight. The watershed had abundant salmon, bear, and dear, and the town on the watershed, Tenakee, had already petitioned against the road. But the Forest Service denied their complaints, and began road construction in the spring of 1984.
Steve Kallick was the SEACC’s head lawyer of the case, working for the last $5,000 grant SEACC had left from the McIntosh Foundation. Kallick decided that the Forest Service was vulnerable under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) because it had not analyzed the impact of opening the valley to logging. He then found a report by the now famous Forest Service employee John Schoen, proving that at least 25 Brown Bears lived in this watershed – the densest population there of in the entire world. While the first ruling by a U.S. District Judge ruled that Alaska Pulp’s contract trumped NEPA, Kallick appealed, and eventually won the case.
The Forest Service almost fired Schoen, but had to admit that his report was factual. This was the turning point: southeast environmental groups could finally see that the Forest Service was vulnerable to facts. Environmental volunteers for the SEACC started coming out of the woodwork.
Convinced that there was an untapped patchwork of Southeast Residents against logging, Stratton hired John Sisk as a grassroots organizer. The people he met in the outback of southeast owned chain saws and used them, but they also realized they needed the forest service to protect fish and wildlife habitat. Commercial fishermen especially did not think it was right to subsidize one industry while jeopardizing another.
Meanwhile, the pulp companies were being pursued for their irresponsible social policies, as well. On March 5th, 1981, a U.S. District Court ruled against Ketchikan Pulp and Alaskan Pulp Co. in an anti-trust suit, brought by a third mill, Reid Brothers Logging, stating that, “The court feels that the evidence establishes that the two mills achieved monopoly power and exercised it,” going on to explain that they had conspired to restrict and eliminate competition in all phases of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska, they did not compete against eachother, they kept other mills out of Alaska by cutting of their supplies through preclusive bidding and other means, paying loggers artificially low prices for logs.
A three month suspension of all timber sales was enforced. The Department of Justice wanted to review all the evidence in the case to make sure the pulp companies had been complying with the Small Business Associations small-business preferences, and make sure that system has not been duped by pulp mill affronts.
Ron Galdbini, a 19 year veteran of the forest service and a whistle blower from the northwest, was put in charge of putting together a case for the Department of Justice against the Pulp Mills. He found that Tongass timber had consistently been sold at below market value, particularly when sold to Alaska Pulp Company, because as a Japanese firm, they did not have to pay federal taxes. And selling below the fair market value was a violation of the 1897 Organic Act, which established the national forest system. The established price is the lowest bid logs can go for at auction, it must incorporate cost of the logging firm, with a profit and risk management estimate. This was not being obeyed in the Tongass, where prices had been set by pulp mills. Because there was no real market and no competitive bids, the pulp companies had driven down prices, particularly with the ever so contentious long-term contracts.
Ketchikan Pulp Company had made themselves look unprofitable by putting all their profits into their parent company, Louisiana-Pacific. KPC sold pulp to L-P at half their market value. In Japan, it was impossible to find out what APC was selling their logs for, because the economy was so complex, often working on favors and bond trading.
Nevertheless, Reagan chose Louisiana-Pacific executive John B. Crowell to oversee the Forest Service. Galdabini found at least ten references to Crowell in the Reid Brothers Case, yet he was confirmed anyway.
The facts were, Alaska’s two big pulp mills had breached their contracts by failing to report their income accurately. But even though the pulp companies had probably cheated the federal government out of hundreds of millions of dollars, they could not be forced to reimburse anything from before 1978 because of statute of limitations. However, this was a good reason for the environmentalists and independent loggers to go after their long term contracts, which ensured that these practices would continue.
Galdabini was put in charge of documenting every dollar lost on every bid since 1978. He described his work as, “An educated, wild-ass guess,” but also said it was at least $81.5 million, mostly since the Reid Brothers case in 1976 (Durbin, 162).
On March 1, 1983, upheld the district court ruling on the Reid Brothers Case: “By calculating payments to loggers on the basis of the loggers’ costs rather than the value of the logs, APC and KPC created a network of ‘captive’ loggers heavily indebted to the defendants. With the drop of the executioner’s sword, the defendants could cut off a loggers’ financing, force the logger out of business, and acquire the company or its assets.” The Supreme Court denied to hear a pulp mill appeal. Reid Brother Logging received a $10 million settlement.
Yet the long term contracts remained in affect, leaving the door open for more abuses to occur, and the Reagan Justice department said they would not file anti-trust suit claiming they did not have enough evidence to do so. They claimed that the offenses had stopped happening in the early 1970s and had nothing to do with the “dominance of the Southeast Alaska timber market enjoyed by these two companies today.”
This logic is eerily reminiscent of arguments against paying reparations to natives and enslaved groups from earlier American history. Exploiting independent loggers for almost a century inevitably attributed to the power the pulp mills held over them at the time. The pulp mills were wealthier than the loggers because they got rich by exploiting the loggers.
In May, even the Forest Service asked the Department of Justice to reopen its antitrust investigation so it could review actions of the pulp companies after 1975, including suspected bid boycotting and preclusive bidding, but the Justice Department still declined. (Durbin, 132)
Oregon Democratic Congressman Jim Weaver discovered that the Forest Service was losing 97 cents per dollar it spent on timber sales in Southeast Alaska. Ketchikan Pulp Co. was paying $3.09 per 1,000 board feet for timber, and Alaska Pulp Co. was paying $1.39 for 1,000 board feet of lumber, comparable to timber that was selling for $150 per 1,000 board feet in the Pacific Northwest (Durbin, 139).
To make things worse for the pulp companies, the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers local in Ketchikan was renegotiating with L-P when the mid-eighties recession began. Considering the precarious future that lay before them in Alaska, it is not surprising that KPC agreed to sell the workers the mill. It seemed that things were about to change for ever in the Tongass.
Going into the mid-eighties recession, it seemed APC would have to re-invent its Tongass operations for more environmentally and politically sound economics, and the Outside company KPC may transfer its operations over to the people of the town of Ketchikan who depend on it, but the effects that the recession had on Alaska changed all of that, and put the environmental and political movements in the Tongass back half a decade. Yet they continued to work quietly, on a small scale, and by the end of the decade they won the support of much of America.
The Continued Corruption of Alaska Natives in the Early 1980s
Anthropologists refer to what happened to the Alaska Natives as “rapid acculturation.” In the less than 200 years between the Russian discovery of Alaskan and ANCSA, the Alaska Natives were subjected to hell-fire preaching missionaries, BIA school disciplinarians, patronizing social agencies, and then a complete socio-economic reversal in their lives with ANCSA. To say that this “rapid acculturation” was hard on them would be an insensitive understatement. The numbers speak for themselves: Alaska Native males between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four commit suicide at fifteen times the rate of their peers in the lower forty-eight.
It may seem like the provisions of ANCSA should not lead to such a state. After all, with ANCSA, Alaska natives received four times as much land as all the Natives of the lower 48 ever won from the Indian Claims Commission. But by accepting the provisions of ANCSA, Alaska Natives suddenly had to compete in a world in which they had little to no experience. While for years they supported their families in traditional way, that they knew how to do better than anyone in the world – with ANCSA they were suddenly the most novice players in a world-wide economics program. As such, the Natives put their faith in their white advisors, and because of this, throughout the 1980s, Natives and Native Corporations suffered the same fate as most of the misadventures of Alaskan politics of that decade. In fact, they were the one group that managed to infiltrate the Tongass with the bad policy of the 1980s.
The town of Kuskowim, owned by the Calista corporation fared worst of all. As Strohmeyer put it, they had, “Liberal amounts of patronage, but few profits” (171). As with most corporations, Native political leaders took control of Calista instead of tribal leaders. While tribal leaders may not have been so easily duped into following the whims of the market, the political leaders of Calista were. They bought equipment for a development company, hired hundreds of employees so that they could start bidding for projects, all before they had won a bid on a single project, losing $4 million per year during the early 1980s, expecting the opportunities to keep opening up throughout the state. But as we know that is not what happened.
Their worst mistake was a hotel venture on which the lost $40 million in total. The hotel had a beautiful $700,000 solid jade staircase that was too slippery to walk on, that is now carpeted. Eventually, Calista paid Sheraton to train them to run this hotel, ensuring Sheraton would profit of their part of the deal even, even if Calista did not. And that is exactly what happened.
Calista is the same company that lost out on the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” a bridge Calista was promised would be built by the end of the 1980s, a bridge for which they spent $12 million dollars to build a development called Settlers Bay, a bridge that still has not been built, but is still continuously introduced to Congress.
While it could be argued that these Natives simply had happen to them what would have happened to anyone else who made such bad business decisions, it is worth noting that the Natives had little other option than to get involved in the dicey economy of the 1980s, and that every single move they made, from the jade staircase, to hiring the Sheraton, to building a development project at the end of a non-existent bridge, was recommended by their white, Alaskan advisors, the only role-models they had in this brave, new world.
The Bering Straights Native Corporation suffered a similar fate. When they received their cash settlement from ANCSA, the Bank of the North gladly took their investments without warning them about the risky nature of the particular investments they made. Bank of the North, run by Frank Murkowski, made more than $1 million in fees and interest on loans to Bering Straight, while Bearing Straight went bankrupt. Sitnauk, a tribal corporation under the Bering Straights Regional Corporation, sued the bank of the North and won. The Judge for the case explained: “The defendant, Alaska National Bank of the North, as a trustee, breached the obligation imposed by the trust, causing the loss to the beneficiary.” Bank of the North was ordered to pay $14 million in damages, which it could not do. The bank foreclosed, and the FDIC had to pay, but by that time, Frank Murkowski was firmly in the seat of the Senate.
One of the provision of ANCSA stated that the land and resources given to Alaska Natives were un-taxable for 20 years, the same period of time for which stock in the Native Corporations cannot be sold. Durbin argues that this 20 year window to make as much money as they could led to the destruction they reeked on the Tongass in the early 1980s. She argues that as state chartered enterprises, they were charged with paying as much dividends to their shareholders as possible (Durbin, 136). I believe she goes overboard in stating that the provisions of ANCSA required the Tlingit, for example, to do what they did during the 1980s. In fact it seemed clear because of the Tlingit tribes commitment to saving admiralty island, the Tlingit corporation’s members, those very tribes, would have been more please if they had not done what they did in the 1980s. What they did, was level their part of the Tongass in order to liquidate their assets and invest in other stocks. They had no moral obligation to do so, in fact, I believe they had a moral obligation not to do so, and they definitely had a legal obligation not to do so.
ANCSA required that Native Corporations abide by all federal restrictions on development, including the Sustained Use Multiple Yield Act, which they clearly did not. In fact, they were the one logging operation that got away with not doing so in the early 1980s. In 1980, they harvested 70 million board feet. In 1984, 202 million board feet, compared to 249 million throughout the rest of the Tongass combined. And Durbin claims their land, the land they destroyed in excess of federal laws and against their tribes wishes, was the best of the best, to boot. Again, this project was the brainchild of many forces from outside of the Native Corporations. All logs cut in the Tlingit project were cut by Outside logging firms from Oregon and Washington and exported to Japan whole, producing an absolute minimum of jobs for Alaska Natives.
Don Cornelius was the members of Alaska’s Fish and Game responsible for monitoring stream buffers around logging operations in the early 1980s. He consistently reported that Native Corporations were leaving no such buffers. His only legal authority was to make loggers log away from streams, and when he witnessed logs falling directly on top of spawning salmon, he brought forth a case to do exactly that. However, he found that he could only bring suits against companies breaching river basins that had already been flagged by the Fish and Game Department, so that companies would know where they shouldn’t log, as if they couldn’t tell for themselves. Unfortunately most rivers in southeast hadn’t been flagged simply because the Fish and Game Department had not yet gone around to all the numerous streams in Southeast. Cornelius made it has task to flag the remaining rivers, but by the time he arrived to inspect some streams on Native land, he found them already buried beneath 10 rows of logs. This was obviously putting a huge amount of stress on Alaska’s fisheries, but the complaints of the fisheries were being ignored across the board – one of the clearest sign of historical blindness that plagued Alaska in the early 1980s.
The Continued Outcry of Fishermen in the Early 1980s
The success of the fishing industry’s Limited Entry Act continued into the 1970’s. Fish stocks continued to rise, and the salmon canneries continued to be the most profitable in the world. However, commercial fishermen were not respected by the other industries of Alaska, nor by the State itself. Of all the extractive industries in Alaska, the fishing industry was clearly the most sustainable. First of all, it was based on the most renewable resources – since salmon reproduce in 4-6 years, while Alaskan timber takes hundreds of years to grow, and oil takes millions of years to be formed; and also because the fishing industry was Alaska’s only industry that was running itself sustainably. In fact, as we saw in the last section, the regulations on Alaska’s fishing industry were quite progressive politically, socially, and economically. Because the fishing industry was run by Alaskans, it made sure that it supported Alaskans, and made sure that it could do so for the longest time possible, which involved treating the environment well.
However, as we have seen, Alaska’s other industries, and the State as a whole, ignored this progressive example. Instead, the rest of the State and its industries, often influenced or run by Outside companies, ravished Alaska’s resources and left its economy and those who depended on them in ruin, or put them in very precarious positions that promised just such a future. In fact, the state decided to use oil as its example for development, the industry based on the least sustainable resource, and fully owned by the biggest Outside corporations in the State.
Alaska’s fishermen were acutely aware of these spreading practices of Alaska’s industries. Not only did they dislike the reckless pro-development furor they were creating, but they also noted, as they had been noting since even before Statehood, that the environmentally damaging practices of other industries directly affected their own industry. They had heavily aligned themselves with the environmental movement in the 1970s, even dealing with Outside organizations to bring progressive laws into the state. In addition, they had been the fiercest critics of shipping oil through the Prince William sound. As we have seen, the concerns of the most environmentally sustainable and economically sound industry in the State were not heeded enough in regards to the timber industry. And even more unfortunately, we will see that their concerns about the oil industry were also not heeded nearly enough, even after the industries based on economic models opposed to their own floundered in the mid-eighties recession while theirs remained strong.
The commercial fishing industry could not even convince average Alaskans of the soundness of their practices within the fishing industry. As I began to discuss in the last section, tensions began growing between commercial fisherman and sport fisherman in the 1970s. In the 1980s, this only intensified, as three canals were built on the Kenaii, Alaska’s top producing salmon river, to boost riverfront property. Rich citizens from Anchorage began pouring into this riverside property on week-ends flying up and down the Kenaii River on their speed boats, which erode the riverbeds and pollute the water, all while sport fishing for salmon. The commercial fishing industry has tried to limit this practice, but the sport fishing industry is constantly fighting back.
In August 1981, more than 25,000 salmon died during a rare Southeast Alaska drought. The fish died before spawning, apparently suffocating in warm water. And this was one of only eight fish kills in the early 1980s. Six of eight of these fish kills had occurred on Prince of Wales Island, and five of those six had occurred on federal land managed by the National Forest Service. In each case, the surrounding watershed had been heavily logged. Most of the deaths had occurred in streams where no buffers had been left to provide cooling shade. 10,000 salmon had perished in Stanley Creek, where nearly 90 percent of stream-side trees in the watershed had been removed.
Such was the abuse occurring to Alaska’s most sustainable, politically sound industry, to Alaska’s most precious resource, that even its many participents cannot compromise sharing, that was the only industry to flourish during the mid-eighties recession, at the hands of an industry whose practices had been politically and environmentally dubious since its inception, which crashed all together in the mid-eighties recession. One would think that the recession would have been a good time for Alaska to reanalyze its support for their industries, and start heeding the fishing industries warnings about the oil and timber industries. But unfortunately, something else entirely happened in the mid-eighties recession.
Alaska’s Mid-Eighties Recession
I would argue that Alaska suffered more from its mid-eighties recession than any other state suffered from the early-eighties recession, for the very reason that the State was so recently introduced into the world economy, and because it was in the midst of reckless, state-wide development. What happened? Almost all State sponsored development stopped the moment the recession began; in 1984, Alaska had to lay off 9,000 employees, and cancel virtually all of its development projects, many in the Tongass; the price of timber fell over 75% in the recession, and so despite the ludicrously low rates the two pulp companies in Alaska were already receiving, KPC and APC claimed they had to slow down their operations; 8 of the 12 native corporations filed for bankruptcy; by 1986, the price of a barrel of oil, the State’s economic steroid, had fallen from $27 to $10; only 6 of Alaska’s banks survived, the rest collapsed for losing out on so many loans,, and the FDIC sued a group of them for $55 million – among those sued were members of the Governor’s cabinet, Native Corporation Leaders, and the assistant publisher of the Anchorage Times. This was more than Tony Knowles, the Democrat who had become mayor of Anchorage on an anti-development platform, had bargained for. It was as if Anchorage were Detroit, and all the auto companies moved out. Something drastic had to be done.
This would have been a great time for the state to reassess how it operated, to rein in its obsession with development, to halt the rapid acculturation of its Natives before suicide rates flew out of control, to move away from a classical approach to their economy and focus on the long term good of their citizens, to incorporate ideals of environmental and political economics for the good of their environment and their citizens.
And Alaska had all the means in place to achieve such a radical change: both pulp mills in Alaska were on the run, one threatening to leave Alaska for good, and the other offering to sell to a coalition of Alaskan pulp workers; the federal case over supertanker safety ended in the State’s favor as predicted, entitling the State to $7 billion for a supertanker safety fund, and giving it a clear mandate to continue to tax the oil industry for any and all safety precautions they deemed necessary – in short, they could have reigned in the oil company that had been wreaking havoc on the State since work began on the production of the Pipeline; the Native corporations were failing to an extent that their existence, and how the State should have dealt with them in the first place, could have been reassessed, and in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, the State even had a great example of environmentally sustainable, politically sound, Alaskan run, and unarguably profitable industry on which to base the practices of their other industries.
With this new exposure to the fallibility of the world markets, the state could have also re-evaluated its total dependence on the oil market, and reinstated state taxes, avoiding what threatens to be the largest problem currently facing the State.
But Alaska did none of these things. Instead, the State buckled under the pressure of the ailing Outside businesses operating in the state. As soon as the oil and pulp companies began complaining about the cost of producing in Alaska, and threatening to pull out of the State, the State began pandering to their every needs, desperate not to loose the industries that were ruining the State. Alaska did not tax the oil company the $7 billion the nation had deemed appropriate for environmental protection, instead, they began rolling back the amount the oil companies had to pay on safety precautions; instead of letting the pulp companies flounder, and letting Alaska’s pulp workers and independent loggers take over, the State further subsidized their costs, keeping them in business through the recession; instead of reassessing its relationship to the Natives, the State managed to fanagle them a ludicrous tax loophole that had been closed to all other business; and instead of learning from the sound practices of the fishing industry, the State continued to ignore their complaints about the other, considerably less sound industries.
By the end of the decade, the State would pay dearly for its poor judgment in dealing with the mid-eighties recession. Cutting back on safety precautions for the oil industry, despite the commercial fishing industry’s complaints, lead directly to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the greatest disasters man has ever inflicted on the natural world, and one that desecrated Alaska’s fishing industry for the year, and quite possibly, forever. Luckily, the constant, quiet push of environmentalists won world-wide publicity in the second half of the 1980s, and so after a brief respite for pulp companies, a Tongass Timber reform Act was passed. But all of the Tongass did not fair so well, as Native corporations, with their new tax loopholes, began devastating their sections of the forest at a fastest rate then ever, despite their net operating losses. And by ignoring the necessity of state taxes beyond those on these boom-and-bust industries, the state did not reinstate any state taxes, leading to their current fiscal crisis of the new millennium.
The Continued Conquest of Oil in the Late 1980s
It was during the 1980s that the oil companies slogan became, “They are Us,” which it remains today, and joined the other extractive industries in chanting, “Don’t lock up the state.” With the unions now a shadow of what they were when Jesse Carr was in charge of Alaska, and Alaska’s attitudes changed toward unions forever, this became, by far, the loudest slogan being chanted in the State. And the State, and its residents, joined in completely. As is evident by the State’s failure to act on the federal court ruling granting them the ability to tax oil companies for $7 billion in safety measures, the state felt the need to support the oil company through the mid-eighties recession. Instead of seeing that the failure of so many of the State’s projects were a result of their poorly conceived relationship to the oil company, they decided to support the oil company in every way they could, hanging on to what they saw as their last bit of hope as all their own projects were foreclosing. Essentially, they did not want the oil industry to pull out now, and they would do anything to prevent that from happening. Not only did they support the oil industry in Alaska, but they supported the oil industry in Alaska. As John Strohmeyer put it, “Alaska became not only a seller for oil but a cheerleader for the industry,” and they remain cheerleaders for the industry today. Starting in the 1980s, and continuing today, Alaska newspapers began reporting on every half dollar drop in a barrel of oil and predicted how it was going to affect the dividend.
The State itself had few difficulties preventing itself from being “locked up” from the Outside, as, on the national level, the state had not been represented by a single Democrat since 1981. With this Republican control, they not only protected the oil company within their State, but tried to bolster its productions everywhere. And within the State, they did so quite actively.
A program called the Economic Limit Factor was established in the mid-seventies to give oil companies a tax break on marginal oil fields in Alaska. This applied to the North Slope, the second highest producing oil field in the world at that time, until 1987. This resulted in a break of over $150 million per year for the oil company, from the State. Governor Steve Cowper tried to rescind this during the mid-eighties recession, but was shutdown by Alaska’s 20 person legislature every time. All this, while the State was cutting safety provisions for oil companies from $4,938,000 in 1981 to $300,000 in 1982, to $120,,000 in 1983, to $0 in ’84, as the recession began.
The one state investment of oil revenue that did not get cut, and continued to do well throughout the recession, was the permanent fund, thanks to the shrewd investment practices enacted by the Trustee and Executive director of the program. However, this shrewd investment could be seen as a bad thing for the state as a whole, since Alaska’s citizens, being placated by money, did not cry foul about the State’s relationship to the oil industries dealings in the state. And as I have said, the permanent fund, by giving Alaska’s citizens a false sense of fiscal security, which has caused them to protest any state taxes, and unquestioningly support the oil industry, has created the greatest fiscal dilemma in the state’s history, ongoing today.
In the meantime, it lead to the greatest environmental disaster in the state’s history, which would end the decade in dramatic fashion.
The New Found Power of the Pulp Mills in the Late 1980s
At the start of the mid-eighties recession, pulp companies complained that it was even worse for their industries than others, because new mills were being opened in Africa using fast growing trees and cheap labor to produce the same quality pulp as that harvested in Alaska, and petroleum products such as nylon, and polyester were quickly replacing rayon, an odd argument for supporting this industry further, considering Alaska’s new reverie for oil – you would think Alaska would refuse to hear a single bad word about their new found cash cow. But that was not the case, Alaska buckled, and cut property taxes for pulp companies by 40%.
This gave KPC the ability to pull out of selling their operation to its Alaskan mill workers. Instead, KPC closed their Ketchikan mill for three month, showing just how much affect their plant had on the economy of that small town. From then on, workers worked without contract, and KPC cut their wages and benefits to get through the recession, promising their workers they would be compensated for taking this cut during the squeeze. But when it became apparent they would not, they went on strike.
Meanwhile, the 400 workers who went on strike against APC when the recession hit, were replaced by permanents after 10 days. And then,10 months later, in the midst of the recession, the State broke the strike by decertifying the union. Those workers who had gone on strike were given entry level jobs at the mill.
Even the federal government seemed to be trying to support the pulp mills in Alaska through the recession. In 1986, KPC settled their debt to the U.S. Government for lying about how much their Alaskan operations had been costing them, that had been projected at $81.5 million, with a $1 million cash payment and an upward adjustment in their stumpage rate. As if that wasn’t a great enough deal for the pulp companies, they were given road credits against future purchases for the money they did pay. APC, who was being sued for the same thing as KPC, chose to counter-sue for $83 million because AK had not met the proposed board feet of their initial contracts, because the quality of timber they were getting was not as high as promised.
But the environmental movement was still quietly working in Southeast. The SEACC had swelled to nearly 1,000 members through its grassroots movement, and this movement eventually caught the attention of Congress, who passed the Alaska Lands Act, requiring the Forest Service to report to Congress on the status of the Tongass National Forest by Dec. 2, 1985, and consult with groups including SEACC, the timber industry, commercial fishing groups, and the state itself. Congress budgeted $1.5 million for project, $1.25 went to examining the road program.
The investigation found that from 1981, straight through the recession to 1986, the Alaska region of the Forest Service spent $123 million on 303 miles of logging roads, 21 bridges, and 13 log transfer stations (Durbin, 160), through 94 of the 351 watersheds without roads, were losing $60 million per year supporting its two pulp companies (Durbin, 175), pulp companies also built 456 miles of roads, and that the federal funding provision for 4.5 million board feet per decade, had clearly been turned into the Alaska Region’s goal, as they consistently used all of their $40 million in annual subsidies.
On May 8 and 9, 1986, the House Interior Subcommittee on Public Lands held an oversight hearing on management of the Tongass timber program. The SEACC rallied and brought in all southeast Alaska’s faces and to testify about their lost homes, lost land, lost privacy, lost hunting and fishing ability, and much more. The number one goal of these communities against logging was to show that the 50 year contracts of the pulp companies deserved to be broken because of their constant practices of fraud and monopolies was crushing average American citizens.
Small-scale logging contractors, tree thinners, commercial fishermen, trappers, hunters and fisherman all spoke in favor of the SEACC’s proposal, saying they were “not opposed to logging, just these devastating monopolies.” This should have made it clear to the nation that the Alaska Region of the Forest Service was putting logging interests above all else. And even the Forest Service admitted that they had to because of the two long standing contracts. No one mentioned that both Pulp Companies had been just moments away from breaking their end of these contracts before Alaska bailed them out of the mid-eighties recession. SEACC did mention that the Forest Service’s longest standing contract was with the people of the United States.
A Tongass Timber Reform Act was proposed in 1986 by New York Representative Bob Mrazek to cancel the 10 year timber targets and all subsidies to the pulp mills, ignoring the SEACC’s goal to end long term contracts and add wilderness lands.
Unfortunately National Environmental groups were not poised to respond at the time. After ANILCA, national environmental groups had been largely absent from Alaska, fighting secretary of interior James Watt on other issues. Even Alaska’s groups were caught up keeping hunting out of the National Parks, and drilling out of ANWR. But the SEACC came through again, taking the Group of 10 – the biggest national environmental groups – on a tour of Alaska, which procured $500,000 for their fight against Mrazek’s bill. However, it is worth mentioning that $500,00 was nothing compared to what the Group of Ten was donating to groups fighting against ANWAR being opened at the time. This was typical for the era – the valiant efforts for some industries were ignored in the fight for oil.
Then, the Forest Service’s general accounting office revealed that from 1981-1986, again, straight through the recession, the Alaska Region of the Forest Service spent $257 million preparing timber, only half of which was sold. And they built themselves a $6.4 million complex on Prince of Wales Island that included an employee ball field decked with sod shipped by barge from Seattle, and a work center at a remote bay on Chichagof Island equipped with a weight room, sauna, and cable television. With the $36,000 price tag of every Forest Service Job, the National Taxpayers Union joined the SEACC’s battle.
The following December the House Interior subcommittee on Energy and the Environment held a hearing on the Mrazek Bill, to discuss adding the Tongass Timber Contract Modification Act, to eliminate the pulp companies long term contracts
Having learned from the SEACC, the pulp companies and Forest Service brought in natives living off the land and wives of loggers to give their own moving testimony about how they needed the pulp industry. This seems like superfluous talk to me, because the long term contracts did not help either group – they hurt the independent loggers, and they created competition for the Native Corporations.
Stevens and Murkowski do not go to these hearings, did not listen to their constituents actually involved in the issues. This is typical of their fixation on money to the state, instead of the well-being of individual Alaskans. In that fixation for the overall money to the state, they tread on people’s lifestyles. As we will see, this logic has leaked into their arguments for opening ANWAR. They constantly argue that the Nation should listen to Alaska on what it wants to do with their own land, but the state itself does not listen to the Alaskans who actually live and depend on ANWAR, instead the choose to focus on the opinions of the majority of the populations, those far away from the land in metropolises like Anchorage, whose opinions are primarily dictated by their opposition to state taxes and their support of large dividends.
Luckily, the Nation could see this. Outcry rang out across the board. Sports Illustrated: “You don’t have to be an environmentalists – just a taxpayer – to ask why the Forest Service is doing this.” Reader’s Digest: “Time to ax this timber boondoggle.” New York Times: “Here’s a federal plan so wrongheaded it’s likely to provoke profanity from any fair-minded person.” In Kansas alone, six newspapers printed stories calling for Tongass Reform. A New York Times front page story by Timothy Egan: “Here in the emerald panhandle of southeastern Alaska, where rain is measured in feet and the legacy of Russian America can still be seen in onion-domed churches, the Forest Service sells five-hundred-year-old trees for the price of a cheesburger.”
During this routing of the pulp companies in Alaska, the National Labor Relations board heard the case of the APC workers who had their strike broken by the state and were then given entry level positions, and forced APC to pay $10 million to the 200 workers. And on October 1988, EPA filed a complaint with the Department of Justice citing KPC for more than 500 violations of tis permit since 1985.
The one argument holding up a bill, was that a Tongass Timber Reform Act canceling the long-term contracts would force the U.S. to pay the pulp companies in Alaska for all the profits they could have made in the years that remained on their contracts.
But then the environmentalists movement of the Southeast got an unlikely and unfortunate boost, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which pushed their bill through the house and Senate.
The Continued Corruption of the Natives in the Late 1980s
With the mid-eighties recession and its affect on Timber prices, Native Corporations suddenly could not repay the loans they had taken out to start their operations, and so the State pushed to have a federal tax loophole reopened for the, instead of addressing the more pressing political issues at hand, ultimately creating more political and economic issues for them in the future.
The practice of selling net operating losses (NOLs) was legal for all corporations from 1980-1984. In the practice, a company that had NOL, could sell them to other companies for whatever price they chose, and then the company that purchased them could use the total amount of the NOLs they purchased as tax write-offs. Realizing how easily corruptible this system was, it was outlawed in 1984.
Then, in 1986, in the midst of the mid-eighties recession, the loophole was reopened for Alaska Native Corporations and only Alaska Native Corporations. This was largely due to the work of Ted Stevens, who claimed the measure was necessary so that Alaska and the nation, could uphold its obligations to the embattled peoples of America’s first nation. In fact, that is exactly what it did for failing Native Corporations such as Bearing Straights and Calista that I discussed above. These companies managed to save themselves from bankruptcy with the loophole, but others, such as Cook Inlet Regional Inc. (CIRI), which was already the richest of all the corporations, abused the loophole, making as much as Bearing and Calista combined. When there was not enough free land to fill their allotment in their region, they bardered for credits redeemable at all Federal Land auctions. CIRI now owns land from Florida to Hawaii, and earned $237,953,000 through 1988, compared to the combined $16,506,000 earned by the other 12 combined.
The abuse of this practice has since spread to many other Native Corporations, and it is one of the biggest political battles within the State today, which I will discuss at the end of this work. But it is worth noting now that this debate would have be non-existent of Alaska would have devised a different way of aiding the Native Corporations, like reconsidering the provisions of ANCSA, instead of further entrenching Alaska Natives into a world of corrupt politics. But doing so would not have brought so much money to the state, which I think is clearly what Ted Stevens had in mind when pushing for such a measure, which brought huge amounts of taxable NOL money to the state, in the midst of the worst recession the young state had ever had to deal with.
Willie Hensley’s NANA Regional Corporation also did well in the late eighties. By selling its NOLs it raised the money to open the Red Dog Zinc Mine, another political battle raging in Alaska today that I will address in the last section of this paper. In addition, many southeast corporations laid waste to their forests and sold the timber to Japan for next to nothing to so they could turn around and sell their NOLs, as Kathie Durbin documents. Companies such as Marriott and General Motors bought Native Corporations’ NOLs, while Natives made their losses look much worse than they actually, by selling timber at a loss on purpose. The University of Alaska Institute for Social and Economic Research reported that by 1990, documented timber-based NOLs by Alaska Native Corporations had cost the U.S. Treasury more than $716 million.
So how did this bolstering of ANCSA affect Alaska Natives on the whole? In 1985, Thomas Berger, a retired Canadian Judge, commissioned by the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, wrote, Village Journey: the Report of the Alaska Native Review Commission. It documents a cultural tragedy of historical dimensions unfolding. “Advisers flocked to the villages like scavengers, led them astray, and now the most of the money and land is gone. It was a domestic application of economic development theories previously only applied to the Third World.” Because they had to abide by federal regulations, they were widely prevented from hunting and fishing the lands they had special rights to before ANCSA. In short, the report stated that Natives were better off before ANCSA, when they were still organized by tribal governments and not corporations. But instead of giving more authority to tribal governments, which could have easily been done, Alaska gave more power to the Corporations, in a last ditch attempt to keep flooding the state with money – the policy practiced all over the state in the late 1980s, which led to the environmental disaster that was Exxon Valdez.
The Continued Marginalization of Fishermen in the Late 1980s
In the latter half of the 1980s, Alaska sport fishermen, still upset that commercial fishermen were depleting salmon they felt equally, if not more, entitled to, began taking their complaints over the heads of the Alaska’s Fish and Game Department, out of the State entirely, to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
In 1976, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA) was passed as the first piece of legislation providing comprehensive federal authority over fisheries within the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ): the ocean area extending from the seaward boundary of each coastal state out to 200 miles offshore. In doing so, it established a new fishery governance structure that distributed management authority among the federal government, and eight regional fishery management councils.
The regional fishery management councils are democratic decision-making bodies in which representatives of recreational and commercial user groups, states, tribes, and the federal government collaborate to develop fishery management plans and implement fishery regulations. Scientists, user groups, environmental organizations, and the public participate as advisors and provide testimony at public meetings. The idea of the council system is to develop regional approaches to fishery management within a framework of legally acceptable practice.
Two premises underlie the regional management approach: first, that people who have working knowledge of regional fisheries can make the most informed decisions about those fisheries; and second, that management of fisheries within state waters should be coordinated with management of fisheries in federal waters. The regional councils reflect recognition that fisheries are regional rather than national in scale and character. Each state has absolute governance over waters within their boarders, and extending three miles into the Oceas for this same reason.
Despite its recognition of regional fishery interests, the law also protects the national interest in fisheries. Regional fishery management councils recommend management plans and regulations to the Secretary of Commerce, who holds the ultimate authority for their approval and responsibly for their consistency with federal law. In most cases, the secretary delegates this approval authority to the National Marine Fisheries Service. The eight councils take different approaches to decision making and management, as was anticipated and intended when the FCMA was first developed. Each council involves many stakeholders who represent different interests and incentives. The fisheries they manage are diverse and complex.
Council composition is dictated by law: each council has a voting membership that includes the regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, directors of state fishery agencies, and public members who are usually, but not always, representatives of the commercial and recreational fishing industries. A tribal representative sits on one council. Nonvoting membership includes the area directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Interstate Marine Fisheries Commissions, and the U.S. Department of State.
This system of creating regulations has created the Pacific Coastal Salmon plans, which regulates the fishing of Alaska’s salmon on the national level (Hanna, 66). At first, these regulations simply acquiesced to the regulations that Alaska created for itself through the Limited Entry Act. Government agencies monitored salmon schools year-round, and fishing the salmon during their time at sea was prohibited for all states. This allowed the government agencies to monitor the fishing of the salmon when they could be watched most closely and collectively – when they are going upstream. As the fish were going upstream, the government agencies decided how much fish must be allowed to spawn to maintain stocks allowing for long term maximum economic growth.
Alaska’s sport fishermen seized on this point, arguing the regulations Alaska’s Fish and Game was imposing on sport fishermen was not optimizing long-term economic growth. They argued that building houses along Alaska’s salmon rivers, especially the Kenai, was the best thing for the economies of these small Alaskan towns, and thus the nation, in the long run, and that allowing sport fishing was the best way stir up a desire to build along these salmon rivers.
Unfortunately, Alaska’s sport fisherman found sympathy on the national level, probably because of the relatively small commercial fishing industry in the rest of the nation – but as we know, Alaska had a unique commercial fishing industry at the time – and definitely because they were allied with Alaska Native subsistence fishermen, who are wrongly grouped with them as sport fishermen, and this minor error gave Alaska’s sport fishermen the political power of all Natives involved in the enforcement of National fishing policy in this debate and others. And so, in the late 1980s, the National Marine Fisheries Service began cutting into Alaska’s waters, removing Alaska Fish and Game regulations and imposing their own in rivers such as the Kenai, thus creating a puzzle of regulations throughout Alaska’s waters, oddly divided between essentially state, and wholly federal regulations.
This mistake on the federal government’s part had negative effects, just as the Alaska Fish and Game Department said it would. Banks along salmon river began eroding, and this led to more fish kills and smaller salmon populations. Unfortunately, all Alaskans had to pay for this, having their annual allotment cut back to afford proper escapement levels. But, of course, Alaska’s commercial fishermen were hurt this most, as their livelihood was at stake. This is an example that will become important later on, because it shows that regulations based on economic prosperity, even if it is long term prosperity, can easily be manipulated, and will never be wholly sustainable. As global fish stocks have began harming economies all over the world, and the world economy itself since the 1990s, this flaw in the premise of America’s fishing policy has become an impediment for the entire worlds Common Pool Resource Management, as I will discuss in the following section.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s commercial fishing industry – the most sustainable, politically just industry in the state, was being trampled upon. They fought these injunctions from the federal government at every turn, but to little avail. And meanwhile, the problems they had been complaining about in the practices of Alaska’s other extractive industries was intensifying. Logging operations in Southeast were rejuvenated after the mid-eighties recession, and environmental regulations on oil transportation were being rolled back at a devastating rate. And then, the day of reckoning came, when it became clear that Alaska had been ignoring its most valuable assets, and its example of proper industrial practices, and Alaska had to reevaluate its priorities. Unfortunately, this realization came at a terrible cost.
The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
On March 24, 1989, just after midnight, the 987-foot supertanker Exxon Valdez, carrying 51 million gallons of oil, struck the well marked Bligh Reef, 25 miles south of Valdez, tearing huge gashes in 8 of the ships eleven cargo tanks, and spilling 10.8 million gallons (258,000 barrels) of crude oil into Prince William Sound.
The captain of the Exxon Valdez was 42 year old Joseph Hazlewood, from Huntington, New York. Hazlewood was a self-admitted alcoholic. He had entered a hospital for treatment of his alcohol problem in 1985, and been convicted of drunk driving twice in his life, the last time in September, 1988, just 3 months before Exxon entrusted him with $20 million worth of environmentally sensitive cargo.
On March 23, Hazlewood and two members of his crew drank from noon until 7:30, two hours before their ship was to leave port. Regulation at the time clearly stated that no crew member was to have a drink anytime before four hours of a supertanker’s departure.
Upon leaving Valdez, every supertanker must be escorted by a smaller vessel through the narrows extending out to sea from the city. On March 23, the man who piloted the Exxon Valdez through the narrows was Ed Murphy. He later admitted smelling liquor on Hazlewood before taking him out to sea, but thought the captain appeared fine. The Exxon Valdez was freed into open waters at 11:25 pm.
Beyond the narrows, supertankers may head straight through the Prince William Sound and through the Gulf of Alaska, but that is not what the Exxon Valdez did. Just 12 miles from Valdez is the famous glacier bay, which draws hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, who anxiously watch as chunks of beautiful blue ice larger than the cruise ships from which they are being watching, calve off and crash into the frigid water, creating massive waves that splash against the hulls of the cruise ships before they float out into open sea. A report of floating ice from one of these glaciers – Columbia Glacier – troubled Hazlewood that evening. But instead of slowing down, he decided to try to outflank the problem, and maneuvered outside of Alaska’s shipping lanes. The same such maneuver sunk the Torrey Canyon tanker off England in 1967.
The Coast Guardsman who received Hazlewood’s call, approved his course of action and stopped monitoring the ship – a decision highly criticized by the NTSB in its independent investigation of the event.
Hazlewood then put the ship on automatic pilot and went below the deck to sleep, telling Third Mate Gregory Cousins to start returning the vessel to the normal traffic lanes when Busby Island, just north of Bligh Reef, was abeam to port. Cousins had no pilotage endorsement and had spent the entire day preparing the boat, sleeping only four hours in the past 24.
The midnight shift change brought Seaman Robert Kagan, forty-six, to the deck as Cousin’s helmsman. Two months earlier, the Chief Mate of the Exxon Valdez wrote that Kagan “has been practicing steering…but he still requires too much supervision to be a productive crew member.”
At 11:53, the red flashing buoy of Bligh Reef, indicating a “red sector”, meaning “dangerous waters ahead”, was spotted. Cousins ordered a ten degree turn, but quickly discovered that the auto-pilot was still on. and rushed to turn it off. Cousins claims Hazlewood never told him that he had turned the auto pilot on, Hazlewood claims he did. Either way, the crucial moments it took Cousins to turn it off, put the supertanker in dangerous waters. It had to be turned fast.
With Cousins and Kagan both cranking the helm as hard as they could, they tried to turn hard and sharp, but their attempt was too late. They ran aground on Bligh Reef, starting the surge of oil onto the face of the waters, and were stuck.
Hazlewood woke, returned to the helm, and had print outs done by the ships’ computer, which stated that the boat “was not stable to move.” Nevertheless, Hazlewood gave seven orders for speed surges. Luckily, he failed to free the ship from Bligh Reef: maritime experts say that if the boat would have dislodged, it would have capsized, spilling all the oil aboard, and drowning most of the crew.
As it was, the only human injury occurred on the Coast Guard Cutter that rushed to the scene, when one female Coast Guardsman got her hair caught in a fan and had to chop it off with her knife, just an inch from her skin, less than a second before she was scalped.
By the time the Coast Guard arrived, oil was already piling up 16 inches above the sea level. The Coast Guard had a hard time finding a safe place to climb aboard under these conditions. And because of the fumes, they feared for an explosion. Yet they found Hazlewood on deck, smoking a cigarette.
The Coast Guard promptly decided that all of the crew needed to be tested for alcohol, but they did not have the proper equipment to do so – another fact that was later criticized by the NTSB. The police were then brought to the scene, but they also came without equipment, being uninformed of the reason for their summons. A toxologists was then tracked down in Valdez, and brought to the ship, only to find that the ship had had the proper equipment on board all along. Ten hours had passed since the crash, but the toxologist tested the crew nevertheless, and nevertheless, Hazlewood had a blood alcohol level of .061. Regulation allows for no more than .04. From this reading, it is estimated that Hazlewood had a BAC of .2 at the time of grounding. The national mean BAC for state drunk driving convictions is .01. This made it clear to the toxologist that Hazlewood had been drinking on board the ship after departure, or after the grounding.
Hearings attributed the Exxon Valdez to an alcohol-impaired captain, an unqualified and overworked Third Mate, and inadequate training of personnel. As Strohmeyer puts it, “Such negligent management might have been expected in an accident involving a bootstrap company running a banana boat. But this was the crew assigned to a state-of-the-art tanker owned by one of the richest corporations in the world” (220).
But while the state of this crew seems almost comical, farcical, as if it could not have been the norm, few have mentioned that all of this may have been more than an isolated incident, may have been the result of bad political economics reaching back to the very beginning of political economics in Alaska, the result a development hungry, environmentally reckless history, that expanded beyond all measure with the oil money, ignoring the warnings of its thriving fishing industry and mid-eighties recession, and growing exponentially more reckless thereafter. Few people have noted that the Exxon Valdez was the result of bad Alaskan politics and Outside oil companies capitalizing on those politics, and that this was just an extension of Alaska’s history, which is rife with Alaskans sacrificing their best interests for Outside money.
What people have noted is the destruction of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. As a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill at least 980 sea otters, 138 bald eagles, and 33,125 seabirds died, all before the end of the summer. I say ‘at least’ because these numbers only account for the carcasses actually collected and given autopsies to confirm their cause of death. Nevertheless, those numbers indicate that half of the total sea otter populations of southeast died. And while there was a highly publicized, valiant effort of Exxon to recover, clean, and return sea otters to their homes, only 193 were treated. What was not often reported is that 45 of those 193 were fitted with radio transmitters, and of those 45, only 14 survived their return to the wild. The full extent of the residual effects of this disaster may never be known.
It was mating season for one type of Southeast sea bird – the thick-billed murres. Thus, 60 to 70 percent of their world population died as a result of this oil spill, and because these murres lay only one egg per year, and only after they are 4 years old, their population will virtually never return to what it was before. The following summer, salmon stocks from Southeast were half what they had been the year before. But as if this weren’t unjust enough penalty for being Alaska’s one industry that publicly denounced the practices of the oil companies, the mortality rate for spawning salmon has been 4 times higher even since. The best hypothesis for why, is because their food still carries lingering traces of oil, which kills them. Shellfish, for example, will store oil forever, thus every shellfish contaminated by the Exxon Valdez oil spill still carries the effects of that fateful day and continues to spread them.
Shelfish are an intricate part of the diets of sea otters, murres, many traditional Southeast Natives, and many non-Natives who live in Southeast and enjoy its seafood, including myself. Before the oil spill, my grandfather took me to Clam Gulch in Southeast and taught me how to identify the bubbles of razor clams in the mudflats; he taught me how to pounce on them and dig with both hands flinging sand, until I could grab their necks, pull them up, and slurp them down raw. They were delicious, fresh – they tasted like the sea smells on a warm Alaskan summer night. But I can no longer eat them without worrying that each clam is slowly poisoning me – without being reminded that that fresh smelling sea is actually polluted with oil. I lost something dear to me because of the oil spill. I can only imagine what Natives who base most of their diet and culture around the seafood of Southeast lost. Archaeological Native sights were destroyed by the oil spill, and then scavenged by clean up workers: 4,000 year old artifacts went missing. 15 villages that were dumped on still cannot subsist because of the fish kills; all fifteen of which are currently involved in a class action suit against Exxon. This case may become monumental in Alaskan history, and possibly world history, in that it will force the courts to determine what the value of lifestyle is. These Natives could be retributed with money, which will give them the opportunity to start a new life. But is that proper compensation? Is the exchange of one lifestyle for another equal, and equal for all peoples? The current state of Alaska’s Native Corporations may indicate otherwise. And this law suit is one of only three-hundred that remains unresolved today, in which, according to Strohmeyer, only lawyers are growing richer (Strohmeyer, 233).
Kelp may also discharge oil at very slow rates. Their exact toxicity has not yet been confirmed. Kelp is the bases for all marine life in Southeast. To put it bluntly, if they have suffered, if they do not recover, the entire marine ecosystem of Southeast Alaska will collapse. The residual effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill are still not clear.
But all this could have been avoided. Regulations on oil transportation in Alaska’s waters had been rolled back throughout the eighties as oil companies complained that they were not making enough money, even as they were pumping oil from the most centralized source in the western oil at costs subsidized as if it were an unproductive well. There was no justification to roll back regulations. If the supertanker would have been fitted with an 11-foot double bottom, the resulting oil loss would have been small, and possibly eliminated. The Alaska Oil Spill Commission stated that the oil spill would never had occurred “If Alaskans, state and federal governments, the oil industry, and the American public had insisted on stringent safeguards. It could have been prevented if the vigilance that accompanied construction of the pipeline in the 1970s had been continued in the 1980s. The original rules were consistently violated primarily to ensure that tankers passing through Prince William Sound did not lose time by slowing down for ice or waiting for winds to abate.”
And there were people pushing for proper taxation and safety precautions on Alaska’s oil before this event. Oil insiders and outsiders had been blowing the whistle on small loading and unloading spills and an inability to clean them up for years. Both Jonathan Willis’ book, A Place in the Sun, and an extensive array of papers by Dan Lawn documents just such issues. Both men comment on a 1984 clean up drill conducted by Exxon under federal observers, during which the main boom drifted under a tanker and sunk, and a workboat didn’t have the power to pull it out of the water.
Another proponent of proper taxations and regulation was Alaska’s own governor, Steve Cowper, a Democratic elected in 1986. His pet project was a permanent endowment for public education, which he planned to fund by raising taxes on oil companies by eliminating the Economic Limit Factor that had set prices of North Slope pumping at the level of most uncertain sources, with his Economic Limit Factor bill. Unfathomably, Juneau politicians ostracized him so thoroughly that on the morning of March 24, 1989, before hearing news of the oil spill, Cowper, with 21 months left in his term, unprecedentedly held a press conference to declare he would not run for re-election. The first question he received was what was going to be done about the oil spill. He swiftly ended his press conference to be briefed on a more important issue than he had been prepared to address that morning.
So, what was done?
The True Potency of Alaska’s Fishermen
What was done?
Exxon, while trying to save its besmeared public image, totally botched the clean up process, showing once again that they did not care about Alaska or Alaskans, as the commercial fisherman once again showed that they were the one industry in Alaska that did care about Alaska and Alaskans.
The contingency plan that Alyeska had worked out with the Coast Guard called for Alyeska to get a barge with booms and skimmers to the site within 5 hours. Unfortunately, the actual emergency deployment was almost as tragically comical as that 1984 test run. 14 hours after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, this barge had not left Valdez. This was because the barge was not already loaded, as it should have been. And of the 50 men employed to load it, only 1 knew how to work the forklift and crane necessary to do so. This one man had to run back and forth between the two pieces of equipment for 14 hours while he loaded the barge by himself.
Meanwhile, the Exxon Baton Rouge had been called in to take on excess oil. This operation was also delayed because the Exxon Baton Rouge’s fenders for docking had been left in Valdez under 4 feet of snow – they had to be brought out.
After one day of trying to remove the oil from the sea surface, it became apparent that machines alone would not work, and so Exxon wanted to use their own, patented clean up agent called COREXIT 9527. However, before using it, they went through a lengthy demonstration process before the local and federal EPA to prove that it was safe, even though the agent had been approved long before. They delayed burning oil off the surface for similar reasons, and when they did finally execute this tactic, the small amount of oil they did burn fogged in a native village, and after that, burning was no longer effective because the oil had become too diluted by the sea. Meanwhile, Gale winds got the oil slick moving at 30 mph – the oil track was 90 miles long, blackening shorelines and suffocating estuaries, and fewer than 7,000 of 258,000 barrels had been cleaned up.
Then, to truly bolster their image and be portrayed positively in the press, Exxon hired thousands of employees, from all over the United States, any one who wanted to help, to come clean up rocks for $16.69 an hour. Outsiders soared in and got jobs while Alaskans cleaning up their own coast out of love had a consistently hard time getting paid. The oil-slicked otters that were such a public image disaster for Exxon became positive press as they saved 250 from the Sound, and began starting to clean and rehabilitate them. Exxon paid $90,000 a piece to clean these otters – and most Southeast Fishermen intensely dislike otters they are competition over Southeast’s salmon, and Exxon was spending $90,000 on each one they could find, while salmon were being ignored.
Natives and Commercial fisherman alike filed $300 million worth of claims against Exxon, and many are still pending.
In total, Exxon spent $2.5 billion on the clean up effort alone. And when they were finished, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that, biologically, beaches left untreated were in better shape than those treated. Sixty-seven percent of the oil spilled that day was never recovered.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s commercial fishermen acted on their own behalf, spurred on for their love of their land and their lifestyle, which had seemingly been ruined by reckless Outside companies once again. Cordova District Fishermen United donated $1 million to the clean up cause within a week. But when they saw how slowly Exxon’s skimmers were working, they began using their roe buckets to collect oil themselves. As it became apparent Exxon’s clean up effort was aimed at the press, of which the fishermen were getting none, and not at saving Prince William Sound, the fishermen arrived at an Exxon press conference with hundreds of roe buckets filled with oil and said, “The Japanese would pay us $140 a bucket, what will you pay us, Exxon?” Exxon begrudgingly agreed to pay them $5 a gallon for oil they procured, because it was clear how much better of a job they were doing than Exxon’s skimmers. One boat, the Janice N., picked up 1,500 gallons a day with buckets, compared to the 2,180 gallons removed by Exxon’s entire fleet (Strohmeyer, 229).
During the biggest crisis in Alaska’s history, Alaska’s commercial fishermen stepped forward and did the dirtiest work imaginable, scooped bucket after bucket of oil from once pristine waters they have fished on, made their living on, and made their home on, just days before, despite this disaster being the result of the rest of the State ignoring their complaints and actually attacking their industry for over-regulating sport fishing, and despite being paid only $5 a gallon for doing so. So, would Alaska’s commercial fishermen finally get the respect they deserved within Alaska?
The Tongass Reform Act
One thing was certain: the problem with Alaska’s environmental policies would finally get the respect they deserved on a national level. Americans realized its environmental policies were severely lacking in Alaska quite abruptly with because of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. They noticed the problems in the oil extraction industry, and also noticed the problems in the Tongass. With this new realization, it became a moral imperative for American’s to alter its practices in the last frontier: how could Americans try to stop the destruction of rainforests in Brazil, which was a point of national outcry in the late nineteen-eighties, while they were destroying the largest temperate rain forest in the world.
And so, after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the strongest of the Tongass Timber Reform Acts on the house floor was swiftly passed by a 356-60 vote. The bill canceled the $40 million of yearly subsidies for pulp mills, eliminated the promise of $4.5 billion board feet in the next ten years, and the 50 year contracts, and it required one-hundred foot buffers for all salmon streams, and permanent protection for 1.8 million acres of Tongass wilderness.
Only one provision of the bill was removed when it went to the Senate: the cancellation of the 50 year contracts. Unfortunately, this was the most important provision for the SEACC, but with that removed, and threats on the Senate floor from Georgia’s senators to Alaska’s of protecting a further 1.3 million acres of the Tongass if they did not vote for the bill, it passed the Senate by a 99-0 vote. Even Ted Stevens voted for it.
Before the bill was even signed into law, the Tongass land management plan was re-written to protect old growth forests and charge more for trees. Then, on November 28th, 1990, President George Bush signed the Tongass Timber Reform Act into law. It was a clear victory for Alaska’s fishermen and other advocates of Tongass conservation, but a bittersweet one for the SEACC, considering how important the 50 year contracts had been to them at the beginning. But the groundwork this Reform Act laid, and the attention drawn to Alaskan politics by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, led to an almost unimaginable victory for the SEACC in the 1990s.
The events leading up to and surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill, in general, led to a re-evaluation of Alaska in the national consciousness, as is evident by this Tongass Timber Reform Act. What was not conclusive in the passage of this piece of national legislation, is whether Alaskans had changed their own perspectives on their relationship to their land: would they finally rein in the practices of Outside companies in their state? Would they stop the logging practices that were detrimental to wildlife and salmon alike? Would they finally listen to their commercial fisherman, who had helped them through the biggest crises in their history, and help them through the crises they were having with sport fishermen? Would Alaska come together and regain the independence, unity, and spirit for social justice most of them had fought for in the battle for Statehood, before being robbed of it by a new greed that took over after it?
These questions and more would be answered in the 1990s, during the state’s prosecution of the Exxon corporation.
Part 5: Alaska Since the 1980s
Introduction – Alaska’s opposing op-ed pages
Since the 1980s, the political divide among Alaskans has grown exponentially. The political group of Alaskans that evolved from the independent, pro-development Alaskans from before Statehood, that ironically became pro big, Outside business after Statehood, continued to support many development projects and industries that did indeed bring money to the state – but this means of supporting the State has its inconsistencies, primarily, that Outside businesses have continued to abuse the State’s resources, and squelch its small, independent businesses. Meanwhile, the group of conservationist Alaskans that swelled during the 1970s, who want the state to be actually independent of Outside businesses in order to protect the State’s natural resources and use them in ways that will unconflictedly benefit Alaskans, such as the commercial fishing industry has employed, have grown even more since the 1980s, and increasingly mobilized against the pro-development Alaskans on all fronts. While the majority of Alaskans have remained pro-development, Alaska’s conservationists are winning more hearts and minds within the State, and in a few, rare cases, Alaska’s pro-development sect has realized its internal inconsistencies, and sided with conservationists on key issues. This duality is no where more evident than in the history of Alaska’s newspapers.
Since 1948 there had been two daily papers in Alaska, the Anchorage Times, founded and edited by Luncheon Investors member Robert Atwood until 1990, and the Anchorage Daily News. For the majority of their co-existence, there differences were superficial – the Times was an afternoon paper with no Sunday edition, and the Daily was a morning paper with a Sunday edition – and any and all rivalry between the two were editorial challenges. In 1974, they actually entered into a joint operating agreement. But through the political upheaval of the 1970s, the Daily grew increasingly liberal, and the Times grew increasingly pro-development, and before the decade was over, the two companies terminated their joint operating agreement. This left the Daily, with its significantly smaller readership in a dire state, until its editors enlisted the investment of McClatchy Newspaper incorporated. By 1984, the Daily had a larger readership than the Times, and had won two Pulitzer Prizes compared to none, and fatal mistakes during the Exxon Valdez oil spill shut down the pro-business Times for good.
While the Daily did baulk and lean slightly toward the right during the fiasco, great criticism of the oil industry was kept up by Mike Doogan in his comedy column, as the Times became even more fiercely pro-business, actually selling to Veco Corporation, an oilfield company looking to invest its profits from oil spill clean-up efforts. Many say Veco failed to turn the paper around. I argue that Alaskans did not trust an oilfield company to give them unbiased news about the oil spill – an issue over which they were honestly indignant enough to put aside their political bias. In 1992, Bill Allen, the successor of Robert Atwood, sold the Anchorage Times to the Anchorage Daily News, and the last issue of the Times was published on June 3rd of that year. Part of the deal insured that Allen gets to publish a half-page “Voice of the Times” editorial page opposite the Daily’s editorial page, and this agreement has been extended to the present day, leaving Alaska with two opposing editorial pages in their only daily paper. That division is indicative of the political divide in Alaska, but I believe the fact that Alaskans showed their honest indignation over the oil spill, and thus with big business in Alaska, enough to downsize their pro-business newspaper to a half page. This offers a glint of hope for Alaskans to see through the deception of their leaders that claim to represent an Alaskan ideal of independence, who actually pander to big business at the expense of most Alaskans best interest, and follow the truly independent, growing liberal force in Alaskan politics, as it tries to do what is best for Alaska and Alaskans.
However, this change was not universal, in fact, the majority of Alaskans, despite their disgust with the event itself, remained cheerleaders of the oil industry after the oil spill – as we will see in the poor political decision they made during the middle of the trial of Exxon – and still remain cheerleaders of the oil industry. But many did grow more environmentally conscious after the oil spill, as we will see with the history of the Tongass since the 1980s. And as this political divide has grown more stark since the 1980s, Alaska’s fishing industry began facing the biggest problem in its history – world overfishing – and the only way they will be able to tackle it, is if Alaskans can put aside their political biases, and grow honestly indignant enough, as they did when the Anchorage Times sold to Veco, to give the industry the full environmental support it needs to weigh in on the current crisis of the world’s oceans. And the political history of Alaska since the 1980s gives us many indicators as to whether or not they will do so.
The Exxon Valdez Trials
The aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill afforded Alaskans the opportunity to show that they would not stand for further abuses against their land and fishing industry by Outside oil companies. With their trial of Exxon and potential ensuing legislation on all the oil companies in Alaska, they could have said once and for all that the oil industry was not going to rule their State, that if they even wanted to operate in their State, they would have to pay heavy tolls for their dangerous operations, and make sure a disaster like the one at hand never happened again.
But that did not happen. Alaska did not change its policies, nor did the Outside oil companies that exploit it, who are still supported by the majority of Alaskans and their representatives, because they continue to bring money to the State, which the State continues to hand out with disregard to its negative political, environmental, and, ultimately, economic effects.
Exxon fired none of the executives who allowed the practices that led to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. They simply let Hazlewood take the fall, and then fired him. Hazlewood was mocked at first, both in Alaska, and nationally, but by the time of his trials in Anchorage, he was viewed as a tragic figure, who should have never been put in the situation he inevitably, unfortunately, was, by the reckless environmental, political, and economic practices of Alaska and Exxon, as is evident by the fact that he was acquitted on all charges involving drinking and felonious damage of property, and convicted of only one misdemeanor for negligent discharge of oil.
Still, the Judge cast down a $50,000 fine and 1,000 hours of clean-up service, proving that there was still some animosity toward Hazlewood within the State, but the ruling was overturned by Alaska’s Court of Appeals, because the federal government offers immunity from prosecution for anyone who reports an oil spill. Hazlewood received this news in New York, while training student sailors at sea for the New York Maritime College. He will never clean an oil stained rock.
While many Alaskans still cry for Hazlewood’s blood, it is clear that most appeared to focus their attention elsewhere – on the persecution of the oil company that enabled Hazlewood to cause this disaster, the oil company that, in a much larger way than Hazlewood himself, caused this disaster. But unfortunately, Alaskans did not focus their attention on the deepest level of the cause of the disaster, did not focus their attention on its ultimate cause, did not focus their attention inward, on their own policies and bad politics that allowed Exxon to operate so recklessly, that allowed Hazlewood to operate so recklessly. Instead, in the middle of the prosecution of Exxon, Alaskans made another bad political decision.
Anchorage indicted Exxon on ten criminal charges: four felony counts for violating the Dangerous Cargo Act by employing crew members who were “physically and mentally incapable of performing duties assigned the them,” and six misdemeanors of polluting in violation of the Clean Water Act and Refuse Act, and killing birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
It was apparent from the beginning that Exxon did not want to go to trial over this disasters. Aside from the bad press such a trial would undoubtedly receive, they probably worried that reports of recurring damages from the oil spill would pour in during the trial, resulting in higher and higher demands from the State. They promptly presented the judge in the case with a $1 billion plea bargain, $100 million of which was to be paid instantly, and the other $900 million which was to be paid over the next 10 years.
However, still in office, Governor Cowper rejected the offer. He wanted the case to go to trial, he wanted to make public just how much damage this oil spill had done to Alaska, its resources, and its economy, he wanted to show just how dangerous the practices of the entire industry were to the State, he wanted to make it evident beyond a reasonable doubt that oil companies needed to clean up their act and start paying heavier taxes, which would do endless amounts of good for the state – it would slow environmental damage, it would change Alaska’s cheerleading attitude for the oil industry, possibly allowing them to make more clear headed decisions in the future, and it would fund his pet program of education. In short, Cowper wanted Alaska to get all the good it could out of this horrendous disaster.
But 1990 was an gubernatorial election year in Alaska, and Alaskans once again made a decision that contradicted their best interest. Their best interest lay in prosecuting Exxon, and based on their outcry over the oil spill, it seemed they were aware of this, but nonetheless, they elected Walter Hickel as governor, who, once in office, immediately moved to accept Exxon’s plea bargain.
However, Walter Hickel’s word was not the last on the matter. The judge presiding over the case had to approve the plea bargain. And John Strohmeyer argues that the judge was aching to chastise Exxon for publicly assuring their shareholders that their $100 billion annual profits would not be affected by the law suit, and even going so far as to say that “the customer always pays.” Then, with the plea bargain on his desk, the judge received the impetus to do so. The report of a federal-state coalition science released the report that compiled the immediate losses and potential long term affects that I detailed above. And the report went one step further, assigning a monetary value to all of this damage – a monetary value of $15 billion, fifteen times the plea bargain of the arrogant oil company before the judge.
The judge easily denied the plea bargain, simply citing the latest scientific evidence regarding the actual cost in damages of the oil spill, and stating that the plea bargain was insufficient and that he would not allow it. Environmentalists, commercial fisherman, and Southeast communities alike, celebrated, but Governor Hickel and Exxon were vocally upset, and swore they would not be deterred from working out this situation.
Realizing that further bad press over the oil spill, and other potential effects of this case going to court were worse than making their shareholders temporarily anxious, Exxon publicly retracted its earlier statements regarding the lawsuit, and announced that it could not unilaterally raise oil prices to make its customers absorb its fines. Apparently, this tactic appeased the judge of their case.
Exxon and Hickel promptly drafted another plea bargain, which raised the initial payment from $100 million to $125 million, and the judge promptly accepted it. $25 million was a relatively menial amount of money, raising total plea bargain from $1 billion to $1.025 billion, especially in comparison to the environmental price tag of $15 billion that had been recently established. However, even though the amount paid in this plea bargain does not come close to the costs the Exxon Valdez oil spill has cost and will continue to cost Alaska, the money that was won could have gone to good use.
It could have, but it did not. As I’ve noted, Walter Hickel was governor at the time. A developer himself, Hickel made sure this money went into huge development projects, such as building a road to Cordova that the majority of Cordova’s citizens were opposed to, and buying timber rich land from Native Corporations.
The election of Walter Hickel at the expense of their own best interest is indicative of the current state of the pro-business Alaskans. Before Statehood, and during the build-up to Statehood, the average pro-business Alaskan believed in fierce independence – they wanted the Outside influences on their life out of Alaska, and they wanted to do operate independently. But the State never realized this ideal. Instead, the wealthiest of those developers brought more Outside industries into the state, one of which took over the political landscape of Alaska, and made all of the Alaskans who formerly prided themselves on the their independent lifestyles and economics, cheerleaders for the oil industry. These Alaskans still cling to their old ideals of independence, continuously electing old-time politicians who profess these ideals, but who actually pander to the Outside business interests in Alaska at the expense of most Alaskans best interests – at the expense of the environment they live their independent lifestyles on, and at the expense of small business run by Alaskans. The election of Walter Hickel epitomizes this.
Walter Hickel decided to run for governor too late in the process to vie for the Republican nomination, but he managed to talk the heads of the Alaskan Independence party into allowing him to fill their vacant spot. The Alaskan Independence party was made famous by proposing the cessation of Alaska from the U.S. Instead of Statehood. Walter Hickel, an independent developer at the time, was one of the greatest proponents of Statehood, becoming the second governor thereafter, after emerging as a major figure in the reconstruction after the Good Friday Earthquake, as well. His stance on Statehood angered some members of the Alaskan Independence party, but, coupled with his heroics after the earthquake, and his time with Reagan administration, he was endlessly appealing to those Alaskans clinging to ideals of Alaska’s independence. While cultivating this image by publicizing just how much old-time Alaskan developers loved him, he was also the most pro-oil candidate – despite the claim many people make that he was tough on oil companies during his time in the Reagan Administration, I believe his campaign promise to build a natural gas pipeline through Alaska made this evident during that election.
Despite the White House asking him to step down for fear that he would split the Republican vote and allow the strong Democratic nomination of Tony Knowles as Governor and Willie Hensley as Lieutenant Governor to succeed to power, Hickel, spending $800,000 of his own money, won the election, and the rest is history.
During his time in office and after, the Independent Alaska has become more and more scarce. 1 in 5 Alaskans is now on a State or local government payroll. In addition to the permanent Fund, Alaska has no state taxes, it subsidizes housing mortgages, among other things. In short, Alaskans get paid far more than they pay to their state. State wages have remained at Pipeline era levels, with police making up to $100,000, and teachers being the highest paid in the nation. Alaska offers the best benefits in the nation, as well, guaranteeing six weeks of paid leave from the first day of employment, and a thirty-seven and a half hour work week. Many argue that merely, if at all, offsets the cost of living in Alaska. However, this is simply not true. The cost of living is only 15 percent above National Average – a 1991 federal study said it was the same as Washington D.C, yet federal employees receive a 25% untaxed extra cost of living bonus in Alaska. As Strohmeyer puts its, “Alaska has surrendered its long cherished independent spirit to the big multi-national corporations that pump its oil and sit on those tremendous reservoirs of natural gas.” And this was undeniably evident in their trial of Exxon and their continued support of the oil industry, but it is not evident in every facet of the State’s political economy. It is not evident, for example, in the state’s relationship with Outside pulp mills since the 1980 – this history actually offers an example of what the state could do if it were to get behind its growing environmental movement, which does remain fiercely independent of Outside business, and close with the land. And Alaska will need to follow the example of its movement against its pulp companies if it is going to properly deal with the current issues surrounding the fishing industry and save its pristine marine ecosystems, and eventually rein in the exploits of big oil in the North.
Bringing Down the Pulp Companies
By 1990, 900,000 acres of the Tongass had been leveled, half on Forest Service property, half on Native Corporation land property, while Alaska’s fish and animal populations, and the Alaskans who had depended on them, took a political backseat to the Outside pulp companies.
Yet the Forest Service continued to believe their 400 million annual board feet cutting was not harming wildlife populations, and so regional Forester Michael Barton, established the Inter-agency Viable Populations Committee (VPOP) to evaluate the impact of logging on all Southeast animals. The plan backfired, as the VPOP found that logging had been detrimental for almost all animals in Southeast, including thre that became very politically important. They were the Queen Charlotte Goshawk, whose population had dropped by 30-50% and of which there were only 200-500 left, the Brown Bear, who the VPOP found would be extirpated from Southeast if logging practices continued, and the Alexander Archipelago Wolf. The VPOP established beyond a reasonable doubt that all three of these animals, in addition to countless others, needed larger tracks of land to survive than the Forest Service had proposed leaving. It recommended that Habitat Conservation Areas (HCAs) be at least 80,000 acres within old growth and highly productive areas inside, and even went so far at to draw a map as to where and how big these HCAs should be. And the National Forest Service, responding to the VPOPs report, said that this should be included in next Tongass Management Plan.
Instead, Michael Barton ignored the VPOP’s report and in its Tongass Management Plan, proposed that 418 million board feet be harvested in the following year. Alaska’s Fish and Game simply said, “I am not going to ask how 418 million board feet can be reconciled with a commitment to recognize and maintain subsistence, recreation, and commercial uses of fish and wildlife…We know the answer – it can’t.” In the new Tongass Management Plan, Michael Barton cut the 80,000 acre HCAs proposed by the VPOP to 40,000 acres. The head of the VPOP resigned in protest, but Barton was unmoved.
In 1992, this Tongass Management plan was about to be passed, but then Bill Clinton was elected president of the United States, and vice-president Al Gore stepped in to stop the plan. With Gore’s help, Alaska’s conservationists won a peer review of the VPOPs finding, which concluded that even VPOP’s proposed HCAs were not sufficient to protect the Southeasts wildlife, especially the Goshawk.
Alaskans then motivated two Outside environmental groups to their aid. One, the Biodiversity Legal Foundation, run by Jasper Carlton in Boulder, Colorado, sued the Alaska region of the Forest Service on behalf of biodiversity using the Endangered Species Act, and petitioned for the Alexander Archipelago wolf to be added to the list of endangered species. The other, the Southwest Biodiversity Project, run by Kieran Cukling in Tucson Arizona, petitioned for goshawks to be listed. Muttering on both sides of the issue began to comment on the goshawk becoming the “Spotted owl of Alaska.”
Simultaneously, the biggest caves in Alaska were discovered in Southeast, and it was almost instantly found that they were also destroyed by logging. These caves also happened to be of particular interest, because they were of a particularly rare formation: they are the only karst formations under a temperate rainforest outside of Tasmania.
The Cave Resource Protection act, which had been passed in 1988, helped to form the Tongass Cave Project of the National Speleological Society, which discovered 480 miles of karstland in Southeast, the biggest of which was El Captain, and the majority of which was under the most heavily logged areas, and in these caves, they quickly discovered many objects valuable to various branches of natural science and anthropology, including a 50,000 year old mammoth tooth, 39,000 year old bear skeleton, and 9,800 year old human skeleton, which implied that man made it to Alaska by boat around the last ice age. Scientists instantly worried that much else had been lost.
In 1994, accompanying outcry from Alaskan conservationists, their Outside supporters, karst experts and enthusiasts worldwide, and the EPA, the National Forest Service replaced Michael Barton with Phil Janik – they replaced a timber man with a biologist from Washington D.C. – a clear sign that they wanted a further shake up in the Alaska region.
Meanwhile, after the very public Tongass Reform Act, the pulp mills themselves came under increased pressure from the EPA. The environmental destruction of these pulp mills was indisputable. For KPC, bottom dwelling species within a ten mile radius of their plant on Ward Cove had fallen from forty to two since their arrival, and both of the surviving species were worms. Dioxins and furans were emitted into air from both mills in the form of fly ash, which contained both, and bottom ash, which was combined with normal trash and thrown away like garbage. When land fills finally put a stop to this, APC began dumping their bottom ash directly into Silver Bay, home of APC’s pulp plant in Sitka. As a result, two in ten-thousand people eating fish from Silver Bay were at risk of cancer, versus the allowed one person per million. All other levels of toxins were off the charts, as well: copper levels were 62 times the EPA’s allowance in Silver Bay, and things were no better in Sawmill Cove, home of APC’s pulp plant in Wrangell, where Hydrogen Sulfide bubbles were causing fish kills.
Southeast Alaska Regional Health Commission (SARHC), tried to test air pollution effects on public health, but Durbin claims the APC squelched it (232). Lichens, however, are great natural air quality testers whose evidence cannot be suppressed by pulp companies – the fact that they were not growing anywhere near Alaska’s pulp mills, and grew in number in gradations away from the mills, proved there was air pollution around the mills, and proved that it had negative affects on various forms of life.
In 1991, the Anchorage Times said of APC: “Over its life, the mill has pumped more than five hundred billion gallons of industrial wastes into Silver Bay, and each day, it belches tons of pollutants from its smokestacks into the town’s airshed, often covering it in a smelly haze.” They went on to state that APC was notorious for polluting and avoiding regulations despite their claims of much spending on environmental protection.
Then, KPC insider Kevin James blew the whistle to the EPA, stating that, “Ketchikan Pulp Co. has routinely falsified its records of pollutants discharged into the estuary bordering its pulp mill…We can operate clean, but we choose not to. It’s a matter of economics. It’s the cheapest way.” KPC was in charge of testing Ward Cove – the body of water around its pulp plant – for pollutants and reporting their findings to EPA. Kevin James claimed KPC simply falsified their reports. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice to filed a civil suit against Ketchikan Pulp, citing hundreds of violation of the Clean Air and Water Acts. Search warrants were taken out for a raid. The FBI and EPA raided Ketchikan’s Alaska headquarters at 6 in the morning, taking 43 boxes of documents, containing 250 items.
Kevin James was promptly fired, but the U.S. Department of Justice intervened and made KPC pay James and give him full benefits for two years because notifying the EPA of Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act abuses is a protected action. And on March 6, 1995, Ketchikan Pulp plead guilty to one felony and thirteen misdemeanors of violating the Clean Water Act. In doing so, the company admitted that it had deliberately discharged toxic sludge and wastewater, and falsified records about doing so. They were made to pay $6 million in damages – more than had ever been paid for a Clean Water Act violation in Alaska.
However, KPC made a deal with the EPA to pay only half of this amount, and use the rest to purchase the pollution reducing gear that they should have purchased already. They were also allowed to keep their seized documents secret, protecting the specific wrongdoers within their company. Kevin James personally went after these documents by suing KPCs parent company, Louisiana-Pacific, for tapping his phones, going through his garbage, and contacting his friends from high school in a slanderous campaign. His case went all the way to the the Supreme Court, but once there, neither James nor KPC showed up to trial. Durbin suggests that James was paid off. While KPC narrowly avoided this assault by the EPA, APC was not so lucky
On June 30, 1993, being threatened by the EPA themselves, APC closed their primary Alaskan pulp mill on Silver Bay, firing 400 people, who accounted for one-sixth of Sitka’s tax base. They moved to fulfill the minimum of logging required by the 50 year contracts, sending their wood to their Wrangell plant, and turning the Sitka plant into a fiberboard shop that would employ 100 people.
APC got their trees from the north and sent them to Sitka – expensive compared to KPC practices. They claimed that falling world pulp prices, not pressure from the EPA, ran them into a $163 million deficit. However, while the mill was losing money, APC was suspiciously investing in a subsidary – AP Financial – that was made $182.4 million while KPC ran their much smaller deficit. Whatever the truth may be, APC liquidated its assets, transferred all its money to another connected business, and closed down while it still owed the EPA $5 million in fines, paying severance to its employees, but only to those employed on the last day, thus not to the strikers of 1986 who they still owed $10 million based on Justice Department findings. These suits, and several others, but APC in violation of their long-term contract, and thus that long-term contract was canceled. APC would now have to buy all timber at normal prices. Instead of doing that, APC bought no more lumber, closed the Wrangell mill, thus, all of its operations in Alaska, firing 230 people of a 2,500 person town, and sued the U.S. for not standing up to their end of the bargain. This suit is still pending, but one thing is for sure, the APC is out of Alaska forever.
Much of Alaska may be pristine, but where it is polluted, it is equally polluted to many of the most environmentally devastated places in the world. The APC turned Sawmill Cove into a toxic body of water: by the time of their closure, it had the sixth highest level of toxins of any body of water in the United States, and caused cancer at the 10th highest rate of any body of water in the United States. After the mill closed, APC’s Sitka site became a superfund site.
KPC, however, survived this first onslaught by the EPA, and the Alaska Region of the Forest Service, still run by Barton, tried to transfer the timber that had been alloted to APC to KPC. The SEACC and Sitka Conservation Society were outraged, but neither wanted to bring a law suit because another gubernatorial election was in process and it seemed that Tony Knowles, the Democratic nominee, could win. Instead, the Alaska Wilderness Tourism and Recreation Association (AWTRA) filed the suit against the Alaska Region of the Forest Service.
After Knowles did win the election, the SEACC joined the case, and so did the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Wilderness Society, and the Organized Community of Kake (Natives), in an effort to show the broad spectrum of those opposed to the Forest Services Plan. 282 million board feet of timber were up for grabs in the case. Eventually a plea bargain was reached giving the Forest Service 106 million of that to sell. The rest went off the radar forever.
Now, after its victory with the Tongass Timber Reform Act, and the APC out of the way, the SEACC focused all its efforts on the KPC’s long term contracts. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill settlement freed up money for habitat acquisition. Many of Alaska’s environmental groups got together with the Pew Charitable Trust to use some of that money to fund the Alaska Rainforest Campaign. Run by SEACC employees, but highly funded, the ARC attacked Tongass and Chugach Forest Service plans, and kept going after KPC’s long term contracts.
Enter the Central Prince of Wales Project: 600,000 acres that several decent Forest Service employees were supposed to arrange for habitat protecting and logging to fulfill KPC’s contracts for the next 6-7 years. The employees on the job quickly found that most of the area had already been logged and the Forest Service was underrepresenting the project to the people, calling it 230,000 acres in internal documents, because most of it had already been logged. These employees thus tried to appropriately halve the 290 million board feet promised from the area. But the Forest Service said no, attesting to the fact that only numbers mattered to them, not better research methods which they choose to ignore.
Areas that had been cut ahead of time like this, to earlier Forest Service promises that could not be kept, were called “unit expansion,” and they were in clear violation of NEPA – no environmental impact statement or public review was done on them before they were given up for logging. This created a vicious cycle, as tract after tract of land yielded fewer board feet of timber than anticipated, and the Forest Service kept giving away land to maintain its profits – a clear case of classical economics that borrowed against the future.
Alaska and the nation should not have tolerated this type of practice after the economic, environmental, and political progressions of the 70s and 80s, yet little was done after this report was released. Durbin records case after case of high ranking Forest Service employees going to Alaska – hard, non-environmentalists folk – who turn against the timber industry, file real complaints, and then are fired. All of these employees had received super high marks on routine evaluations before heading to Alaska, but were suddenly told they were biased and being demoted to menial jobs and being shipped out of Alaska to less desirable locations. Rumors of this inevitably stopped others from speaking out, and the nation, still wrapped up in a court battle, was itself not quick to move against the last pulp company.
Aware of this stalemate, Alaska’s senators introduced the Landless Native Act in 1994. Their plan was to gut the Tongass Timber Reform Act by creating five new Native Corporations out of tribes that were already a part of Sealaska – an obvious way to use Natives to continue logging the Tongass while avoiding the row surrounding the EPA’s attacks on the pulp companies. The ACT would open up 645,000 acres that were set aside by the Tongass Timber Reform ACT. Even other Native groups complained that logging this land would jeopardize their subsistence lifestyles. The extension of ANCSA seemed to be an extension of all the worst parts of ANCSA, expanding none of its statements on the entitlement of Alaska Natives, but expanding all of its exploitation of their plight, and further pushing them into reckless development projects at the expense of their traditional ways. As Native rights were side-stepped in ANCSA to get oil, Native rights were being side-stepped here to continue logging the Tongass.
Murkowski explained it quite differently: “Alaskans have an accountability to the rest of the world to produce timber. We can’t protect our favorite areas as long as we have this responsibility” (Durbin, 273). This seems counter-intuitive – I think that if most people were asked what they expect from Alaska, it would not be timber; it would most likely be a pristine wilderness, fresh seafood, and the world’s best sport hunting and fishing; they would say Alaska is the last frontier of wild places, not development. As Kathie Durbin puts it: “The Tongass is a splendid, untamed expanse of forest like nothing else remaining in our country, and a central part of our national heritage” (Durbin, 302).
And it seems that nation agreed with her, as both the Southwest Biodiversity Project and Biodiversity Legal Foundation won their suits to have the Goshawk and Alexander Archipelago Wolf added to the endangered species list. However, not all Alaskans were pleased with this victory. In fact, a pro-logging group was formed called the Concerned Alaskans for Resource and Environment (CARE) pro-logging group, who wanted a fifteen year extension of KPC’s 50 year contracts, which were to expire in 2004. Unfortunately for them, L-P already wanted out of Alaska by then – they’d been fined $11 million by the EPA for 15 Clean Air Act violations in 11 states. Their policy at the time was to get out of high risk areas, and with these two new endangered species, and Phil Janik as the Regional Forester, Alaska was a high risk area.
However, they went ahead and gave one last push in Alaska, claiming that without the contract extension from the Clinton Administration, their Ketchikan operation would not be worth $200 million, which is how much money they needed to spend on safety equipment to appease the EPA, and, like APC, they claimed that being forced into foreclosure by the environmental-economic pressure of the United States was a breach in their contracts on the U.S.’s part. Essentially, KPC wanted out of Ketchikan, but they wanted to blame everyone but themselves for their desire to leave. The fact was, L-P was having economic problems nation wide after producing their now notorious L-P siding that melted and warped in the rain.
Nevertheless, Murkowski took up the cause of KPC and CARE, and tried to tack the 15 year extensions onto any parks rider that he could, including one to save the Sterling Forest of the New York-New Jersey boarder. Thankfully, he was constantly shut down.
Then, in 1993, the National Forest Service finally got the wholesale shake-up they had wanted when they appointed Phil Janik as Alaska’s Regional Forester. In that year, he passed a new Tongass Land Management Plan based on five platforms: wildlife viability, fish habitat, caves and karst protection, alternatives to clearcutting, and social and economic issues. In it, 1.1 million more acres of mapped reserves across the forest were reserved for protected wildlife habitat, subsistence use, and recreation, one-thousand-foot-wide buffers bordering beaches and river mouths were established to preserve wildlife and travel corridors, more than five hundred river miles on thirty-two rivers were protected as proposed wild and scenic rivers, and buffer zones around the most sensitive cave and karst formations were added.
KPC promptly shut down its entire Alaskan operation, and filed a $400 million breach-of-contract suit against the government for the 1990 Tongass Timber Reform Act. The Alaska Rainforest Campaign fought against them by forming the Citizens Health Action Network, which taught Alaskans about the effects of the Ward Cove mill on their drinking water and breathing air. Finally, there was proper state outcry, that undoubtedly affected KPC’s suit.
In the end, KPC received $140 million of its settlement, and 300 million board feet of its contract, which equated to 3 more years of milling timber that had already been harvested, they received no sanctions for the violations of NEPA, but were forced to clean up Ward Cove and drop any and all further suits. Durbin points out that this pay-off was way less than paying KPC for the remainder of their contracts in full would have been, but this claim doesn’t seem to substantial to me, seeing how KPC was not going to fulfill its side of the contracts anyway – they were the ones who decided to close, I fail to see how environmental protection functions any differently than any other element of the market. It seems to me that Alaskans had the best claim in the world to make KPC pay for all the damage it had done to the state, especially when they acted in their best economic interest throughout their entire relationship with Alaska. The fact is, that after the Tongass Timber Reform Act, it was simply not economical for KPC to mill in Alaska with old equipment that needed up-grading to saw slow growing logs, when they could move to Brazil and cut much more, fast growing timber, under fewer regulations. But they used the leverage of their suit to get out of cleaning up, and to finish milling the logs they had without upgrading. And in doing so, they laid off 500 people in a town of 14,000 people, and those 500 had a disproportionate number of children in school, and supported a disproportionate percent of the tax base. These workers were covered by the Trade Adjustment Act to move anywhere they want. But they did not want to move.
Durbin says that Alaskans should take note of the economic benefits KPC contributed, but also be aware of the environmental impact the mill had, as they were left with a toxic cove and desecrated lands. But I think they should learn something more, I think they should learn that the mill was not a positive economic force in their State either – that basing their economy on natural resources that will run out sooner or later is not sound economic policy, and large Outside businesses cannot be trusted to do what is best for the state in the long run – and I believe they need to learn this before they are taught again by oil companies in the North Slope.
To find evidence that Alaska can do much better supporting sustainable industries, one need to look no farther than to the examples of these mill towns, and how they have done since the mills closed. Ketchikan and Sitka have both done extremely well diversifying their economies after KPC shut down.
Ketchikan’s gross business sales jumped 3.7% (Durbin, 303). And Sitka now has quickly become one of the biggest sport fishing and tourist towns in all of Southeast, with a seven year waiting list for moorages in their port! Many may wonder how broadly this economic model could be applied to the small towns in Alaska’s whose economies are still based on extractive industries, and I would say, very widely, primarily because Alaska is primarily made up of small towns just like this one, in which the only thing that can hold back valuable sport and tourist resources, is pollution.
And in the absence of the large pulp mills and the endless political corruption they brought, small logging operations have returned to the Tongass. In Durbin’s epilogue, she documents an operation that employs 60 people making high quality wood to sell to Alaska that is doing extremely well with only 40,000 board feet per year, all bought from the state at fair rates.
And the May/June, 2007 issue of Alaska magazine ran an article stating just how well Sitka has done since its Ketchikan Pulp’s mill closed in 1993 after 34 years of operation. The article does not down play the hardships everyone suffered as the economy began to decline after the closure, but it also notes that no one wanted to leave the seaside town because of this – their connection was to something much deeper than the money or the mill – and this has resulted in the community re-inventing itself on a stronger, more sustainable model. Everyone interviewed in the article speaks of their love for their town, and how their economic diversification, especially into the tourist industry, has made it a more livable, modern place, that they foresee doing well far into the future. And economists agree:
A report by McDowell Group Inc., identified major employment sectors as health care, services, government, seafood, tourism and education. The numbers were the key: All the major sectors provided double-digit percentages to the economy, but none was higher than 16 percent or lower than 11 percent. In other words, the town no longer lives or dies by one industry.
Despite the dubious court case that ended KPC’s stay in Alaska, in the end, the bottom line is that the two Outside Pulp Mills that abused Alaska’s resources for nearly 50 years are gone, Alaska’s Region of the Forest Service is finally operating more environmentally, political, and economically sound, and this, ultimately, has been better for all Alaskans, and will continue to be, as long as Alaskans continue to be adamant about making sure their Regional Foresters are doing the right thing for their natural world.
And while Alaska’s pro-business sect continues to talk badly about environmentalists, saying that they are trying to stop progress, pointing to the seeming abundance of nature around them as evidence that there’s no reason to protect anything in Alaska, they need only take note of the history of the pulp mills in Alaska to see the glaring holes in their arguments – the reason there is so much abundant, pristine wilderness in Alaska is because environmentalists worked hard to save one of the few pieces of land that started being developed late enough in the progress of the environmental movement to be saved by the growing part of our nation that has realized the errors of its destructive history.
However, these pristine places are still not free from threat. As we’ve seen in the last five years, with the repealing of the Roadless Rule from the Tongass, there is a contingent of Americans and Alaskans that believe Alaska is the last frontier of development. Luckily, there was enough public outcry about against the exemption to tie it up in courts – in 2003, ninety-nine percent of the quarter of a million Americans
who commented were in favor of protecting of Tongass roadless areas, and the 9
Circuit Court has since thrown it out as illegal. But the greater lesson for Alaskans is that they need to keep a vigilant eye on the state of their natural world.
Alaska and World Fishing
I have argued the economic model on which America bases its fishing regulations is inherently flawed because it ultimately decides the fate of America’s fish on their monetary value. That is the same basis that caused early Americans to devalue the future and overfish America’s waters. Luckily, that devaluation of the future has been modified in some industries, and America’s federal policy reflects a belief that the way to maximize the monetary potential of its fisheries is to regulate them into fishing sustainably – but this amendment is secondary to the persistent basis of maximizing monetary value. As long as America operates on this basis, if legislation suddenly changed to reflect the idea that fishing Alaska’s salmon population into extinction is more economically beneficial than fishing them sustainably, that would be allowed to happen. Thankfully, that has not happened; but the needs of Alaska’s commercial fisherman to regulate Alaska’s sport fishing has been ignored, and Alaska’s sport fishing has been allowed to harm its commercial fishing because of the monetary value of sport fishing over commercial fishing, as I have discussed above.
However, that is no longer the most pressing issue for Alaska’s fisheries. Currently, the most pressing issue for Alaska’s fisheries is a global drop in fish stocks due to global overfishing, and water pollution. But the root cause of this issue for Alaska’s commercial fishing industry is the same as that of their issue with Alaska’s sport fishing industry: the flawed economic policy on which America governs its fisheries. And until Alaskans grow honestly indignant enough to force America to change this system, and push for holistic global fishing regulations that including habitat preservation, Alaska’s commercial fishing industry – Alaska’s most environmentally, politically, and economically sound industry – will forever be in jeopardy.
The U.S. agencies that regulate salmon schools know that salmon are a migrating species of fish. Salmon are one of few kinds of fish that are born in fresh water and live in salt water. This life cycle already makes the question of who is entitled to them a difficult one. Do the salmon belong to the country in whose rivers they spawn? This agrees with modern man’s idea of home, but that may not apply to a migrating animal species. Surely nomadic people had no homes, and imposing country’s borders on them affected them negatively. Alaskan salmon migrate far enough to go beyond America’s EEZ. Deciding if America’s laws should thus be imposed on them, who can utilize them economically, and who is responsible for them morally, becomes an issue for the world.
Before the Limited Entry Act, when the problems facing Alaska’s fisheries were Alaska’s fishing policies, the large problem was overfishing when salmon were returning upriver to spawn. The global overfishing of salmon, however, occurs during the years when salmon are out at sea, growing. It may seem more deleterious to the salmon population to catch them at the mouth of a river, because then it is so much easier to catch a much higher percentage of the salmon that are going to go reproduce, but the problem of overfishing while the salmon are at sea is equally disruptive to the salmons’ life cycle, and possibly more deleterious to the ecosystem, because the balance of schools and generations is being thrown off and there is more by-catch. In addition, not only are the salmon being caught at sea the ones that have lived their lives and are going upstream to die, but many young salmon that have hardly played any role in the ecosystem are inevitably caught when salmon are fished in the open ocean, as well. A lot of these may not even be large enough to sell, so they are disposed of, wasting a potential source of food for other aquatic life, and, if they had been allowed to grow and then been caught when returning to spawn, humans, as well.
The poor environmental conditions that are hurting salmon are non point source, as deteriorating sea conditions are contributed to a myriad of types of pollution world wide, but oil spills, offshore drilling’s damage to ecosystems, and the residual affects of massive oil spills such as that of the Exxon Valdez play a large part. One thing is for certain: the problems are man made, and the world’s fish are suffering first and foremost.
Alaska and the United States government have come up with several ways to deal with these problems. The two main ideas are international law, and hatcheries. Both of these have their problems.
The implementation of hatcheries in Alaska’s fish runs have been fairly successful. The current practice is to trap salmon returning up stream to spawn, take eggs and sperm, raise the salmon in the stream until they are fit to go to sea, let them go, and catch them upon their return. By increasing the amount of eggs hatched and supporting them all in the first, hardest months of their life, this has increased the number of fish surviving each year. It gives the fishermen more to catch, and thus stimulates the economy. However, there are environmental concerns. The first is to do with the gene pools of the salmon. By breeding large schools off the sperm and eggs of two fish, having only those two fishes’ hatchlings return to those spawning grounds and repeating the process, humans are creating a race of genetically weak salmon. While there are scientists who are ecologically aware and really want to make this work, they are under funded. Several years ago, again in Oregon, I visited a “green” salmon farm during spawning season.
“This is a very exciting time for us,” said the resident scientist of the farm as we walked out to the muddy banks in our hip waders. He had four hired hands helping him, and my class of onlookers.
The run was just beginning to come in as they got set up. He had his four employees standing in the water about ten feet apart form each other all the way across the river. Each of them poised and ready to grab salmon. The run started to increase and the scientist started giving orders.
“Alright, grab that one,” I heard him yell as he pointed to a spry, fast salmon swimming past the hired hand next to him. The boy made a grab for it, could not get it, and decided to grab a fat, slow one next to it. He then took that to the shore, opened it up and put the eggs in a bucket. This kind of slip up may seem small, but having one genetically weak fish produce thousands of offspring is a huge genetic retardation.
In addition, because of the practices used in raising the fish, the levels of toxins in these fish are much higher than in wild fish. This may become a health risk to other aquatic species, bears, and humans. The largest problem, in my opinion, is that this practice is only solving the symptoms of the larger problems, which are world-wide over fishing and pollution.
The tactics to overcome the problems of world-wide over fishing have not worked very well. There is a world-wide governing body that is supposed to regulate laws that have been agreed upon. However, these laws are very weak, almost undefined. The governing body, has a small fleet of enforcers, and no court system, so when violations have occurred, no one is sure where the case should be heard. The trend currently seems to be to strengthen these agencies, but based on the research I have done on Alaska’s fisheries, I do not believe this will work. Alaska’s policies have worked as well as they have because they dealt with the problem in a very specific way. The laws that were created dealt with a small situation, and were very thorough about acknowledging all involved parties. It would be very difficult to create a similar, specific set of regulations for a large and diverse body of fishermen.
On the other hand, as far as world-wide pollution goes, it seems that large regulatory bodies are the only feasible defense for the salmon population. Over fishing can be dealt with by each country individually because it is a point-source degradation of salmon runs. Pollution of the seas in a non-point-source degradation. To attack a world-wide, non-point-source problem, the whole world must come into mutual agreement upon what is going to be best for all. This could be another important step for environmental, ecological, and political economics. Environmental economics could prove to the world, through the same means they did in Alaska, that it will be more economically beneficial to sustainably harvest all fish, as it proved with salmon. Ecological economists could show the world the myriad of problems that arise when one species of fish is lost, and the myriad benefits of one species being saved. And I am sure there are many groups of people that are being unequally harmed by the pollution of the seas for political economist to fight for. One might first look at the poor fishermen working in these waters.
As far as America’s responsibilities go, the FCMA has undergone many amendments in response to changing fishery conditions. The most recent amendments are contained in the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA), which amended and renamed the FCMA as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservations and Management Act (MSFCMA). The SFA charged the regional management councils with new, stricter responsibilities for stewardship of the nation’s marine fisheries (Hanna, 63-65). But the bigger problem is now how America will interact with current world fishing policies.
Current World Fishing Policy
By its very nature, world fishing policy cannot be as simple as any nation’s fishing policy, such as that of the United States. The United States, like any individual nation, has political autonomy in its decision making for itself. The U.S. makes rules for itself as a whole, regulates those rules, and punishes those who break those rules. When many nations, and especially the world, want to make an agreement, they either need to create a body that will govern over all the nations involved, or try to reach an agreement without the benefit of legislative and enforcement autonomy. Since fishing is a topic that affects every country in varied and unique ways, creating international legislation that will appease all nations is very difficult. Due to the impossibility of assigning property rights to the sea, it is even more difficult to regulate fishing legislation. However, the ocean and its bounty are a CPR for the entire planet, and thus need to be regulated for and by the entire planet.
Many pieces have come together to make up current world fishing policy. World fishing policy is made up of every country’s individual fishing policies, multinational agreements, and a few pieces of global international regulation. This complex system has created a patchwork of environmental, economic and social protection, that varies in its strength from patch to patch. To fully understand the various strengths and weaknesses, each element must be examined.
Individual Countries’ International Fishing Rights
Just as America does, every country has an EEZ zone extending 200 miles off all their shoreline, in every direction. Theoretically, every country has the right to govern those waters in any way they choose. They could dredge the whole thing, leave it untouched, or fill it in with sand, depending on what their governments decides to do. However, economically beneficial ways of using this territory normally does not include any of those three options. The government of some countries, though, may see it as economically beneficial to over-fish their waters. If a country is in an economic bind and has few resources, history has shown that it is likely to exploit, or be forced to exploit, their natural environment. Even when countries are not in economic binds, they tend to do this, as in the case of Alaska. Countries do this because they fear that the world market may change and their resources may not be worth much in the future. This concept of devaluing the future is a common practice, but with CPRs, it causes international problems. In the case of fishing it causes problems because many species of fish migrate across EEZ boarders. One country may deplete a supply of fish that several other countries have just as much access to at other times of the year. Many countries actually share large sections of EEZ, such as the United States and Canada. Any two countries that have abutting coast lines will share at least four hundred square miles of ocean. These issues and more make the right to the fish in “your” part of the ocean very ambiguous. But as I said, initially each country has the right to do as they will with their EEZ, even if it means depleting a world resource. The solution to this problem has been the next two parts of the current international policy.
As is the case with Canada and America, countries that share EEZ zones often come up with international agreements to regulate shared EEZ. Canada and the U.S. share EEZ on both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. They have come up with separate agreements on each ocean. On each ocean there are other countries that fish either one of the countries’ EEZ, or school of fish that resides in one of the countries EEZ part time. These countries must be included in America and Canada’s agreements. On the Atlantic Coast, Greenland and Mexico are included in the agreements. This is because Canada shares EEZ with Greenland, and America shares EEZ with Mexico. In addition, migrating fish, such as the Tuna and Dolphin Fish, travel through all of these countries’ EEZs. To keep economic peace, these countries have come to an agreement on how much each country can fish the shared waters and shared species (Iudicello, 185). Based on the nature of sharing these means, they cannot be over fished. Thus this type of International regulation has created generally sustainable practices.
However, to date, the regulations agreed upon between Canada and America have only covered the fishing of the fish. Maintaining a fish population requires more than just not directly killing the fish. In order for a species to exist, it must have the proper unpolluted, undestroyed habitat. With modern water management, water treatment is often not sufficient. One country’s killing a species of fish or polluting the ocean based on their poor treatment of the environment could impair another country’s stock in the ocean and its fish just as much as if that country were mismanaging the fish specifically. Regulating water treatment has become a large part of global ocean management.
Part of the U.S.’s Magnuson-Stevenson act focuses on highly migratory species (HMS). This was originally drafted as an inter-America political act. Knowing that many groups and states feel entitled to almost every species of fish fished in the states, the Highly Migratory Species Act was an effort to assuage those concerns. Several parts of the Magnuson-Stevenson act require fisherman who fish highly migratory species to truthfully declare all their catches. This helps government agencies maintain accurate numbers on highly migratory fish populations. Through this they devise sustainable catch limits, gear restrictions, etc., and tally out quotas to the various states, native tribes, and commercial fishing fleets that feel entitled to each species (NMFS webpage) .
While researching these different species, the U.S. realized that creating laws only governing the HMS while they are in the U.S. EEZ would not stop the HMS from being overfished. By their very nature, HMS migrate beyond all borders. HMS go into the EEZs of Mexico and Canada, South America and beyond. The United States has used its massive political and economic strength to make sure that any fish population that it feels it is partially entitled to, is not over fished by another nation. This may seem a bit hypocritical for America to say to starving or developing nations. When the United States was developing, it clearly over fished many fish species that these countries may have been just as entitled to. However, America can now say that they learned the error of their ways, and that steps must be taken to ensure the survival of fish species and the environment.
Indeed, HMS regulations are valuable steps that should, in theory, protect the HMS. Various regulations of HMS have been established all over the world and are now common practice in most fishing agreements between nations profiting from HMS (NMFS webpage). However, the United States has not developed any sort of environmental regulations accompanying their HMS regulation. Not for itself, or other nations. To truly ensure their economic security with HMS, the United States needs to make sure that the HMS habitats are maintained, and that they are given inherent value.
The EU has developed a set of regulations much like America’s Magnuson-Stevenson. The EU has gone further than creating measures that stabilize fish populations through catch limits and gear restrictions, though. The EU has taken more measures to enforce their regulations than fish counts, and it has taken the step of maintaining fish habitats through the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) (Agrifo webpage).
The U.S. has pretty weak measures for enforcing their regulations. In Alaska, the coast guard actually patrols the salmon waters to make sure no boats are out at regulated times. Outside of time regulation on species that are most easily fished in designated areas, vessel to vessel monitoring is virtually useless in the giant sea. The U.S.’s only way to enforce its regulations is counting catches of random vessels and relying on fishery’s fish counts. The EU believes that this is not sufficient. It is easy to see how one could evade such counts or lie on their records. The EU has implemented a Satellite detection system that monitors fishing vessels in their ocean (Agrifo webpage). This system seems very futuristic, and maybe a bit over-the-top, but it has been extremely successful.
The U.S. enforces their regulations well once violations are brought to the court. They have heavy fines for vessels and fishermen caught breaking their laws. However, their laws only extend to the act of over fishing, not habitat destruction (Hanna, 57). If habitat destruction is causing the extinction of a species, the habitat destruction can be brought to court under the Endangered Species Act, but the court that deals with Endangered Species cases is separate from the court created by the Magnuson-Stevenson. This separation causes many problems with fishing regulations not accounting for environmental degradation and habitat destruction. The EU has solved this problem by including habitat preservation laws in their fishing regulations (Agrifo webpage). That way, the court can deal with fish’s existence in a more holistic way.
As a body of countries, the EU has come to this agreement to appease each country economically. They are attempting to make sure that no country uses up resources that may belong to other countries, and thus avoid confrontation. This focus is the same problem underlying U.S. fishing regulation: they are economically valuing the fish. As long as this is happening, policy can change for the sake of the economy. No matter how strong the regulation over any given country in the EU is, if a country desperately needed to, a country will break any and every treaty. This is because the world view being created with these regulations is that the regulations are in place for economic reasons.
The only way to preserve the fish and their habitats is to change the value system. It should not be based on economics, but quality of life. If fish and the environment are given value beyond that of the economy, they could become viewed as simply invaluable. If we people begin to see fish as an intrinsic, crucial part to our lives, we would not over fish. This argument does not mean the end of fishing. This argument means a relationship based on respect. A country could take only what is sustainable because it feels that is the best thing to do morally, instead of economically. This argument calls for a whole new set of values. However, a new set of values cannot be independent of economy. Maintaining entitlement to food will help maintain sound valuation. Mahatma Gandhi said, “To a starving man, food is god.” If the people who depend on the fish cannot eat, their valuation will put feeding themselves before the propagation of the fish. In addition, keeping people who see their dependence on fish sustained will help to ensure the continuation of their world view.
Global International Regulation
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea set up the most holistic approach to fishing regulations to date. This convention set up a charter that, since 1974, has been continuously ratified to include more and more nations. It now includes over one-hundred and thirty countries (UNCLS).
The Convention is not only holistic because of the number of countries that abide by its regulations, but in the regulations themselves. Like the EU’s regulations, it also takes into account the environment of the fish. This priority can be seen in the title of the convention. It is not called the Convention on the Law of the Fish, but the Sea. This is a very important view to take if the world wants to change the attitude that is causing fish to go extinct. By looking at the environment of the ocean, and saying that all of it needs to stay pristine, The United Nations is saying that they value the natural environment.
The Convention actually goes beyond the sea. If the Convention only covered the sea itself, it could not have over 130 members. There are not 130 countries bordering the ocean. The Convention takes into account that all waterways that enter the sea must be clean and healthy to protect the sea itself (UNCLS). Thus, every country with a waterway connection to the ocean has a stake in the health of the natural environment of the ocean. The ocean is a large part of the water cycle. Who is not affected by the water cycle? This is a very large step in the way people value the sea.
Even after nearly 35 years, the United States has not agreed to the terms of the Convention, and now, we are the only country that has not done so. This is a strange, but classically American decision. Much like part of the United States’ government said about the Kyoto protocol, part of the United States government has said that the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea is unrealistic and will not benefit the United States (Barringer, 1). Part of the United States government is traditionally against any sort of international regulation that governs over their heads. In the case of the Kyoto Protocol, that part of the U.S. government that is against international regulation said that the U.S. could cut their emissions in a way that is better for Americans. If the U.S. government meant the few Americans who own polluting factories, they were correct. However, America has not reduced their emissions as much as countries under the Kyoto protocol, whose economies have done just fine. The U.S. may be saving their large businesses money, but only at the expense of the general public – everyone suffers from pollution. The same vantage point is true for the United States refusal to comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Part of United States government believes that they can better serve their people than the United Nations. However, the United States government is not accepting the holistic vision the United Nations is working under. The United States does not have regulations that extend to the whole natural environment. Part of the United States government wants to continue to look at the world as a resource for humans. This is the crucial element that needs to change for the thorough protection of the fish.
The EU is the only other part of global international regulation. The EU will not buy fish that is not caught under the sustainable guidelines of the EU (Agrifo webpage). The EU regulations thus become global international regulations for any country that wants to do business with any country in the EU. The EU has a fairly good policy. As I said before, their best asset is their regulation. They have a great satellite monitoring system, and court system. They use these elements not only for the governing of fishing, but the treatment of the environment. Being able to use these systems to govern a larger area is another step toward quality environmental regulation that properly protects the common resources of the ocean.
Without being able to have regulations that change the ideas of treatment of the ocean from capitalistic to naturalistic, CPRs will be exploited. If the United States becomes the only country not to follow the rules of the United Nations Convention of the Sea, the Convention of the Sea will not fully work. The huge area of the ocean that the United States continues to do what they want with could become polluted. Because of the nature of CPRs, this would affect everybody who has a part in the ocean and water cycle. In the case of the ocean, tides and the water cycle move waters around the world. Every country in the world has a river, lake, ground water, oceanfront, or rain. Thus every country in the world is affected by the United State’s decision not to comply with the United Nations Convention of the Sea.
The U.S. has seen international coercion happen to them in a negative ways that may soon happen to the EU. Because of Mexico’s tuna catching practices, the United States refused to import tuna form Mexico. The United States considered this to be a huge environmental step. Indeed, it was. The practices that Mexico uses to fish for tuna involves huge nets that damage the greater ecosystem of the sea . The nets destroy the ocean floor, and kill many non-target species. Based on this information, the United States said they would not import tuna from Mexico (Iudicello, 93).
However, another global organization stepped in. Mexico brought a suit to the WTO saying that the United States was breaking trade agreements by not importing their tuna. Indeed, they were. So, the United States was forced to import Mexican tuna again, and the U.S. is not even allowed to inform their consumers of where their tuna comes from (Iudicello, 100). This is a case where a large governing body did override the United States. This is a decision that part of the United States government may point at when they say international organizations are bad. But that part of the U.S. government is not looking broadly enough. The WTO has worked for the US many times. The WTO has made the EU buy beef from the U.S. when the EU banned U.S. beef because of the U.S.’s use of hormones. The WTO has also made the US lower their cotton subsidies. And the WTO will probably stop the EU from restricting what fish they buy based on fishing practices of other countries. The WTO does its job.
The United Nations does too. If the United States would use resources like the United Nations Convention of the Sea to set forth rules like the one they would like on Mexican tuna fishing, they could succeed. The U.S. government could succeed on a broader level, changing the mentality of many nations, as the United Nations Convention of the Sea has.
Global international entities like the WTO and United Nations are supposed to work in a democratic manner that serves all of their parties for the betterment of the whole. If they WTO and UN are working in harmony as proper democratic entities, they will protect the commons.
How Current World Fishing Policy Affects America
The most important thing world fishing policy does for America is show America its fishing policy’s short comings. In the face of regulations like the EU, that can prosecute people who harm fish indirectly as well as directly, and monitor offenders of their laws much more effectively than America can, America can see its shortcomings. To more positively ensure the health of its natural environment, and thus economy, the U.S. needs more holistic fishing measures. The U.S. needs to consider offenses against a fish’s habitat just as negative as an offense against a fish. The U.S. should probably consider it even worse of an offense, because offenses against a fish’s habitat effect many fish habitats, many other animal’s habitats, everybody’s water, and the entire natural environment.
The U.S. has been contemplating joining the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but their reasoning is indicative of their valuation of the environment. The United States has been fighting many wars over seas. Fighting wars over seas entails fighting wars across seas and on seas, up rivers and in reservoirs. The Persian Gulf has become an exceptionally hot spot for U.S. military presence. This gulf, and many other waters on which the U.S. relies for moving supplies and G.I. s, occupying for strategy, and fighting on, are protected under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
When a country joins the Convention, all of the waterways they have claim to becomes protected by the Convention. This unifies a front against any usurper of the ocean. Those usurpers are then not allowed to use any of the waterways protected under the Convention for any reason. The general opinion of the U.S. among the Convention is that they are usurpers. Thus, the U.S. is not allowed to use any of the waterways (UNCLS).
Because the United States believes there are large stakes in their overseas wars, many people of the United States government have been suggesting that the United States join the Convention. Right now, it looks like the U.S. will join the convention, based on their valuation of military presence overseas (Barringer, 1). The U.S. joining the Convention would, of course, improve the way that the United States treats its waterways. The U.S. joining the Convention would also create a system that would deal with people who violate the codes set out by the Convention, not just those that directly break fishing laws. These regulation changes are positive, but they are the parts of the Convention that make the United States timid to join. These regulation changes make the U.S. timid because they are difficult things to do. The United States has weighed the difficulties of achieving the Conventions regulations, both politically and economically, against the value of using waterways for military action, and has said that abiding by the U.N.’s regulations seems like a good idea (Barringer, 1).
Positive treatment of the massive bodies of water that the U.S. controls would be a great victory for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It would also be good for the natural environment. However, the reasons the U.S. is likely to join the Convention does not reflect a long-term valuation that will be positive for the environment. If the United States government changes its mind about the value of being able to station themselves overseas versus obeying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, all the positive implications of the United States joining the Convention could be reversed. This is the risk that is run with coercing government into environmental decisions.
On the other hand, if the United States could be convinced of the benefits of changing their valuation of the environment, the world could be changed in a sustainable direction for good. How to do this is a difficult question, and seeing the continued destruction of the ocean and subsequent loss of aquatic species, shows that this is not being answered.
How All of this Affects Alaska
Meanwhile, the future of Alaska’s salmon are still not secure. But the potential exists to rectify this. If the U.S. joined the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, it would vastly improve the way the salmon and their Alaskan habitat are treated.
The salmon populations have stabilized through means similar to these. When the United States made the decision to sustainably harvest salmon for economic reasons, it happened. However, despite the regulations put in place, salmon populations are in jeopardy as long as their survival is based on their economic value, as I discussed above. Considering the laws other countries are working under, I would argue that there is a bigger problem than world foreign overfishing of Alaska’s salmon, and considering the evidence surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the row between Alaska’s commercial fisherman and sport fishermen, I would argue that it is habitat destruction. The entire process of extracting oil from Alaska and its waters are incredibly detrimental to Alaska’s salmon. Waterway interference, such as pollution and waterway barriers, is also detrimental to salmon populations. Pollution in general is not good for the salmon. Yet the causes of the demise of the salmon is not being pursued fiercely enough to stop the salmon’s demise. This is because, overall, the valuation of the fish is not great enough. The valuation of their habitat is not great enough.
Thankfully, Alaskans came together to put a stop to the abuses of its resources in the Tongass. This alone helped all Alaskans, including its commercial fishermen, and the salmon stocks on which they depend. To further save their lands and their water and their salmon, and to aid their people, Alaskans must identify and get behind positive economic change in their other two industries, and stop the continued pollution of the oil industry, and demand that America join in the EU Convention on the Law of the Sea to further protect its fisheries. The only question that remains for me is what is stopping them from doing so.
Since the 1980s Alaskans have shown that they can, at times, put aside their political biases and make the decisions that are most right for the State, but they are still unable to do so with the oil industry. This problem is at the heart of the current political issues in Alaska today, and it must be admitted, and addressed on all fronts, if Alaska is going to take the steps forward in its relationship to all of its industries that it did with the pulp industry.
Currently, there are several central political conflicts raging in Alaska between the growing group of conservationists, and dwindling, but still majority of pro-development Alaskans. These conflicts are not isolated incidents, but can easily be seen as part of the larger context of Alaska’s political history, and the way in which they are dealt with very well may define Alaska’s political future, and thus I will discuss some of the most important contemporary political issues in Alaska here, in the last section of my paper, within the context of my political history.
Part 6 Pending Problems:
The most pressing, pending political debates in Alaska surround international fishing regulations, ANWR, the permanent fund and budget reserves fund, ANCSA, the Red Dog Zinc Mine, and the Arctic Caribou. In this, the final section of my paper, I will discuss the debates that surround each of these issues, and draw the similarities among them, which I believe point to the reason Alaska is unable to resolve them – they have not learned the lessons of their political history.
There is currently a major initiative in science toward solving the problems with commons management called CPR management. It is impossible to write this introduction without mentioning Garret Hardin. In the 1960’s, Hardin’s essay, “The Tragedy of the commons,” stirred up a whole movement in science, mostly because of Hardin’s shocking language, and assumptions not based on fact. This movement has since gone on to refute most of his arguments, but without him, these new, superior, fact-based arguments would not exist.
I use the term science loosely when discussing CPR management. The “science” of CPR management is as much a political science, a political economy, a cultural study, and an environmental science as it is a science. As a science itself, CPR management observes the laws by which commons function, as the science of physics observes the laws by which mass functions. In the science of CPR management, every function has a depth of implication. Because humanity has become so dependent on the environment, human institutions and psyche are very much affected by CPR management, thus the science of CPR management is a political science. All society’s economies are based on the environment, and since commons are shared by many people, the study of political economy applies also. Many people have deep ties with the land or sea involved in commons, thus the science of CPR management is a cultural study. And the generalization of “commons” is fundamentally flawed. Every common is a unique environment that needs to be treated with the sensitivity with which we would treat a unique individual.
The sea is a very unique common. The sea is the most obvious common in the world. No one owns all of the sea. Every part of the sea is effected by every other part of the sea. In research done for the science of CPR management, the ocean is the most common example. This can be seen in the very title of this new science: common POOL resource management.
It is only right that the sea is the most prominent subject of CPR management. The sea is the most used common in the world, and thus it is the common in the most need of help. The new science of CPR management has many ideas on how to make the commons of the sea work. All are helpful in their own way for addressing the small and large problems with current CPR management, and it is CPR management that currently leaves Alaska’s salmon in jeopardy. And so here, I will discuss how some authors suggest the science of CPR management could be progressed, and ultimately how and why Alaska should implement most of these progressions, and why they do not.
Making the Commons Work:
In Fikret Berkes essay, “Success and Failure in Marine Coastal Fisheries of Turkey,” he looks at just how feasible the idea of balancing a CPR between all parties in a sustainable is, by examining the history of five fisheries in Turkey. All five of these fisheries historically had guild use, a common practice in which a certain group, which a single leader, controls a CPR and decides who is allowed to use it. When modern ideas of CPR use are applied to CPRs currently under gill use, many political questions surrounding who is entitled to the CPR arise based on arguments of who was there first, and who needs it more, and who will utilize it best. To avoid these problems, Turkey moved toward the provision of ubiquitous use (Berkes, 161).
Ubiquitous use is a dangerous process because of the danger of over fishing. More people fishing increases the likelihood for over fishing. Turkey tried to counter this with catch limits and fishing time limits (Berkes, 162). This is similar to Alaska’s restrictions, but Turkey lacked the sophisticated escapement levels. This lack of escapement levels did not allow the limits to change with extraneous factors on the fish populations such as people getting away with over fishing and environmental damage. Because of these factors and more, the stock was over fished. Now this is a huge problem (Berkes, 168). Since Turkey’s problem is in the water cycle, it is a problem for the whole world.
Several issues around when a commons can be managed in the traditional way are brought up in this example. The traditional guild practices, while they may seem unfair, were sustainable in Turkey. Turkey’s environment was not suited for a large and diverse population of fisherman. Extenuating factors of Turkey’s surrounding environment ruined its stock (Berkes, 173). And now Turkey and the rest of the world must take note of this lesson.
Unofficial Regulations in the Third World:
John Cordell and Margaret A. MeKean outline the effects of giving natives property rights over commons, instead of using the modern idea of sharing common pool resources, in their essay, “Sea Tenure in Bahia, Brazil.” In this essay the authors lay out the effects of the government giving traditional fishing fleets power in the face of globalized fishing fleets. The means by which the natives fish are effective enough for sustenance, but not broad marketing. Traditional fishing is in canoes with no ice, very little speed, and small nets wielded only by men, not machines. These means make it impossible for the resources of their seas to be overused by the natives. A position these particular natives were fine with, as long as no one else was overusing their resources either. (Cordell, 183-205).
This groups love for their commons allowed them to manage them properly without strict rules, just internal, small-scale governance. This worldview is what I have constantly stated is the only one that will ensure the future of the world’s commons in general, and Alaska’s salmon, in particular – and I think this should be noted again here. But it should also be noted that this case study is very particular. The two points that would be most obvious to transfer to other CPR’s are, first, the feasibility and justification of keeping other stakeholders out of CPRs – this was not possible for Alaska’s fisherman when canneries from the lower 48 arrived, and while similar actions may be possible now, is keeping businesses, sport fishers, and others out of a CPR and giving natives absolute control justified? I believe the answer to that question depends on how those Natives will take care of the resources. It is wonderful that these Natives could continue to respect their resources in the face of lures of the Western World, and not desire to make a profit off their resources, but this is not the case for all natives, as we’ve seen in the political history of Alaska. So how could one ensure that Natives would do the right thing with their resources if given full control of them, without taking away a degree of their autonomy in regulating their resources?
Where Do We Go From Here?
In David Feeney’s essay, “Where Do We Go From Here,” explores ways of gathering information on CPR management and applying that information to create new regulations. Feeney points out that there are 5 traditional means by which to collect data: case studies, history, prospective data, lab experiments, and field experiments (Feeney, 267). All of these means have their unique positive and negative qualities in regards to common pool resource management research.
Case studies are the most common form of data collection in common pool resource management, and the primary benefit of them is that they place in the natural environment of CPRs, but the problem inherent in this is how to let a negative case study run its course without harming the natural world. Looking at history is like doing a retro-active case study (Feeney, 269), much like the first part of my research on Alaskan salmon, and while this is a great tool to gain knowledge, it is not very proactive. In using prospective data, a collector looks at what part of history has to do with a present dilemma (Feeney, 272), while this may aid CPR managers in the developing policy, it leaves out many extraneous factors that could be important – it assumes repetition. Lab experiments can be very helpful in learning about complex interactions, but if they over-simplify or over-complicate the problem in relationship to the natural environment, all that is learned can be null and void (Feeney, 275). And field experiments good because they go beyond theory and test a hypothesis in the real world, but this is also their short coming, because if a field experiment is mismanaged, a whole ecosystem is at stake, not just an idea, a test tube, and a pad of paper (Feeney, 278).
These critiques of each of the form of gathering information on CPR management show the extensive need for research by all means available, which inevitably includes a discussion of Alaska’s case study, and how it can be applied to other CPR’s, while accounting for its variances from other ecosystems with proper lab work and tested in field experiments. Only after this is done can an informed discussion of future regulations begin, and the broader questions of how CPR’s should be managed and who should manage them can be addressed.
Governing the Commons:
In her book, “Governing the Commons,” Elinor Ostrom looks at the positive and negative effects of privatization, socialization, and institutionalization. She argues that socialization works like a leviathan, as defined as anything that keeps a group in check (Ostrom, 56-60), but she points out that this leviathan is only positive if it operates properly – basically that for socialization to work, the government must have a very holistic, nature-valuing, yet population supporting system to be good for CPR management.
Ostom argues that the positive aspect of privatization is that it gets people working with nature directly (Ostrom, 130), and that each person will reap what they sew. But, contrarily, people working together can achieve greater mindfulness than people working separately, and the idea that every person will reap what they sow from their own part of a commons is just not true (Ostrom, 135-138) as can be seen in all examples of ocean CPR management, in general, and the example of Alaskan Salmon, in particular. Institutionalization is basically a unique form of privatization where an independent firm governs, but does not own, or harvest, the commons. The firm reimburses the fisherman for their inputs and sells their outputs, thus absorbing all the net loses and gains (Ostrom, 160 – 204). Institutionalization is another case, like that of socialization, where it would work with a good leviathan: it could work wonderfully with an altruistic firm in charge, but could also be a terrible field experiment. In the end, Ostrom agues that preservation of indigenous common use is a hybrid of all three, in that it is self-organized, self-governing, and long-enduring (Ostrom, 234), and gives many examples of this working into the present day (see Ostrom, 58-102). Of course, preserving indigenous common use cannot save all of the worlds commons, but as I have argued before, it could play an intricate part.
The last thing Ostrom talks about in her book is institutional change. She shows that through capitalization common pool resources have been overused, litigation has ensued, and the end result was entrepreneurship (Ostom, 250-261). This is an important thing to remember when thinking about the future of CPR management. In the case of Alaska, it looked like this: European’s made the CPR of Alaska’s salmon a capitalized CPR; it was overused; litigation ensued between the various stakeholders; out of this litigation, entrepreneurship came in the form the government enforcing escapement levels. The government was the entrepreneur. The steps in this process have looked differently all over the world, but in most places where a CPR has been capitalized, Ostrom’s general path has been followed. Of course, for this to work in a CPR as interconnected as the ocean, all countries must be led by the same entrepreneurship, and that entrepreneur ship must be based on a world view that inherently values the natural world.
Harbor Gangs and Modern Law:
In James A. Acheson and Jenifer S. Brewer’s article, “Changes in Territorial Systems in the Main Lobster Fishing Industry,” they examine the case study of Main lobster fishing industry, which was formerly run by “harbor gangs,” – groups of fishermen that formed and operated like guilds. The harbor gangs in Maine did not allow mixed use fishing, or unsustainable practices of catching lobster. If someone did not abide by the gang’s rules, the usurper’s gear would be molested by the gangs. This was sustainable for a long time, until modern ideas of CPR management stepped in. The state made gear molestation illegal, and made catching and convicting gear molesters a priority. As a result, gear molestation has significantly decreased, and mixed fishing has ensued, which has destroyed the ocean floor, ruining an ecosystem (Acheson 37-59).
I believe the most interesting question in all of this is, who pushed for the laws stopping gear molestation? Was it concerned citizens wanting to make lobster fishing fair, or was it large fishing corporations that wanted to tap a locally protected resource? This calls into question the basic premise of modern CPR management: where does all the modern cry for equal shares is CPRs come from? Who does the modern idea of CPR management benefit? Does it allow modern fleets to enter more CPRs that were run exclusively and sustainably, or give back more CPRs to sustainable operations that have been displaced by modern fleets. It seems that constantly regulating CPRs in a single direction will not always be both fair and sustainable. And so decisions must be made in each fishery to protect the larger CPR of the ocean as a whole.
Privatizing the Commons:
Tracy Yandle and Christopher M. Dewees’ essay, “Privatizing the Commons, twelve years later: fishing experiences with New Zealand’s market based fishing management,” broadens the three schools of CPR management Ostrom discussed and renames them bureaucracy, market, and community. Bureaucracy is socialization broadened to include more complex government control over fisheries. Community is institutionalization broadened to include the community as an institution that can govern its resources independently of the government. And Market is privatization broadened to include the market as an enterprise private of the government. New Zealand, their case study, uses the market approach to CPR management(Yandle, 93-98).
New Zealand has developed a system of tradable permits that are based on catch limits. The value of each permit in fish is changed with changes in the size of the schools of fish, like the escapement levels in Alaska. New Zealand raises the cost of fish when fish stocks are low to balance the profit. Even these regulations are not enough to fully compensate for recent lows in fish stocks, and unemployment has ensued (Yandle, 103).
This is because their system slows the race for capital, but does not stop it: fishermen are throwing back small fish to maximize their tonnage of catch through their limitations (Yandle, 107), creating a negative feedback loop by killing future catch, thus lowering escapement levels, thus lowering the value of permits, and thus inspiring more bad behavior. In addition, if an escapement level is incorrectly set too low, it could mean the demise of the entire ecosystem, and the market based system displaces traditional native fishermen and poor fishermen.
Another author, Einar Eythorsson examines the market based CPR management as it pertains to Iceland in his essay, “Stakeholders, Courts, and Communities: individual transferable quotas in Iceland. As of now, Iceland is the only country in the world with an EEZ that does not extend 200 miles because of the dominance of the fishing industry in the larger political debate (Eythorsson, 147). So while Iceland has quotas for catch limits, these limits are being lowered because of over fishing by Britain and others, hurting Iceland’s fishermen, who have been forced to sell their permits to large fleets and give up their traditional ways of life (Eythorsson, 153).
These examples further demonstrate how the ideal of equally dividing all rights to CPRs does not turn out fair for every CPR, and allotments must be made for underprivledged stakeholders, particularly if theirs is a sustainable system, the type which modern CPR management claims to be create for the whole ocean, to ensure the future of thousands of species as precious as Alaska’s salmon.
Micro-Credit and Common Pool Resource Management:
In “A Framework For Analyzing the Physical, Social, and Human Capital Effects of Micro-Credit on Common Pool Resources,” C. Leigh Anderson, Laura A. Louker, and Rachael A. Nugent discuss natural, human and social capital as they relate to another issue in CPR management: micro-credit.
The micro-credit summit set a goal for micro-finance organizations (MFOs) to reach, ‘100 million of the world’s poorest families, especially the women of those families, with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services by 2025. (Anderson, 266)’”
That is 10 times the amount of people with current economic aid from MFOs, and one-third of the world’s poor. The authors of this essay say that communities given micro-credit loans become empowered, thus empowering their people, raising both human and social capital. The authors also say that when communities are granted these micro-credit loans, they will develop in the traditional way – using their environment – thus lowering natural capital. Based on these assumptions, they say that the rise in human and social capital outweighs the loss in environmental capital.
But I would argue that a community based on the land could not benefit from the destruction of that land. However, I would also argue that if a community deeply reverent of their land becomes empowered, they may actually protect their land and improve all three forms of capital.
A way of ensuring this is attaching environmental stipulations to micro-credit loans. The Grameean bank states in its sixteen traditions that, “They will keep their children and environment clean,” and many MGOs attach this clause to their loan, trying to ensure environmental capital remains in the country (Anderson, 174). With this stipulation, micro-credit loans could potentially raise all three forms of capital, but they could also deplete all three forms, because the model itself is still based in a capitalistic system, which strives for capital at the expense of humans, societies, and the environment. Giving these categories the label of capital is supposed to make them factors in the capitalistic system. Indeed it has, but in the process it may have degraded the worth of a human, a community, and an environment. But again, if they are managed altruistically, they could be an important part of a broader CPR management model.
The Alaska Case Study:
So with research happening all over the world, in every facet of CPR management, particularly focused on the CPR of the ocean, why is Alaska not working harder to ensure the fate of Alaska’s salmon? Many would argue that it is because a proper, conclusive model for CPR management has not yet been ushered in. But I believe this is simply a delay. I believe that a holistic model for managing the ocean is at hand, but that Alaska and America, and their valuable case studies must be a part of it for it to work. And the only reason they are not is because the do not value the natural world enough to deal with the results such a model would have on two of their other passions that are inherently destructive to the ocean: oil and power boats. This is obvious by a simple look at Alaska’s political history and the rest of its current pending problems, and as long as it remains true, all of the world’s waters are in jeopardy, in general, and the fate of Alaska’s salmon are in jeopardy, in particular. From the year 1952 to the year 1992, there was a 300% rise in fishing. Humans went from annually eating 18.5 tons of fish, to 82.5 tons of fish. In this time period, 70% of fisheries reached depletion (Yadle, 90). This trend has only continued since, and if it continues much longer, the fate of Alaska’s salmon will no longer be in jeopardy, it will be sealed. Alaskans will soon reach a point in time when they will have to decide what they value more: salmon and the unique lifestyle that surrounds them for most Alaskans, or the wealth oil will continue to bring the State only as long as it doesn’t run out.
As you’ll recall, the Federal Government historically had control over the North Slope. Before Statehood, the entirety of the oil on the North Slope was under the control of a federal government – defined as National Petroleum Reserve 4 (NPR4), and the oil therein was used to power ships long before doing so was economical in other regions. Most Alaskans were utterly unconcerned with this land before Statehood. While they did support oil exploration, they did so only in the Southeast, and they did so for dubious reasons.
Before Statehood, most Alaskans were only interested in oil as far as its presence in Alaska supported their push for Statehood. Many, including Alaska’s environmentalists and Natives, were ultimately opposed to oil exploration, but supported it anyway because they thought that doing so would aid their struggle for Statehood, and they hoped that once they won Statehood, they could stop oil exploration in the further pursuit of their own agendas. When Alaska was granted Statehood, the majority of the North Slope remained under federal control, as Ike Eisenhower established a majority percentage of NPR4 as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
However, it quickly became apparent that the Alaskans who had pushed for Statehood in an effort to stop oil exploration were misguided. With Alaska’s unique right to acquisition land, the State first selected 104 acres on the North Slope. Public outcry ensued. Homesteaders were outraged that Alaska had used its unique ability to acquisition land that was most covered in ice and wholly uninhabitable, while their homes remained on unsecured land, and they still could not purchase other land without fear of dispute from the Federal Government or Native Land Claims. These homesteaders included Alaska’s commercial fishermen and independent loggers, and Alaska Natives were also opposed to the acquisition. Considering the fact that the majority of Alaskans now support the oil industry, often at the expense of their best interests, it is shocking how much outcry there was against this first State selection.
Considering the stance that most Native Corporations have about oil exploration today, it is even more surprising that they were the ones to actually hold up production of oil on the North Slope. They held up this production, and all development around the state, remarkably, for six years. This resulted in the passage ANCSA and the creation of the Native Corporations. This marks the point at which Natives began to support the oil industry, as Native Corporations, separate from Native tribes and now entitled to much of the revenues of oil, got behind drilling in the North Slope.
However, many Alaskans were still opposed, as is evident by what happened next: the project was stopped for another ten years by a State-wide effort of State and federal environmental groups who wanted more comprehensive restrictions on all of Alaska’s lands. This resulted in the passage of ANILCA, which doubled the the size of ANWR. Thankfully, this does not mark the point at which Alaska’s environmentalists began to support the oil industry. But it does mark another stage in the history of ANWR, in which the possibility of opening it for oil exploration remained opened. In fact, it was during the passage of ANILCA that the provisions currently surrounding such an opening were put in place. Then, as now, ANWR can be opened for oil exploration at any time, if the federal government approves. Thus, the passage of ANILCA marked a stark divide between the national and State agenda in regards to ANWR. ANILCA declared ANWR the most important arctic wilderness sight in the world. Yet, Harold Heinze, the head of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, calls it a flat, crummy place, and opening it for oil exploration is his primary agenda. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Alaskan have had house and Senate vote on opening ANWAR numerous times, but each effort has ultimately been thwarted by filibusters, amendments, or vetoes.
This fierce persistence has left much of the nation wondering why Alaskans are so insistent on opening ANWR. And it has left me wondering what has changed since Statehood, when most Alaskans were opposed to selecting the North Slope as State land, and even since the 20 years after Statehood during which various movements of Alaskans from all walks of life fought against drilling for oil in the arctic, and now, as Alaskans have become firm supporters of opening ANWR, and its senators persist in trying to have it opened on the national level. (During times of security crises, in particular, Alaska’s senators will claim opening ANWR is a matter of National Security. To debunk this argument quickly: No matter what we do with ANWR, at its current consumption rates, America will never be self-sufficient in regards to oil. Yes there is a lot of oil under ANWR, but all of it, combined with all of the rest of the oil in the United States, could only sustain our current rate of consumption for 200 days.)
Most of the nation seems to believe that the answer to both questions is simply greed.
Alaskans started receiving large checks every year because oil companies are doing well in Alaska, and so now they support the oil industry, the argument goes, and now they are greedy for even larger checks and so they support the opening of ANWR and they’re willing to sacrifice one of the rarest ecosystems in the world to get them, even though they are closer to this ecosystem than any other people in the nation.
I believe there’s more to it than this, and it began with construction of the pipeline. You’ll remember that during construction of the pipeline, amidst the political, economic, and environmental disasters, Alaskans were receiving jobs at staggering rates, and the State’s economy was booming. Well, the oil industry continues to supply jobs to thousands of Alaskans, and still largely supports the State’s economy. And these two facts have led to two important misconceptions about opening ANWR that I believe allow Alaskans to support drilling in ANWR despite the lessons they should have learned from their political history.
Based on their political history, it seems that Alaskans should have little faith in the stability and longevity of any Outside extractive industry operating in Alaska – as they saw the fishing industry and timber industry collapse while in Outside hands – but they have not lost faith in the oil industy, and it is because of the oil industry’s particular relationship to the State’s economy. Alaskans have a lot of faith in the the oil industries stability and longevity to support their state because while most State projects failed during the 1980s recession, the permanent fund remained strong. This has instilled Alaskans with a level of trust in this government policy that they have in few others. But this faith is misguided. The permanent fund is currently shrinking as its payouts are increasing with the demands of matching inflation that were put on it when it was established. This is leading to the greatest fiscal crisis the state has ever faced, which I will discuss below.
Based on their political history, it seems that Alaskans should also have very little faith in the environmental policy of any Outside Extractive industry operating in Alaska – as they grew indignant of the abuses of the fishing industry and timber industry and kicked them out, and even cried out against the unsound shipping of oil during the Exxon Valdez disaster – but that has not been the case in regards to opening ANWR, and it is largely because of myths perpetuated by Alaskans working on the North Slope. Working on the North Slope is one of the most desirable jobs in all of Alaska, and almost every family has a member who has landed one of these jobs at one time or another. These family members work two weeks on, up on the North Slope, and then get two weeks off, back home in their towns and cities all over Anchorage. They bring back tons of money and talk about how easily time passes on the North Slope, working 12 hours a day, and watching movies or working out in the giant complexes each oil company has built for their employees. When the subject comes up of the environmental quality of ANWR with any of these family members, they will instantly say there is nothing there but ice – not a single tree, not a single animal, not a single human. However, this is simply untrue:
The refuge supports a greater variety of plant and animal life than any other protected area in the circumpolar arctic. There is a continuum of six different ecozones spanning some 200 miles (300 km) north to south.
Along the northern boundary of the refuge, barrier islands, coastal lagoons, salt marshes, and river deltas provide habitat for migratory waterbirds including sea ducks, geese, swans, and shorebirds. Fish such as dolly varden and arctic cisco are found in nearshore waters. Coastal lands and sea ice are used by caribou seeking relief from biting insects during summer, and by polar bears hunting seals and giving birth in snow dens during winter.
The arctic coastal plain stretches southward from the coast to the foothills of the Brooks Range. This area of rolling hills, small lakes, and north-flowing, braided rivers is dominated by tundra vegetation consisting of low shrubs, sedges, and mosses. Caribou travel to the coastal plain during June and July to give birth and raise their young. Migratory birds and insects flourish here during the brief arctic summer. Tens of thousands of snow geese stop here during September to feed before migrating south, and musk oxen live here year-round.
South of the coastal plain, the mountains of the eastern Brooks Range rise to over 9,000 feet (3,000 m). This northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains marks the continental divide, with north-flowing rivers emptying into the Arctic Ocean and south-flowing rivers joining the great Yukon River. The rugged mountains of the Brooks Range are incised by deep river valleys creating a range of elevations and aspects that support a variety of low tundra vegetation, dense shrubs, rare groves of poplar trees on the north side and spruce on the south. During summer, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, and golden eagles build nests on cliffs. Harlequin ducks and red-breasted mergansers are seen on swift-flowing rivers. Dall sheep and wolves are active all year, while grizzly bears and arctic ground squirrels are frequently seen during summer but hibernate in winter.
The southern portion of the Arctic Refuge is within the boreal forest of interior Alaska. Beginning as predominantly treeless tundra with scattered islands of black and white spruce trees, the forest becomes progressively denser as the foothills yield to the expansive flats north of the Yukon River. Frequent forest fires ignited by lightning result in a complex mosaic of birch, aspen, and spruce forests of various ages. Wetlands and south-flowing rivers create openings in the forest canopy. Neotropical migratory birds breed here in spring and summer, attracted by plentiful food and the variety of habitats. Caribou travel here from farther north to spend the winter. Year-round residents of the boreal forest include moose, lynx, marten, wolverines, black and grizzly bears, and wolves.
Each year, thousands of waterfowl and other birds nest and reproduce in areas surrounding Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk fields and a healthy and increasing caribou herd migrates through these areas to calve and seek respite from annoying pests such as human activity. Oil field facilities have been located and designed to accommodate wildlife and utilize the least amount of tundra surface, but the damage left through exploration and maintenance can scar the land permanently.
Yet it is easy to see how North Slope employees could miss all of this during their stays in the giant complexes of the oil companies. Still, theirs is a dangerous misconception – it has contributed to the current fiscal crises I mentioned above, and will discuss below, and has also contributed to the current abuses of Alaska’s fist nation, which I will also discuss below.
So why have Alaskans, after kicking the Outside canneries out of Alaska because of their abuse of the water and its fishermen, and establishing a sustainable, Alaskan-run fishing industry, and after kicking Outside pulp companies out of the state for abusing the Tongass and its independent loggers, and re-inventing the economies in their stead, and after seeing the destruction caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, why do Alaskans remain cheerleaders for the oil industry? The answer is far more complex than greed, and the consequences are far more dire than most people realize.
The Permanent Fund and Budget Reserves Fund
There is a huge, pending fiscal crises because Alaska is not allowed to touch the Permanent Fund, that Alaskans ignore because they are still making money off the Permanent Fund. By not lowering dividends and allowing a portion of this money to be used to balance the budget, Alaskans will eventually lose all their dividends, when the Permanent Fund collapses. But instead of addressing this problem, they continually look for other ways to bring money to the state, like opening ANWR, and abusing the tax loophole still open to Alaska Natives.
ANCSA, 35 Years Later
35 years ago, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was passed to resolve all land disputes between Alaska Natives and the state of Alaska. Yet today, in the state’s most precious quarters, a debate is ragging over the rights of Native Corporations. Small businesses are furious over the contracts Native Corporations are landing because of their minority status, and as the economic arm of these Corporations extends around the world, the whole nation has taken up the concerns of Alaska’s small businesses. Native Corporations are using a legislative loophole to land extremely lucrative contracts that they have no business bidding on, the argument goes. But the precedent and players behind this current situation may be quite surprising to those most enraged by it.
Alaska is still very much in a furor of development. Even Anchorage, the largest city in the state, is home to only 250,000 people, and it is clear, when observing the skyline from the top of a nearby mountain, or driving out of town on a fishing trip, that it is nowhere near its saturation point: the cityscape quickly vanishes without sprawling suburbs, and there are no strip-malls or outlet stores along the highway between cities, in fact, there are very few rest stops. But this is not because this land is uninhabitable. It is not covered in ice ninety percent of the year and plagued by polar bears. That myth died long before Seward. And as we’ve seen, those with all the facts, including Seward himself, have always known Alaska was a land of great wealth. If the last 10 years have taught America nothing else about the State, it has surely taught them that Alaska is a place of abundant, economically valuable resources. It is, quite simply, underdeveloped; compared to the rest of the United States, that is.
Because of this, Alaska remains close to the ideal Land of Opportunity that our country promised European settlers hundreds of years ago. “North to the Future” is Alaska’s state motto, implying that it is where future development will happen, but also hearkening to the past, America’s past, where there was still perceived to be endless space for development. But in the lower 48 much of this “endless space” should not have been developed, as many precious ecosystems are now gone. But instead of learning this lesson from the past, many Alaskans remain fiercely pro-development. And there is still seemingly endless space to develop in Alaska – there is demand for services of all kind, there are openings in the workforce that draw Outsiders by the drove every summer, the state is widely considered the most business friendly in the union, and most startling to the senses when one first arrives there – it is expansive.
In Alaska, the values of small business are widely held in high esteem. If I were to define the average Alaskan – the Alaskan who makes up the majority of the population – I would say he loves Alaska, is fiercely independent, believes a man can pull himself up by his own bootstraps, and never ever wants the federal government to get involved in open competition, because to them, the federal government doesn’t understand Alaska, and will only hinder those who want to work hard, and support those who want to rely on welfare and unemployment. In academic short-hand, they’re social Darwanists (despite being born again Christians), and they believe in laissez-fair economics. This type of Alaskan feels well represented by Ted Stevens, who has been their senator for nearly 40 years, because he stands on a platform of bringing as much money to Alaska as possible, and keeping their businesses unregulated.
Thus it is not surprising that Alaskans have become upset with the rights Native Corporations have been asserting to win contracts inside and outside of the state because they are minority run businesses. What is surprising is who supports the Native Corporations’ ability to do so on such a large scale.
For nearly 25 years after their creation, Native Corporations were entirely unsuccessful. According to a study by University of Alaska economist Steve Colt, between 1973 and 1993, these Corporations lost 80% of their original $380 million, mostly because of bad business ventures. During this time, they were rarely discussed by average Alaskans. Ten years ago, most Alaskans, native and non-native alike, even those who lived through the passing of ANCSA, knew very little about Alaska Native Corporations, because they were politically invisible – they had no effect on the daily life of average Alaskans.
But in the last 10 years, they have turned themselves around. Today, these Corporations are some of the most lucrative in a particularly lucrative state. But the way in which they’ve become so wealthy has turned them into one of the average Alaskan’s most hated political players, fiercely discussed, and universally considered a burden to daily life.
Why is this? How did they turn themselves around? Largely because of the 8(a) program of the Small Business Administration of the Federal Government, instated by Congress after a push by Ted Stevens to help bring money to floundering Native Corporations during Alaska’s mid-eighties recession. The 8(a) program is intended to level the playing field for minority-owned and socially-disadvantaged small businesses. The primary objective of the program is to help such business acquire competitive loans and contracts. To help them acquire loans, the SBA signs as the guarantor to low interest loans for which these businesses would not otherwise qualify.
Alaska Native Corporations have used these loans over the last ten years to invest in out of state business to diversity their portfolios. This has worked remarkably well for them: In the 1990’s, the Cook Inlet Regional Corporation invested in Wireless communication, resulting in a dividend of $314 million for their 7,000 members – almost $50,00 for each member that year alone. Because of the lack of effect this sort of business had on the daily life of Alaskans, Native Corporations remained a fairly transparent part of Alaska’s political life, despite their growing wealth.
But to help 8(a) businesses secure contracts as well as loans, the SBA also has a set of federal regulations that require the Federal Government itself and also every American corporation that contracts jobs, to reserve a certain amount of contracts as sole source contracts for 8(a) businesses. An 8(a) corporation can take these contracts even if they do not have the means to fulfill them, by taking the bids and subcontract to other firms. According to the SBA’s official website, the point of this procedure is, “to allow starting 8(a) companies to learn the ropes from experienced businesses.” They go on to explain further: “Our task is to teach 8(a) and other small companies how to compete in the Federal contracting arena and how to take advantage of greater subcontracting opportunities available from large firms as the result of public-private partnerships.” It is the utilization of this clause that has caused so much animosity toward Alaska natives in this fiercely laissez-fair state.
The average Alaskan sees this program as a form of corporate welfare, and with good reason. Small business owners in Alaska have endless stories about not being able to bid on contracts they are fully qualified for, and instead having to sub-contracts from Native Corporations. They complain that when they do so, they make far less money, despite doing all the work, while the Native Corporations, and the Natives that are part of those corporations, do nothing. This does not sit well with average Alaskans, and it has created animosity toward Alaskan Natives, but also toward the SBA, which average Alaskans are beginning to consider just another erroneous branch of the federal government, that doesn’t understand what it’s like in Alaska.
However, the SBA actually functions quite thoroughly within the framework of the average Alaskans ideals: The SBA has directly or indirectly helped nearly 20 million businesses, and currently holds a portfolio of roughly 219,000 loans worth more than $45 billion, making it the largest single financial backer of businesses in the United States; the SBA is also one of very few agencies that pays its own way and does not drain the treasury for its loan programs, as Price Waterhouse affirmed some years ago – the tax revenue generated by only a handful of SBA startup loans more than pays for all the operating expenses of the Agency. In fact, for the sake of fairness, the SBA imposes a $3 million cap to the contracts acquirable by all 8(a) businesses, except one.
Provisions added long ago to the SBA’s 8(a) program eliminated the monetary cap for a single minority enterprise, namely, Alaska Native Corporations. Arguably, it is this provision that has caused so much average Alaskan animosity toward Natives, because it has allowed them to take the biggest, most profitable contracts in the state, even ones they are totally incapable of fulfilling without subcontracting.
The ramifications of this have also made Alaska Native Corporations a lightning rod with which to criticize the SBA throughout the country, because Native Corporations are not restricted to bidding on contracts within the state, and the Outside contracts they have landed, and companies they have sub-contracted to, are viewed as dubious at best to many members of the United States Congress.
In the last 6 years, Native Corporations have landed more than $3 billion in contracts worldwide. In 2004 alone, national agencies awarded Alaska Native Corporations $1 billion in contracts. Yet most of these contracts have come from sectors in which Alaska Natives are completely inexperienced. For example, according to a government audit, a subsidiary of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation employing two people won a $30 million, sole source contract with NASA, and another ASRC subsidiary was contracted to arm and train thousands of security guards stationed in Iraq under a $50 million contract with the Department of Defense.
In the Senate, these lucrative contracts are widely viewed as a fault in the SBA’s regulating, and are garnering wider attention in this time of war and increasing national deficit. U.S. Representative Henry Waxman of California has said, “Special contracting for Native Corporations were drafted with the best intentions: to encourage economic opportunities to Native Alaskans living in Alaska, but the Bush administration has used the provision as a vehicle to circumvent open competition requirements. This is an abuse of the taxpayers and laws need to be changed to achieve their original goals”. Waxman and those who agree with him propose a reinstatement of the $3 million cap to contracts on which Alaska Native corporations can bid. Natives are opposed to such a reinstatement, and their main supporter, and also the curious author of the provision that has upset so many Alaskans and caused a nationwide criticism of the SBA, is none other than Senator Ted Stevens.
This may seem odd, considering Ted Stevens is supposed to champion the causes of the average Alaskan. Indeed, when confronted with this fact, average Alaskans are often confused. When I asked one small business owner about this seeming incongruity, he simply shook his head and said he didn’t know about it, but knew that Ted Stevens always seemed to do what was right for the good of Alaska. I must admit that I too was confused as to why Ted Stevens had stuck his neck out for Native Corporations. But after considering his historical position on Native rights, I began to see the pattern of his actions, and the motivation for those actions, that makes this move not at all incongruous or odd, but perfectly in-line with his political decision making.
Average Alaskans want Alaska to maximize revenues off the state’s resources, but not at the expense of their daily lives, as we saw when the oil industry threatened sport fishing. But Ted Stevens is so fixated on maximizing state revenues that he often ignores how doing so affects the daily lives of average Alaskans. This is not his fault alone, however: he merely represents an odd tendency of average Alaskans to support a political ideology that often conflicts with their well-being. And this is nowhere clearer than in the history of ANCSA, which has led to this current debate.
As I discussed in section 2, ANCSA was the result of a multi-front political battle that had been raging since westerns arrived in the last frontier, and greatly intensified after Statehood and its unique provision. With the Statehood Act of 1959, Alaska was given the unique provision of being able to select 104 million acres of land to choose over the next 100 years and use as they saw fit. The state government, caught up in the development furor of the day, quickly tried to jump on this initiative and buy up the most valuable tracts of land within its boarders, but their selections were consistently challenged by conservation groups that were trying to preserve many ecologically valuable lands, and Alaska Native tribes that were trying to assert their rights to their traditional lands – claims that had been almost wholly ignored while Alaska was a province.
Many of these disputes went to court. As they were settled on a case by case basis, no universal law of Alaska’s land became clear. The state and federal courts did not side consistently in favor of the State, the conservationists, or Alaska Natives. This did not satisfy the Alaska Natives. These disparate tribes quickly realized that the only way to fight the pro-development coalition was to form a coalition of their own, and so they formed a statewide alliance of every Alaskan tribe, and petitioned for a federally imposed land freeze, which they were eventually granted.
At first, pro-development Alaskans tried to fight the land freeze because they were in the middle of expansive development all across the state: the Tongass was being logged, the salmon were being fished, and most importantly, an oil pipeline was being built. But Washington, in the midst of the civil rights movement and war on poverty, was deeply inclined to side with the underprivileged Natives. And when the final word from Washington rang loud and clear that Native land claims took priority over state land selections, the pro-development coalition changed their tactic. They decided they would settle the land claims quickly, but do it in such a way that they could buy back the lands they wanted from the Natives and continue with their development.
There was a precedent of Natives selling valuable land to developers at absurdly low costs, and so the conservationists quickly became the biggest opponents of ANCSA. However, the bill was rushed through Congress. As I discussed above, when it was passed, ANCSA created 12 Regional Corporations for every Alaskan resident of at least one-quarter Alaska Native descent, and a 13th corporation for Alaska Natives living beyond state boarders. In addition, these Regional Corporations now have more than 170 subsidiaries. These Alaska Native Corporations were given $380 million, a 2% share in all of Alaska’s oil revenues for 100 years following the settlement, and 40 million acres of land to be chosen over 25 years in return for dropping all land claims forevermore.
By removing the power of Alaska Native land selection from tribal governments, and placing it in the hands of these newly created Corporations, this solution to the Native land claims issue strongly supported the development of Native lands, particularly since it freed up the land for Alaska to build a its oil pipeline. The conservationists saw this happening, and in one last, desperate attempt to salvage some political victory out of the fiasco, lobbied the Senate to attach a rider to the bill granting 80 million acres, twice that which was given to Alaska Natives, to a coalition of conservation groups to be chosen over the next 100 years, to be indefinitely protected from development, and they got it.
From the moment ANCSA was passed, the Alaska Natives were used as pawns in a political game of chess, and they have been ever since. While Alaska Natives were desperately fighting for the rights to lands to which they had every precedent in the world, conservationists, and developers, and some pro-development Natives alike were using them as political leverage. And the next 25 years played out quite similarly: development raged on, and conservationists did their part to protect as much land as they could, while the Native story fell back into the shadows, as it had been up until Statehood.
However, the provisions of ANCSA were not without their critics within the Native community. A minority group of Natives who voted against the act, opposed the settlement for the very reason that it took their power from their tribal governments and put it into the hands of corporations. They were concerned about being wholly submerged in western economics, with which they were so unfamiliar. Their two primary fears were that they would be manipulated by more economically savvy businesses to sell their land and spend their money, ending up with nothing; and, contrarily, that if the Native Corporations did succeed, their economic power would overshadow the Native traditions they were fighting so hard to preserve, and corrupt Native values forever.
Unfortunately, it seems that in the 35 years since ANCSA, both of these things have happened. In the first way, during the 25 years after ANCSA, when Native Corporations were failing; and in the second way, now, that they are almost universally considered corrupt and exploitive. While reinstatement of the monetary cap on the SBA’s 8(a) program has not yet to be drafted, representatives from Alaska Native Corporations have already spoken out against such modifications, attributing much of their recent success to the program, and arguing that they are leaning valuable lessons about business. To me, these lessons seem to be the fulfillment of the second concern of those Natives who were opposed to ANCSA, a lesson in how the rich and powerful can exploit laws and others to profit themselves, a lesson in economic power that has overshadowed the Native traditions those who pushed for ANCSA fought so hard to preserve, a lesson that will corrupt Native values forever.
But I would also argue that the Natives are not entirely to blame. They are clearly still being manipulated by a more powerful force in Alaskan politics: the average Alaskan ideology, which then and now did not benefit the average Alaskan, and then and now, exploited Alaska Natives to make the state of Alaska rich.
The fear of some Alaska Natives that they would not know the value of their land in the western economy or understand exactly what selling it meant to their way of life, was a prospect to Alaska’s pro-development coalition. Even Ted Stevens was behind the bill, yet this, coupled with his current stance on the 8(a) program does not prove that he supports a Native agenda. To the contrary: during the passage of ANCSA, he argued that the Natives’ 100 year Native entitlement to 2% of Alaska’s oil revenues should last only ten years. This did not put him on the side of average Alaskans in that time, either. In fact, he pushed for ANCSA despite the opinions of the average Alaskans of their day – the loggers, the fishermen, and the homesteaders living on the land under dispute – who fiercely opposed ANCSA and felt they owed the Alaska Natives absolutely nothing. Ted Stevens pushed for ANCSA to bring more money to the state – this is his bottom line, his platform, if you will – and he didn’t care how it affected average Alaskans, or Alaska Natives.
And that is the same reason he defends the current 8(a) program. He is once again using the Alaska Natives to bring money to Alaska, and he doesn’t care that it is upsetting average Alaskans, or further corrupting Alaska Native culture. Yet I repeat that this is not Ted Stevens’ fault. He cannot be blamed for this fiasco any more than the Alaska Natives, because both of these entities have been empowered by the peculiar average Alaskan ideology. Average Alaskans can only blame themselves for their current predicament, because it is they who keep re-electing Ted Stevens, who allow him to manipulate Alaska Natives to bring money to the state, who keep supporting him because they believe in his fiercely pro-business ideology and ignore how it negatively affects their daily lives, like the unfathomable citizens of Kansas who consistently vote Republican, and the Alaskan loggers who opposed government intervention during the ravishing of the Tongass.
As we have seen, all Alaskans may pay the price for ignoring their political history. And as we will see, Alaska Natives are currently paying the biggest price.
The Red Dog Zinc Mine
A Native village’s water is being polluted by the mining operation of a Native Corporation – the Native Corporation run by Native land claims movement leader Willie Hensley.
The Arctic Caribou
Native Gwich’in Villages live on caribou. Pipeline may ruin the caribou migration. Case may go to an international human rights tribunal.
Most of these problems currently facing Alaska stem from an undeniable faction of greed that pushes to get as much money for the state at every turn, despite environmental, political, or economic recklessness. Yet these faction would not be in power if it were not for the much larger faction that simply does not fully understand the myriad negative affects of the oil industry on Alaskan politics. If Alaskans could acknowledge and amend their relationship with that industry, as they did the fishing and timber industries, finally fully eradicating the ideal of unfettered development from its policy making, I believe the State would easily solve all of its pending political economic problems: it could pressure the federal government into joining the EU Convention on the Law of the Sea, thus protecting its fisheries forever, it could stop pushing to open ANWAR, removing that fear of pending environmental disaster from the world’s consciousness, it could eliminate the permanent fund and establish more sustainable, politically accountable ways of balancing the budget, and it could finally stop exploiting its first nation, closing the detrimental tax loophole available to their corporations, and protecting the rights of their tribes, whose rights are still being abused in the pursuit of profit.
The sole ability, and responsibility, to enact such justice lies in the hands of all Alaskans.
Historical Figures and Organizations (Listed in Section Introduced):
Alaska’s United States Senators:
Bob Bartlett – Democrat, 1959 – 1968
Ernest Gruening – Democrat, 1959 January 3, 1969
Ted Stevens – Republican, December 24, 1968 – p resent
Mike Gravel – Democrat,1969 – 1981
Frank H. Murkowski – Republican 1981 – 2002
Lisa Murkowski – Republican, 2002 – present
Alaska’s United States Representatives:
Ralph Rivers – Democrat, 1959 – 1966
Howard Pollock – Republican, 1967 – 1971
Nicholas Begich – Democrat, 1971 – 1972
Don Young – Republican, March 6, 1973 – present
William A. Egan – Democratic, 1959 – 1966
Walter J. Hickel – Republican, 1966 – 1969
Keith Miller – Republican, 1969 – 1970
William A. Egan – Democratic, 1970 – 1974
Jay Hammond – Republican, 1974 – 1982
Bill Sheffield – Democratic, 1982 – 1986
Steve Cowper – Democratic, 1986 – 1990
Walter J. Hickel – Alaskan Independence/Republican, 1990 – 1994
Tony Knowles – Democratic, 1994 – 2002
Frank Murkowski – Republican, 2002 – 2006
Sarah Palin – Republican, 2006 – present
Alaska’s 13 Regional Native Corporations:
The Aleut Corporation (TAC)
Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC)
Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC)
Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC)
Chugach Alaska Corporation (CAC)
Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI)
NANA Regional Corporation (NANA)
The 13th Regional Corporation
Part 1: From Nature to State
Peter the Great – Peter Alexeyevich Romanov, set Russia on course to discover Alaska
Empress Catherine – Sophie Augusta Frederica, Russian ruler to discover Alaska
Captain Bering – Vitus Jonassen Russian sailor, first westerner to find Alaska
Captain Steller – Georg Wilhelm Steller, declared Alaska Russian land
William H. Seward – U.S. Secretary of State who purchased Alaska from Russia
Baron Edouard Stoeckel – Russian Minister who sold Alaska to the U.S.
The Battle For Statehood:
Alfred P. Swineford – first provisional governor
Tarleton H. Bean – Early Conservationist
Commissioner M. McDonald – allocated provincial money for T.H. Bean’s salmon study
Mr. Dorr, Mr. Moser, John S. Webb, and Aldis B. Brown – Outside Cannery Owners
Frank A. Boyle – Alaskan Commissioner to point out federal exploitation of Alaska
(particularly in regards to fishing)
Anchorage Luncheon Club – group of Alaskan land owners and businessmen
Robert Atwood – Member of the Luncheon Club, owner of the Anchorage Daily Times
Anchorage Daily Times – Conservative newspaper established in 1915 (later Anchorage Times)
Dr. Sheldon Jackson – Christian Evangelist who established schools for Alaskan Natives
Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) – organization of pro-assimilation Natives
Ernest Gruening – Early conservationist politician who became extremely pro-
Ketchikan Pulp Co. – First pulp company in Alaska
Alaska Pulp Co. – Second pulp company in Alaska
Frank Heintzleman – Provincial governor after Gruening
W. Howard Johnson – First head of the Alaska Region of the Forest Service
John M. Holzworth – early sports hunter and conservationists, author of Wild Grizzlies of Alaska
Celia Hunter – founder of Alaska Conservation Society
Alaska Conservation Society
Edgar and Peggy Wayburn – President of the Sierra Club and wife
The Sierra Club – International Conservation Society
Irene Ryan – Member of the Luncheon Club, discovered oil on the Kenai Peninsula
Pat Ryan – Member of the Luncheon Club, major contractor
Dixie Baade – Early conservationists, founder of the Alaska Sports and Wildlife Club
Alaska Sports and Wildlife club – Southeast conservation club opposed to logging
Richfield Oil – first oil company to invest in Alaska
Part 2: Statehood Legislation
Natives after Statehood
Tlingit and Haida – two Native tribes that won early land claim
Tanana Chiefs Conference – Early Organization of Various Alaska Native Tribal Leaders
Tundra Times – Newspaper of Tanana Chiefs
Howard Rock – editor of Tundra Times
Willie Hensley – Alaska Native political leader
Alaska Federation of Natives – Formal, legal body that replaced the Tanana Chiefs
Charles Edwardson – Head of Arctic Slope Native Association at time of ANCSA
Arctic Slope Native Association – Native group that claimed rights to pipeline land
Salmon after Statehood
Walter Kirkness – First commissioner of Alaska Fish and Game
Alaska Fish and Game –
Oil after Statehood
Atlantic Richfield – successor of Richfield
TAPS – Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, conglomeration of oil companies on North Slope
Alyeska – successor of Taps
Native Land Claims Movement
Tyonek reservation – sold its land to loggers
Edgar Paul Boyko – Alaska Attorney General
Alaska Miners’ Association and Alaska Sportsmen Association – opposed ANCSA
Part 3: Alaska and the 1970s
The Limited Entry Act of 1973
Limited Entry Commission
The Battle for D-2 Lands
Roger Morton – Secretary of Interior that did not act on D-1 and D-2 lands
Don Muller and Larry Edwards – Founders, Sitka Conservation Society
Maps on Floor – Conservation group that drew up request for D-2 lands
Cecil Andrus – Secretary of Interior under Carter
Southeast Alaska Conservations Coalition – Grassroots Alaska conservation society
Richard D. Obenshaim – Senatorial Candidate killed in Tongass plane crash
The Alaska Pipeline
David Brower – President, Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth – environmental group opposed to pipeline
John Kelsey – Owner of Valdez Port
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – opposed pipeline
OPEC – group of countries that embargoed America in 1973
Spiro Agnew – Nixon’s Vice President, weighed in for pipeline
Edward L. Patton – of Humble Oil, headed TAPS during 1970s
Teamster Local 959 – Alaska’s biggest ever union influence
Jesse Carr – head of Teamster local 959 during construction of Pipeline
Part 4: Alaska and the 1980s
Early Effects of Oil
Matinuska Maid – State sponsored dairy distributer
Mt McKinley Meats – State sponsored meat distributer
Alaska Renewable Resource Corporation (ARRC) – State created company to develop sustainable products, technologies, and markets.
Alaska Resources Corporation (ARC) – successor to AARC
William Spear – first head of AARC
Robert e. LeResche – second head of AARC, renamed it
Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB) – State created bank to support farmers and fishermen.
Alaska Power Authority – company created by the state to build damns during early eighties boom
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) – created by the state to give loans for houses during early- eighties boom
Eben Hopson – first mayor of Barrow
Eugene Brower – second mayor of Barrow
Lew Dishner and Carl Mathisen – Eugene Brower’s top aids
W.H. Blackstock – Company involved in 1980’s Barrow construction
Feorge Ahmaogak – third mayor of Barrow
Governor Bill Sheffield – Alaska’s Governor during early-eighties boom
George Frampton – of the Department of Justice, prosecuted those involved in Barrow corruption
Mike Spaan – Alaska’s U.S. Attorney during first half of the 1980s
Ruled Out of Order (ROOR) – Teamsters opposed to Jesse Carr
Battle for the Tongass in the Early 1980s
Jim Stratton – head of SEACC after ANILCA
John Sisk – Jim Stratton’s grassroots organizer
Ron Galdbini – member of Forest Service, and whistle blower
John B. Crowell – Louisiana-Pacific CEO and Reagan appointee to the Forest Service
Steve Kallick – SEACC head lawyer
The Continued Corruption of Alaska Natives in the Early 1980s
Bank of the North – loaned money to BSNC
Sitnauk – Tribal Corporation of BSNC
Don Cornelius – Member of Alaska Fish and Game in charge of monitoring stream buffers
The Continued Corruption of Alaska Natives in Late1980s
Thomas Berger – author of Villiage Journey, the report of the Alaska Native Review Commission
The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Joseph Hazlewood – Captain, Exxon Valdez
Ed Murphy – escorted Exxon Valdez through the narrows
Gregory Cousins – Third-Mate, Exxon Valdez
Robert Kagan – Seaman, Exxon Valdez
Alaska Oil Spill Commission
Jonathan Willis and Dan Lawn – warned of mismanagement in oil shipping
Cordova District Fishermen United – used roe buckets to clean up oil spill
Part 5: Alaska Since the 1980s
Introduction: Alaska’s opposing op-ed pages
Bill Allen – head of Anchorage Times after Robert Atwood, when it sells to Anchorage Daily
Bringing down the Pulp Companies
Michael Barton – Alaska Regional Forester after W. Howard Johnson
Inter-agency Viable Populations Committee (VPOP) – complies report of endangered species in Tongass
Biodiversity Legal Foundation – Boulder, Colorado
Jasper Carlton – president, BLF
Southwest Biodiversity Project – Tuscon, Arizon
Kieran Cukling – president, SBP
Tongass Cave Project – of the
National Speleological Society – discovered 480 miles of karstland in Southeast
Phil Janik – Alaska Regional Forest who squeezed out the pulp mills
Kevin James – KPC insider, whistle blower
Southeast Alaska Regional Health Commission (SARHC)
1725 – Russian Discovery of Alaska
1860 – Gold Discovered, the Hudson Bay Trading Company begins infringing
1867, March 30 – Cessation of Russian Alaska to the United States (Seward’s Folly)
1878 – First Canneries come to AK (run by cannery owners from S.F. and Seattle)
1885-89 – Internal, Provisional Government established with Swineford as governor,
pushes for more representation and exploration
1924 – The White Act
1945 – February 8th – Anti-discrimination bill
1953 – Ike Isenhower elected, Giveaway McKay appointed Secretary of Interior, Ernest
Gruening replaced as provincial governor by Frank Heintzleman.
1954 – July 14 – First Mill Christened in Ward Cove by Ketchikan Pulp Co.
1956 – January 25th, Japanese Co., Alaska Pulp Co. gets U.S. to give it Sitka for logging
1957 – Oil Struck on Kenai
1959 – January 3rd – Alaska granted statehood,
1959 – November 2nd – Tlingit-Haida Land Claims settled
1960 – Congress passed the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act
1962 – Highway System Completed
1964 – Alaska Region of the Forest service released its Multiple Use-Sustained Yield
Act, including roads
1964 – Trail blazed to North Slope, road paved, Alaska acquires North Slope as first
piece of land under statehood provision.
1964 – Good Friday Earthquake – God says bow down
1966, October 6th – Alaska Federation of Natives formed, demands reparations for Tongass and North Slope all transfer of land frozen until native land claims are settled.
1967 – The Fairbanks Flood causes millions of dollars of damage and forces thousands
out of their homes.
1968 – Stevens becomes Senator
1969 – North Slope Oil lease sale brings $900 million for the state
1971 – ANCSA
1972 – The Alaska Constitution amended to prohibit sexual discrimination.
1973 – Congress passes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act
1973 – Limited Entry Act – created current fishing laws, the limited entry commission to
upkeep the laws, and Alaska Fish and Game to enforce the laws. Permits sold
mostly to Alaskans.
1974 – U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea
1976 – Fishery Conservation and Management Act (FCMA)
1977 – Trans-Alaska Pipeline completed from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.
June 20th – first run, explosion
July 29th – first successful run to Valdez
1979 – ANILCA
1980 – 1982 – Worldwide Recession, economic growth in Alaska
1984 – Alaskan recession
1989, March 24 – Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
1990, November, 28 – Tongass Timber Reform Act
1992, June 3rd – Anchorage Times sells to Anchorage Daily
1992 – Tongass Timber Reform Act
1993 – APC and KPC close their Alaska operations
Act of May, 1936, 49 Stat. 1250, 25, U.S.C.A. 473a
1.) Fishing Laws and Regulations,
2.) FAO technical guidelines for responsible fisheries
3.) Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Scotland) Bill
4.) International Law
Alaska Magazine, December/January and May/June 2007
Alaska Rpts. 481 (1908)
Anchorage Daily News, Nov. 26, 1969.
Barringer, Felicity. “Federal Oceans Commission Finds Decline Along Coasts,” The New York Times National, Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Browning, Robert J. 1974. Fisheries of the North Pacific: History, Species, Gear and Processes. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Publishing Co. Anchorage, AK.
Case, David S. 2002 Alaska Natives and American Laws, (Second Edition) Fairbanks:
University of Alaska Press
Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831)
Cicin-Sain, Biliana., and Knecht, Robert W. 2000. The Future of U.S. Ocean Policy:
choices for the new century. Washington D.C.: Island Press.
Comment: Tribal Self-Government and the Indian Reorganization Act
Dick, Alan. Ministry in the Alaskan Bush. SV Publishing, Anchorage, Ak. (2004)
Discovery Magazine, May 1987; “The Worst Mistake Ever Made,” by Jared Diamond,
Durbin, Kathie. Tongass, pulp politics and the fight for the Alaskan rain forest. Oregon
State University Press, Corvalis, Or. (1999)
Foster, John Bellamy, “Ecology Against Capitalism,” Monthly Review Vol. 53 Issue 5
(Oct. 2001), Pp. 1-15.
Gruening, Ernest. 1954. The State of Alaska. New York: Random House Publishing Co.
Harris, Jonathan M. 2002. Environmental and Natural Resources Economics: a contemporary approach. Houghton-Mifflin Company.
“Historic Alaska Native Land Victory.” “Indian Affairs,” January, 1972 (Newsletter of
the Association on American Indian Affairs), No. 82, New York, NY.
Iudicello, Suzanne., Weber, Michael., and Wieland, Robert. 1999. Fish, Markets, and Fishermen: the economics of over fishing. Washington D.C.: Island Press.
Jay, Tom, and B. Matsen. 1994. Reaching Home: Pacific Salmon, Pacific People. Seattle, Wa.: Alaska Northwest Books.
Johnson, H.M. 1997. 1997 Annual Report on the United States Seafood Industry. 5th ed. Bellevue, Wash.: H.M. Johnson and Associates.
Making the Commons Work, Edited by Daniel W. Broomly, 1992 Institute for Contemporary Studies:
Chapter 7, Berkes, Fikret “Success and Failure in Marine Coastal Fisheries or Turkey.”
Chapter 8, Cordell, John and McKean, Margaret A. “Sea Tenure in Bahai, Brazil.”
Chapter 12, Feeny, David “Where do we go from here?”
1.) NOAA Fisheries To Start Mandatory Cost-Earnings Reporting In HMS Fisheries
2.) Southwest Regional Office
Ostrom, Elinore Governing the Commons, 1990 Cambridge U. Press.
Pellow, David Naguib. 2002. Garbage Wars: the struggle for environmental justice in Chicago. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Rosenberg, Samuel. American Economic Development Since 1945. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, Ny. (2003)
Strohmeyer, John. 2003. Extreme Conditions: Big Oil and the Transformation of Alaska.
Anchorage: Cascade Press
Summary of this survey in “How Do Alaskans Like the Oil Industry?” Alaska
Construction & Oil, September 1970, p. 88-92.
The Commons in the New Millennium: challenges and adaptations, edited by Nives Dolsak and Elinor Ostrom, 2003 Massachuses Institute of Technology
Introduction, McCay, Bonnie J. “Introduction.”
Chapter 2, Acheson, James A. and Brewer, Jennifer F. “Territorial Changes of the Maine Lobster Industry.”
Chapter 3, Hanna, Susan “Transition in American Fishing Commons: management problems and institutional design challenges.”
Chapter 5, Yandle, Tracy and Dewees, Christopher M. “Privatizing the Commons…Twelve Years Later: fisheries experiences with New Zealand’s market based fisheries management.”
Chapter 6, Eythorsson, Einar, “Stakeholders, Courts, and Communities: individual transferable quotas is Iceland.”
Chapter 9, Anderson, Leigh C., Locker, Laura A. and Nugent, Rachael A. “A Framework for Analyzing the Physical, Social, and Human Capital Effects of Micro-credit on common pool resources.”
Chapter 10, Berner, Regina and Wittmer, Heidi, “How Do Local Communities Gain Political Influence? A theoretical approach and empirical evidence from Thailand.”
Twomley, B. 1994. “License Limitation in Alaskan Salmon Fisheries.” Pp. 59-66 in Limiting Access to Marine Fisheries: Keeping the Focus on Conservation, ed. K. L. Gimbel. Washington, D.C.: Center for Marine Conservation and World Wildlife Fund.
UNCLS, The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, http://legalminds.lp.findlaw.com/list/intlawofsea/msg00239.html
U.S. Department of the Interior, Alaska Field Committee, Minutes, June 1965 meeting, College, Alaska.