Jacob Adams, Chairman and President
The Inupiat Eskimos of Alaska's North Slope have lived for thousands of years in the unforgiving world of the Arctic. The Inupiat people enjoy a self-sustaining, highly developed culture. All members of our community survive through sharing and the wise use of our natural resources.
In accordance with the ways our Elders taught us, and as we teach our children in turn, the Inupiat harvest bowhead whales from the icy Arctic Ocean; hunt caribou from the broad coastal plain; catch fish in the streams; and gather berrries in the brief Arctic smmer. Our culture calls on us to be thankful for these gifts of the land, and to share them for the benefit of all.
The discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968 brought radical and irrevocable changes to the Eskimo way of life on the North Slope. The nation wanted and needed this new source of oil. But the Inupiat people had a valid legal claim to ownership of all North Slope lands through historic use, occupancy and aboriginal title.
In 1971, the U.S. Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). This landmark law cleared the way for development of Prudhoe Bay and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The act granted land and money to Alaska's Native people, and in return extinguished their aboriginal claims.
Under ANCSA, the Inupiat Eskimos were required to give up rights to all but 5 million of the 56 million acres of the North Slope. Their 5 million acres was to be selected from lands left over after state selections, the granting of oil and gas leases, and large federal withdrawals for Refuges, National Petroleum Reserves and other uses.
ANCSA also established 12 Native-owned corporations in Alaska, one for each Native region of the state. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) was formed to represent the Inupiat of the North Slope. ASRC's mission was to enhance our economic and cultural freedoms, based upon the ancient spiritual values of protecting the land, the environment, and the culture of our people.
Through hard work, a willingness to learn, and the guidance of our Elders, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation has grown into an important Alaska business enterprise. Our successful operations permit ASRC to return benefits to shareholders in the form of steady jobs, vocational training, dividends, scholarships and other services.
ASRC is owned by over 7,000 shareholders, most of whom live in small villages along the North Slope. To our shareholders, the 19 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is no abstract spot on a map, but our homeland. For the 240 residents of the village of Kaktovik, the Coastal Plain of ANWR is their own backyard. Kaktovik lies within the study area.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the land to the Inupiat people. Our land provides the subsistence food many shareholders depend on to feed themselves and their families. Our land provides the critical connection with our ancient culture and traditions that is necessary for our spiritual well-being. And, in the form of jobs and tax revenues from the petroleum industry it supports, our land provides the opportunity for economic security, self-detemination, and freedom.
Over two decades of exploration, development and production, the oil industry operating in and around Prudhoe Bay has brought benefits to our nation and our people. The likelihood is very high that this success could be repeated in the Coastal Plain of ANWR.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANIILCA), directed the Interior Department to assess the Coastal Plain's petroleum potential and wildlife resources. It further ordered the Department to recommend whether or not to allow further exploration and development.
Partiy in anticipation of a favorabler recommendation, ASRC and the United States government in 1983 agreed to a lands exchange. ASRC gave up 101,000 acres of surface land it had already selected under ANCSA, enabling the National Park Service to add highly desirable private inholdings to the Gates of the Arctic National Park. In exchange, the United States gave up 92,000 acres of subsurface rights below land owned by the Kaktovik Village Corporation. These lands represent our shreholders' last, best chance to participate in the economic benefits of oil and gas development of our ancestral lands.
In 1987, the Interior Secretary issued the report directed by Congress, which identified 26 major oil ands gas prospects in the Coastal Plain study area. The Secretary recommended making the area available for leasing, exploration and development.
The Inupiat people believe that this highly prospective area represents our nation's best hope for significant new deposits of a critical strategic resource. We believe that delays in development deprive us of the economic benefits from our lands.
Such delays carry their own environmental hazards. With onshore development in ANWR blocked, frontier exploration has moved to the Outer Continnential Shelf (OCS) in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, where industry inexperience and immature technology poses greater environmental risks to our culture. It is difficult to be asked to bear the risks of OCS development, while being denied the benefits of routine development of our onshore resources.
Much has been said about the need to keep ANWR a total wilderness, and to prevent development in even the smallest corner. The Inupiat have a unique understanding of the relationship between wilderness and development. In our experience, we can only afford to keep most of our land as wilderness if we are allowed to extract maximum value from smaller areas, such as Prudhoe Bay, or the Coastal Plain.
The Inupiat Eskimo people are the indigenous people of the Arctic coastal environment. We rely on the land and resources of the North Slope for our physical, our cultural and our economic well-being. We have watched the oil and gas devleopment at Prudhoe Bay and elsewhere on the North Slope, and have seen first-hand how development can coexist with our nstural resources and our way of life.
It is our exprience that carefully regulated oil exporation and development can take place on the private and public lands inside the Coastal Plain study area. We believe the oil industry has made good on its promise to preserve our environment, while providing economic opportunity for our people and energy security for our country.
It is my hope that this report will set the state for a balanced national debate - founded on factual information and practical experience - on the policies which should govern our private lands and Coastal Plain study area.