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Rep. Young Will Fight Laws that Hinder Tribal Energy Development

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Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, who assumed chair of the Natural Resources Committee’s new Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee on Dec. 29, promises to reduce federal regulations such as the Endangered Species Act that have stifled energy and economic development for tribes, reported Greenwire.

“[Tribes] have not been adequately served by the federal government when it comes to trying to encourage their advancement,” Young said in an interview with Environment & Energy Daily. “They’ve been deprived of developing their lands if they wish to do so.”

The long Interior approval process slows energy development and deters potential business investment. “[Tribes] ought to be able to [develop energy] without what I call restrictions that are really uncalled for, or doing the double dipping as far as federal control,” Young told Greenwire. “We have so many people involved in these offices, and really, what are they doing? They are implementing regulatory law that is not voted upon that determines how people live.”

While Young did not disclose many specific legislative plans, he pledged to “reintroduce a controversial bill that would allow the transfer of thousands of acres for the Tongass National Forest to a Southeast Alaska native corporation for possible timber development,” Greenwire reported.

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The transfer is viewed as a just solution for the government to fulfill responsibilities under a 1971 settlement over 375,000 acres due to Sealaska, a Native-owned corporation and the largest private landowner in Southeast Alaska, according to the company’s Web site. Environmentalists criticize the legislation, saying privatizing lands risks destruction of the old-growth forest if Sealaska pursues logging.

Tribal organization attorneys told Greenwire they hope Young will pursue legislation to break down barriers to energy development. “The old trust system creates a lot of red tape when trying to do any economic transaction,” said John Dossett, general counsel for the National Congress of American Indians, to Greenwire. “Businesses just don’t want to wait around for three years while the Bureau of Indian Affairs get its business done.”