2001 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 5 Feb 2001 19:15:07 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Aleutian/Pribilof Tribal Policy
The Aleutian/Pribilof Region of Alaska, stretching from the Alaska
Peninsula into the Eastern Hemisphere, contains 61 separate federal
contamination sites, include facilities built during World War II, the
Cold War, and even the post-Cold War era as well as underground nuclear
test sites on Amchitka Island. Last year the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands
Association, representing twelve tribal governments, developed a DRAFT
"Tribal Policy for Restoration of Federal Site." Like their counterparts
in the Tanana Valley region in the Alaskan Interior - which I visited
last year - the Aleuts face environmental challenges somewhat different
from both tribal and non-tribal populations in the "Lower 48" states.

The draft begins with a simple statement of purpose:

"Lands will be restored so as to allow residents to drink the water,
gather and eat traditional foods and build homes and other structures
without encountering contamination or debris, and without fear or risk
of being injured by physical hazards or contamination. The lands will be
available for use as they were traditionally and able to support the
natural resources upon which the people depend."

The A/PIA explains the term "restoration," which is central to its
vision: "As opposed to the term 'cleanup' as used by federal agencies,
'restoration,' as used in the Tribal Policy, refers to the Aleut concept
for returning the land to as-close-as-possible to the condition prior to
the development of the facility or initiation of land use. In short,
this means a comprehensive approach including the clean-up of pollution,
removal of physical hazards, demolition and removal of unwanted
buildings, removal of munitions and ordnance, removal and proper
disposal of waste, and 'reclamation' or the regrading and re-vegetation
of the land."

To understand the Aleut perspective, it's important to know the
background of the U.S. military's activities in the region. Most
Americans are unaware that it was a major battleground during World War
II. "During World War II (WWII) the U.S. military evacuated virtually
all Aleuts from Aleutian and Pribilof Islands, moving entire villages to
internment camps in preparation for the possible Japanese invasion. U.S.
forces constructed a number of large military installations in the
region as part of a U.S. strategic defense system. Several hundred
thousand military personnel were stationed at bases such as Cold Bay,
Dutch Harbor, Fort Glenn, and Shemya.... When the Aleuts returned, they
found their lands, villages, and homes in a condition vastly different
from when they had left.... Some Aleuts were not permitted to return to
their villages ... The villages of Attu, Biorka, Makushin, and Kashega
were never restored."

Many military facilities remained in use during the Korean War, Vietnam
War, and throughout the Cold War. Some remain active today. The
restoration of all federal sites is a significant challenge. A/PIA
explains, "The remoteness of these sites, combined with the extent of
contamination, complexity of the ecosystem, Native Alaska reliance on
natural resources, and the high cost of working in the Region, make this
work especially difficult."

Existing formal channels for tribal participation in any form of
restoration are limited. There are official public information sharing
groups - generally Restoration Advisory Boards - covering only five of
the 61 known federal cleanup sites in the Aleutian/Pribilof region.

To fill the gap, A/PIA obtain funding from the Defense Department and
established the Aleutian/Pribilof Advisory Group in 1999. The Advisory
Group has drafted a statement of Tribal Criteria for Meeting Site
Restoration Goals, including in the Tribal Policy document. It consists
of a scoring system based upon five categories: Health, Physical
Hazards, Environment, Aesthetic, and Perception.

The Tribal Policy also defines protocols for facilitating the
government-to-government relationship between the tribes and federal
agencies, based upon these four guiding principles:

"(1) Timely notice to tribal governments prior to taking any actions in
regards to project planning or implementation.
(2) Procedures for open and candid consultations such that all
interested parties can evaluate for themselves the potential impact of
relevant proposals.
(3) Consideration for tribal government rights, concerns, and unique
needs of tribal communities during the development of such plans,
projects, programs and activities.
(4) Active support, including financial support to provide resources for
active tribal participation."

I am not an expert on any region of Alaska, but I've been up there
enough to know that environmental restoration has many unique and
unusual characteristics there. The Aleutian/Pribilof Island Association
has done federal representatives as well as other stakeholders a great
favor by putting together this Tribal Policy, and I look forward to the
preparation of the final document.

Lenny Siegel


Lenny Siegel
Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/968-1126

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