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KNBA News - Governor Walker plans to discuss resource development with President Obama

ANWR also on Governor's list of topics to discuss with Presidnet

Gov. Bill Walker said he plans to emphasize the importance of the state being able to develop its resources during President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Alaska.

Walker told reporters he anticipates some one-on-one time with Obama and plans to raise  the issue of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with Obama.

Walker joined the congressional delegation earlier this year in blasting an administration proposal to designate much of the refuge, including the potentially oil-rich coastal plain, as wilderness.

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GOP leaders prefer budget cuts, tapping Permanent Fund to taxes

Republican lawmakers in Alaska's state house are calling for more budget cuts instead of new taxes. The Alaska Dispatch News reports that members of the House Finance Committee asked for cuts or tapping the Alaska Permanent Fund to raise revenue during a presentation held by the Walker administration Monday.

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Walker Administration continues to fight land into trust for Alaska tribes.

By Ben Matheson, KYUK - Bethel, and Emily Files, KHNS - Haines

Governor Walker is continuing the legal fight to prevent Alaska tribes from putting  land into trust. That status would reshape tribal sovereignty by expanding Indian country in Alaska.

Governor Walker is continuing the legal fight to prevent Alaska tribes from putting land into trust. That status would reshape tribal sovereignty by expanding Indian country in Alaska.

Lawyers for the state filed an opening brief late Monday to appeal a ruling that overturns the so-called “Alaska exemption.”

Phillip K. Peter Senior is the Akiachak IRA council chairman. He spoke with the Governor earlier this month when he visited the Kuskokwim village.

“It’s disappointment after he mentioned he was going to work with the Akiachak Native Community,” said Peter. “I’m really disappointed. But I hope the Governor will continue to work with us and resolve this problem.”

Akiachak was one the plaintiffs that successfully sued the federal government to allow trust lands. Tribes would enjoy broad jurisdictional power in a status likened to reservations. It also limits the power of the state on those lands.

Walker has faced pressure from tribes to drop the lawsuit he inherited from the Parnell administration. He delayed action for seven months, but recently flew around the state to  meet face-to-face with tribal leaders in the five communities involved in the suit: Akiachak, Tuluksak, Chalkyitsik, Barrow, and Haines.

Walker said Tuesday that he still wants to come to an agreement with tribes.

“The fact that we’re continue the case we inherited does not in anyway mean we’re not going to take a step down the road to reach a resolution on that,” said Walker. “[The resolution] wasn’t available this week.”

The state argues that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act specifically prohibits the creation of trust land in Alaska and that the court incorrectly interpreted earlier laws in the 2013 ruling.

After a court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs two years ago, the Department of the Interior announced new rules in 2014 to allow tribes to apply to put land into trust. The ongoing court action has halted that process. Alaska Native leaders say the change, after years of litigation, brings them one step closer to self-determination. The state currently has one reservation for the Metlakatla tribe.

Walker said the trust case isn’t the be all end all of tribal policy issues. He said he’s working to establish formal communication channels with tribes.

“I think the relationship between tribes and the state is not good, it has not been good for a long time,” said Walker. “I don’t (think) see this case as anything that is going to bring it any closer. It’s one piece of a longer journey between the state and the tribes. We’ll look for more ways to improve our relationship with tribes in a meaningful way.”

Harriet Brouillette is the tribal administrator for the Chilkoot Indian Association in Haines, one of the five plaintiffs in the case. She was traveling and not available for comment Tuesday. Earlier this month after meeting with Walker, Brouilette explained the importance of putting lands into trust is for the Chilkoot Tribe.

"It weighs really heavy. It weighs heavy on my heart. This is the land of my people. And we’re struggling to retain it. We’re struggling to hold on to a very small part of what was once ours. The places we went to subsistence hunt and gather and fish."

Lawyers for the tribes are due to respond by September 23rd in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Correction

And I have a correction to yesterday's newscast. Five, not four, tribes filed suit in the Akiachak vs Jewell, Secretary of Interior lawsuit.