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Conservation groups unhappy with MOU between Alaska and BC

Conservation groups unhappy with MOU between Alaska and BC

Premier Christy Clark and Alaska Governor Bill Walker have signed a deal that pledges to protect shared rivers and watersheds and work together on mining projects that could affect both sides of the border.

But a coalition of conservation groups in Alaska say they’re feeling blindsided.

Frederick Olsen Jr. is the vice president of the Organized Village of Kasaan, and chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group in Alaska.

He says the MOU came out of no where, adding it’s a “feel good document” that it isn’t legally binding.

The MOU comes days after the governor asked an advisory group to comment on a statement of cooperation on transboundary mining.

Olsen says they have until December 11th to comment, but with the singing of the MOU, it’s hard not to be cynical about the comment period.

He says it’s a complex international issue that requires the International Joint Commission to oversee.

In Alaska, Aboriginal title rights have been extinguished, leaving them with little power at the state level.

Olsen says he hopes to work more closely with First Nations in BC, who he says share the same environmental concerns.

BC Energy Minister Bill Bennett says the environmental protection pact signifies the two jurisdictions’ willingness to work together, share information and collaborate.

Bennett made two trips to Alaska over the past year in hopes of alleviating concerns about this province’s mining industry and environmental regulations.

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