2 tribal councils withdraw from Ambler Road lawsuit

Two tribal entities that were previously party to a lawsuit about the Ambler Road project have withdrawn from the suit.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 4:20 PM AKST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2023 at 10:27 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) - A pair of tribal councils that had originally joined the lawsuit challenging the Ambler Road project in Northwest Alaska have now withdrawn from the suit, according to a press release from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.

The release states that the Allakaket and Huslia Tribal Councils both voted 6-0 to pass resolutions on Feb. 10 and Feb 11, respectively, to withdraw from the Ambler access project.

In 2020, five tribal governments and the Tanana Chiefs Conference filed suit against the federal government to stop the Ambler Road project, which had previously been approved in 2020. The Tanana Chiefs Conference represents 42 Indigenous tribes within the Interior. The 211-mile gravel road would cross parts of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, as well as Koyukon, Iñupiat, and Tanana Athabascan land.

In 2022, the U.S. Department of Interior asked District Court for Alaska Judge Sharon Gleason to review the decision with regard to the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

AIDEA and Ambler Metals, LLC., joined the NANA Regional Corp. and the state of Alaska as intervening defendants in the Ambler Access Project Lawsuit. In the release, AIDEA Executive Director Randy Ruaro applauded the tribal councils’ withdrawal.

“We appreciate this new opportunity to communicate and work with the Allakaket Tribal Council and Huslia Tribal Council on their concerns without the constraints and costs of litigation,” Ruaro wrote. “We thank the Allakaket Tribal Council and Huslia Tribal Council and look forward to strong communications in the future.”

Concerns about the project include the fate of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd. The Bureau of Land Management has said that the project would take between 4 and 6 years to construct and cost approximately $350 million. AIDEA claims that creating road access to the Ambler Mining District could create 4,000 jobs and as much as $300 million in annual wages.

“I sincerely appreciated the time I spent discussing the proposed Ambler Road Project with members of the Huslia and Allakaket tribes, and how it can bring family wage jobs and prosperity to their members while still preserving their culture and traditions for future generations,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. “Mining is absolutely essential to a modern economy. The road will make significant deposits of essential minerals accessible, while adhering to environmental safeguards that are among the most complete and comprehensive in the world. The decision by the two tribes to withdraw from the lawsuit seeking to stop the project is a significant step towards expanding and diversifying Alaska’s economy for the benefit of all its people.”

Requests for comment from the Tanana Chiefs Conference and Northern Alaska Environmental Center — plaintiffs in the lawsuit — but has not received a response as of Friday afternoon.