When I was a child, I would go out on the boat on the Yukon River with my dad to check the fish net. Afterward, I would ride in the back of his flatbed Dodge truck with the tub of king salmon, and we would stop at people’s homes to share salmon before we finally went home. My dad would say that we were “the richest people because our area provided food, water and shelter for all of us.” The people of the Yukon Flats have always understood that what we have is priceless, and no amount of money can replace our homelands, the foods we need or the clean water we depend on.
In December 2019, Doyon, Limited announced that it was planning oil and gas exploration and development in the Yukon Flats despite years of vocal opposition from both its shareholders and tribal members. I adamantly oppose oil development in this critical area. Please join me in protecting the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge.
The Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge is north of Fairbanks, and its wide, flat wetlands are a critical habitat for over a million ducks that nest here. It is the nesting grounds for millions of migratory birds from all over North and South America, some who migrate over 10,000 miles. It shelters over 150 bird species and 39 mammal species. The refuge has an estimated 30,000 lakes, ponds and streams, and it is a drainage basin to the Yukon River. It has Yukon River king salmon and 18 species of fish. It is home to the Gwich’in people who have thousands of years of history here and sovereign rights, and it’s home to a variety of other Americans with roots from all over the world. The refuge is a natural, quiet area with a balanced ecosystem, clean water, and an environment that provides healthy sustainable food sources to the local people who practice a traditional lifestyle.
I come from this beautiful place, this necessary place. The potential damage to this area could be catastrophic and permanent. Again, please join me in protecting the refuge.
There are many ways you can help protect this special place. You don’t need to be a shareholder to contact a business to let them know that you disagree with their business activities. You can call Doyon at 459-2000 and tell them that you oppose oil and gas development in the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Shareholders can call Doyon, and they can vote for candidates who oppose drilling. Tribal members can also contact their tribal government and urge them to act. There is more than the threat of drilling, though; critical legislation that protects our public lands is jeopardized.
As Americans, we invented the concept of public lands; they are ours, and your voice matters. Refuges are public lands that have been set aside to conserve plants, animals and wildlife for the benefit of future generations of Americans and for public enjoyment now. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes public comments at 1-800-344-WILD or at www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm.
We all should also know that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is being weakened so that it will no longer protect birds or their nests and eggs across Alaska, including the Yukon Flats, unless they were “intentionally killed.” That’s unacceptable. Please comment to save the act. The Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment online until March 19. Visit to www.fws.gov/regulations/mbta/.
Another option is to vote for people who understand the need for sound environmental management practices, a diversified economy, the implications of climate change, the importance of being culturally responsive, and who have a vision for a sustainable future.
Lastly, a great way to help is by enjoying nature and making outdoor experiences a part of you and your family’s lives. From camping to hiking, agate hunting or snowmachine rides, creating outdoor memories can have a lasting impact on our children and their connection with nature. I took my own children out on the boat one hot summer day to go fishing with their cousins. While we were cruising home, my son turned to me, smiled and said, “This is the life, Mom.”
Isn’t that exactly what we want for our children?
Charlotte LaRue is from Fort Yukon, which is inside the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. She is Gwich’in and currently resides in Fairbanks with her family. She is a Doyon shareholder and her proxy statement can be found on her Facebook page in accordance with federal Securities and Exchange Commission rules.