Cultural, subsistence values align to help protect people, polar bears

Cultural, subsistence values align to help protect people, polar bears
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From Dune Lankard, Center for Biological Diversity Alaska Representative

There are different voices for Alaskan Natives, and I praise President Obama’s decision to curb offshore drilling in Alaska (“Polar bears over people,” Jan. 5).  As an Indigenous Eyak Athabaskan commercial fisherman with over 3,500 years of subsistence, commercial fishing and ancestral heritage in the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound, I have firsthand knowledge of what can go wrong when you have an oil spill in a pristine and unforgiving Arctic environment. 

I lived through the 1989 Exxon Valdez crude oil spill in our homelands. The spill destroyed critical subsistence habitat, destroyed the rich sea life and wildlife, and it destroyed our thriving local economy. Our lands and beaches are still suffering to this day.

By protecting the Arctic Ocean from offshore drilling, President Obama has helped reduce the risk of another devastating oil spill that will pollute Alaska’s shores, kill Arctic wildlife and destroy the subsistence harvest from the ocean.

Alaska already has some of our nation’s first climate refugees, and Alaska’s Indigenous people are being displaced from their homelands because of oceans rising and climate change. Wildlife like caribou and polar bears and other wildlife are already changing their patterns in response to climate change, and this challenges traditional hunting practices and our subsistence way of life.

Banning offshore drilling in the Arctic will keep carbon dioxide in the ground, curbing dangerous climate change.

This executive order does not marginalize voices or place the value of polar bears and environmentalism over economies; it sets in place an action of farsighted, forward-thinking wisdom and respect for Native cultures and a sustainable future for all Alaskans and for the world.

— Anchorage, Alaska


From Mark Dimondstein, President of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union (APWU), Vice President of the AFL-CIO

The hatchet job on the public Postal Service from columnist Brian McNicoll (“Post Office Loses Another $5.1 Billion….” The Hill, Dec. 20, 2016) borders on fake news.

The claim that the USPS lost over $5 billion in the last fiscal year buries the truth. In 2006, Congress passed the Postal Accountability Enhancement Act (PAEA). PAEA mandated, to the tune of $5 billion a year for a decade, that future retiree health benefit liabilities be funded at 100 percent, 75 years into the future.  No other employer, public or private, is forced to meet this unfair standard.

If this unreasonable burden is excluded, the USPS, which operates without tax dollars, has operating profits totaling $3.2 billion since 2013. Package volume in 2016 grew an incredible 15.8 percent year to date. The explosion of e-commerce has made USPS even more of a national treasure.

Despite USPS’s obvious strengths in package delivery, McNicoll calls its deal with Amazon a loser. For real? The Postal Service delivers 40 percent of Amazon packages. Perhaps his view is skewed due to ties to the pro-postal privatization Heritage Foundation and their funding by UPS, which is vying for lucrative Amazon business.

A majority in Congress appears ready, on a bipartisan basis and with the support of postal management, unions and much of the mailing industry, to correct the pre-funding retiree healthcare mandate and address other issues that will put the USPS on a firmer foundation. Combine that with the growth in package delivery and the future for USPS looks bright. That’s the real story.

— Washington, D.C.