Protecting Alaska's Rivers

The Center has a long history of environmental advocacy in Alaska. Over the years, the Center has continued to help Alaska Native nations and villages expand their legal and technical capacity to protect and clean up their lands and waters.  Watershed protection is a critical issue for Native peoples in Alaska because the rivers are often essential for subsistence livelihoods and traditions.
The Center has assisted the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, now consisting of some 70 sovereign Alaska Native and Canadian First Nations governments committed to restoring the Yukon River and protecting the watershed from pollution.  The watershed includes millions of acres along some 2,300 miles of river. For the past decade, the Center has worked with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council as it formulates plans and strategies to address clean-up and protection issues throughout the Yukon watershed.  In 2012, we worked with the Council to complete a report examining how Alaska Native and Canadian First Nations governments fit within the overall environmental jurisdictional scheme, challenges created by this scheme, and the primary entities within each government−federal, state, territorial, and Native−that address environmental and conservation issues within the watershed.
A few years ago, the Center also helped Alaska Native villages establish the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council to promote consensus-based environmental stewardship in the Kuskokwim region.  The Kuskokwim River is the longest free flowing river in the United States. We have provided free legal assistance to the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council with the primary goal of enabling the 29 Alaska Native villages of the watershed to protect the environmental integrity of the river and to maintain their traditional, subsistence fishing and hunting way of life.