Governor’s Tribal Advisory Council (GTAC)
The state continually seeks ways to maximize local voices, collaborate, and cooperate with Tribes. Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott recently established the Governor’s Tribal Advisory Council (GTAC) to improve the relationship between the state and the 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska. This will ensure the state’s highest office have direct communication with tribes to meet the unique needs of Alaska’s first people.
GTAC will be comprised of 11 council representatives, who represent Alaska’s federally recognized tribes’ interests in important issues including subsistence and wildlife and fisheries. This formalized relationship will ensure the state and tribes can work together, government to government, to tackle the issues facing Alaskans.
One of the State of Alaska’s first priorities is to manage resources for a sustained yield, so future generations can continue to provide for their families and carry on generations of traditional practices. Resource management is critical to protect our wild renewable resources. Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott understand that subsistence is an important part of Alaska’s First People’s lifestyles and that they continue to rely on the resources they’ve had for generations.
The State of Alaska is required to provide opportunities for subsistence uses and are required to identify and quantify subsistence uses prior to allocating resources to any other consumptive use. Statutes and regulations describe a precise system of creating a customary and traditional finding, determining the historical subsistence take by species and region, and creating that set-aside for subsistence prior to other uses.
The Walker-Mallott Administration understands the importance of traditional knowledge and is working with Tribes across our state to ensure that Tribes have a voice, and will continue to work to prioritize traditional knowledge as an important part of scientific research and decision-making.
In September 2015, Alaska expanded Medicaid via administrative action by the Walker-Mallott administration. Nearly 42,000 Alaskans will be eligible for health care as part of Medicaid expansion and is one step closer to helping thousands of Alaskans access the healthcare they need. It is estimated that more than 12,150 (29 percent) of those Alaskans newly eligible for Medicaid under expansion are Alaska Native and/or American Indian. Indian Health Service (IHS) is funded only at approximately 50 percent of the need and the it does not fund all health care costs.
Funding for travel or durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and glasses is not provided. The opportunity to bill third party insurers such as Medicaid, Medicare or the VA supports the Alaska Tribal Health System to provide more services to all beneficiaries.
Enhanced Federal Match for Services Provided at Alaska’s Tribally operated facilities:
Governor Walker met Secretary Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, regarding numerous unique healthcare issues facing Alaskans. An issue of discussion has been the extension of 100% federal match for travel and referrals. When a Medicaid beneficiary is also an IHS beneficiary and is seen in an IHS facility (including Alaska’s tribally operated facilities), Alaska is reimbursed at 100% federal match. However, this is not the case related to transportation and accommodation service or for a referral from a tribal health facility to a non¬tribal facility. During regular correspondence with Secretary Burwell, Governor Walker informed the Secretary of Alaska’s intent to apply for a demonstration waiver to secure 100% federal match for these services.
On August 31, Secretary Burwell announced a pending policy change to institute the higher federal match as requested by Governor Walker. This pending change means more Alaskans will benefit from the ability to travel to hub communities to access the health care they need including behavioral health services and home and community-based services.
In 1906, Congress passed the Alaska Native Allotment Act that authorized the federal Department of the Interior to allocate up to 160 acres of land to individual Alaska Natives. Through a series of missteps, the federal government erroneously conveyed hundreds of allotments to the State of Alaska. The Bureau of Land Management has requested the State of Alaska to recover erroneously conveyed allotments back to the BLM so that the land can then be conveyed to the allotees or their heirs. There are approximately 244 pending cases remaining.
There are complications and costs associated with the remaining allotments, including state land disposal requirements, federal laws and policies, existing land uses, and the amount of time that has passed since the original erroneous conveyances. The State of Alaska is focused on finding a suitable path forward for all outstanding and unresolved Native Allotment parcels requested for reconveyance from the State. Through cooperation between the State, allottees, and the Bureau of Land Management, progress can be made to resolve these difficult and longstanding issues.
Transboundary Water Issues
The State of Alaska is increasing its efforts to facilitate and promote the protection of water quality, quantity, and watershed integrity in Alaska, with special emphasis on salmon and other Alaska fish stocks. The States efforts will address the risk of pollution from mines and other development projects in British Columbia by establishing: standard practices with the government of the Province of British Columbia for the exchange of relevant information and meaningful dialog with Alaska state agencies on projects that could discharge wastes or other potentially deleterious materials to Transboundary waters; convenient means for the Alaska public to obtain reliable information on these Transboundary projects, their discharges, water quality, habitat and fish health, and opportunities to provide input to the governments of British Columbia and Alaska on decisions relating to these projects.
In response to increased mining activity in northwestern British Columbia, Canada and increasing concerns from Alaskan stakeholders, Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott established the Transboundary Working Group to improve the State’s involvement in activities proposed in B.C. that could impact Alaskan waters and fish. The Transboundary Working Group is composed of the commissioners of the Departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, and Natural Resources.
The Denali Commission was created in 1998 by Congress, as an Alaska specific state-federal-local-tribal partnership to cooperate on building needed infrastructure in rural communities like fuel farms, water and sewer, and health clinics. The Denali Commission was also given authority to develop opportunities for job market growth and workforce development in rural regions of the state, and to assist in finding affordable energy and initiate renewable and sustainable energy projects.
The Denali Commission was created to help underserved areas of the state, specifically areas off the road system and the railbelt. Governor Bill Walker nominated Lt. Governor Mallott to sit as the State Co-Chair of the Denali Commission.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama and the White House specifically named the Denali Commission to be the lead federal agency coordinating work to relocate any Alaskan villages under imminent threats from coastal or river erosion. Lieutenant Governor Mallott looks forward to working closely with the White House, the Alaska Congressional Delegation, the Denali Commission, and citizens of the State of Alaska in moving this initiative forward in the best way possible.