Trump order baffles Bering Sea Elders

President Obama imposed protections on the Bering Straits. President Trump revoked them. Map: Bering Sea Elders Group

When President Trump signed an order last week lifting his predecessor’s restrictions on offshore leasing in the Arctic, he also revoked a decree that created the “Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area.”

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“People on the coast that we work with are a mixture of outraged and disappointed,” Attorney Natalie Landreth said. She represents Bering Sea Elders Group. The elders are concerned increased ship traffic through the Bering Strait will damage their marine mammal hunts. They say Barack Obama’s protection of the Bering Strait was done at their request. For Landreth, the key part of Obama’s order was that it created a tribal advisory committee.

“And that was the big victory in it, was the inclusion of local Alaskan voices in federal decisions,” Landreth said. “And they cannot figure out why that would be targeted to be taken away. They just don’t understand it.”

Trump’s order cited the goal of “streamlining” regulations.

Back in December, Alaska’s congressional delegation issued a joint statement slamming Obama’s Bering Sea directive as an attempt to lock up resources. Besides creating the advisory group, the directive also put Norton Sound and St. Lawrence Island off-limits to off-shore oil and gas leasing, using the same “12a” authority Obama used in the Arctic. Sen. Dan Sullivan called it a “unilateral action to hurt Alaskans.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s spokeswoman said Monday the senator thinks federal officials should still consult with Bering Sea Elders and other locals when they make decisions for the area.


Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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