Shauna Woods


The communities of Alaska's North Slope increasingly find themselves in a "middle place," stuck between a past to which they cannot return and a future that is fraught with uncertainty. Oil and gas development on Alaska's North Slope has resulted in environmental, cultural, and social changes that have adversely affected the communities in the area. At the same time, oil and gas leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, located on the North Slope, has created an important revenue source for helping those communities mitigate the impacts of development and augment their capacities for addressing future changes. In particular, the Impact Mitigation Grant Program channels money from oil and gas leasing to the communities of the North Slope to address impacts caused by development. This situation has placed North Slope communities in an increasingly grave predicament: the very activities that most endanger their ongoing existence are also the source of the funds upon which they increasingly depend. When the region's finite oil and gas resources no longer generate the current levels of revenue, North Slope communities will potentially be deprived of an economic life-line that enables them to sustain themselves in a situation that has been irrevocably changed. This Note proposes a research agenda for better understanding the challenges faced by North Slope communities and proposes how funding sources might be reorganized to address future needs. In particular, it highlights the importance of identifying stable sources of funding for local governments. It frames this discussion by examining the history of the Impact Mitigation Program and the documented changes wrought by oil and gas development on North Slope communities.

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