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Existence and Persistence: Preserving Subsistence in Cordova, Alaska

April 2012

Citation: ELR 10366

Author: D.S. Pensley

Ordinary existence in Cordova, Alaska, illustrates an extraordinary range of subsistence practice. Despite cataclysmic disruptions to include the arrival of whites and the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, the practice continues to animate a self-reliant and pluralistic society with a distinct local identity. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966 is up to the crucial task of protecting subsistence in Cordova. The NHPA directs the federal government “to foster conditions under which our modern society and our prehistoric and historic resources can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.” Adverse effects to the wild Pacific salmon of the Copper River Basin should trigger the consultative process of NHPA §106, as would be the case under the implementing regulations with any other object of functional, aesthetic, cultural, or scientific value that is on the National Register of Historic Places, or that is listing-eligible. Alternatively,   landscape, even a very large landscape like the Copper River Basin, is analogous to an urban or rural architectural district, and on that basis should be listing-eligible.

D.S. Pensley is an associate at Nordhaus Law Firm in Washington, D.C.

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