After Nearly 50 years Interior to Revoke Public Land Withdrawals in Northwestern Alaska Covering 9.7 Million Acres
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Department of the Interior will issue a Public Land Order (PLO) Jan. 19 revoking the withdrawal of approximately 9.7 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed public lands in Northwest Alaska between the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and the Chuckchi and Bering seas. This PLO revokes, in part, 11 PLOs issued in 1972 and 1973 in accordance with Sec. 17(d)(1) of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and Executive Order 10355.
The revocation of these withdrawals would open unencumbered lands for mineral leasing or mineral entry. However, State and Native-selected lands would remain segregated from mineral entry until they are either conveyed out of BLM ownership or the selections are relinquished. Revocation of withdrawals would replace largescale prohibitions on development activities with site-specific procedures and lease stipulations provided for by the 2008 Resource Management Plan.
This action removes withdrawals that served their purpose long ago. Revocation of these PLOs makes lands available for selection by Alaska Native Veterans so that they may finally obtain promised allotments, allows the State of Alaska to finalize land selections in the region, and opens lands to mineral location and claims in the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula region on the remaining unencumbered lands.
“The Department’s action follows through with the recommendations we made in the 2008 Kobuk-Seward Peninsula Resource Management Plan and Record of Decision,” said Chad Padgett, BLM State Director. “This action is consistent with the 2004 Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act and the BLM’s 2006 report to Congress promising a process to revoke these unnecessary withdrawals. These actions are in keeping with the Departmental priority of being a good neighbor and following through with the recommendations we have made in BLM’s land use management plans.”
These PLOs were originally intended to prevent encumbrances that could interfere with Native entitlements, and to allow the Secretary to study lands for further inclusion into conservation units, and to protect resources until they could be classified through a land use planning process. Since then, Congress has passed significant legislation for the orderly development of the public lands and to protect the environment from adverse impacts. Additionally, 1) the BLM has developed extensive oil and gas lease stipulations, required operating procedures, and surface management regulations for miners, which are now in place and sufficient to assess and protect the resources, 2) the selection period is over and the BLM is completing conveyance of State and Native entitlements, and 3) more than 102,097,900 acres have been withdrawn by ANILCA and incorporated into expansive conservation system units like refuges, parks, wilderness and wild and scenic rivers satisfying the original conservation purpose of the withdrawal of these multiple use lands.
The PLOs in the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula region were largely intended to set aside lands for selection by Alaska Natives and, subsequently, study and classification through the land use planning process. This action does not impact ANCSA 17(b) easements, which ensure public access to public lands as directed by Secretary’s Order 3373. The lands will be open 30 days after publication of the decision in the Federal Register, and any mining claim applications received prior to that will be considered simultaneously filed at that time. For more information on mining on BLM-managed public lands in Alaska, see www.blm.gov/alaska/mining.
PLOs are issued by the Secretary of the Interior to establish, modify, extend, or revoke public land withdrawals under the authority of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $111 billion in economic output across the country in fiscal year 2019—more than any other agency in the Department of the Interior. These activities supported more than 498,000 jobs.