BLM announces 20-year extension of withdrawal for USGS Sitka Magnetic Observatory Site


Bureau of Land Management

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska– The Bureau of Land Management today announced a public land order extension in the Federal Register for the Sitka Magnetic Observatory site in Sitka, Alaska, for an additional 20 years. This extension protects the 117 acres of public lands used by the United States Geological Survey Geomagnetism Program for magnetic and seismological data collection since 1939. 

The Sitka Magnetic Observatory provides multiple Federal agencies—including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation—with magnetic and seismologic information critical to their missions, including space weather warnings, observations, and forecasts; basic control of models required for nautical and aeronautical charts; and detection of seismic events. Data has been continuously collected on-site since 1939. 

“The Sitka Magnetic Observatory serves as a critical data collection facility, benefitting multiple government agencies and programs and the worldwide scientific community,” said BLM Alaska State Director Steve Cohn. “This is an important part of our scientific portfolio, making this withdrawal absolutely necessary.” 

The observatory also provides basic control in southeastern Alaska for the magnetic data and models required for nautical and aeronautical charts used by commercial and national defense organizations. Data recorded at the observatory is also used widely by the international scientific community for research efforts to study upper atmospheric and space physics phenomena and provides important data for the global effort to better understand, predict, and utilize the natural fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field. 

Furthermore, a National Tsunami Warning System seismometer housed at the site is part of the Alaska seismic network to detect earthquakes and issue tsunami warnings, advisories, and information for seismic events. 

These lands were originally withdrawn in August 1941 by Executive Order No. 8854 as modified by Public Land Order No. 6458 and extended by Public Lands Order No. 7581 for data collection and research. Public Land Order No. 7925 extends the withdrawal to September 5, 2043.   

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.