BLM seeks input on draft Public Land Order environmental impact statement
Analysis considers impacts of revoking protections on 28 million acres
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public comment on a draft environment impact statement analyzing proposals developed by the previous administration to revoke long-standing protections on 28 million acres of public lands in Alaska. When finalized, this analysis will inform a decision by the Secretary of the Interior regarding whether to continue, alter, or end the protections.
The lands are often referred to as 17(d)1 lands, referencing a section of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), and they are protected from mining claims and oil and gas development through a mineral withdrawal. The draft analysis considers whether opening the lands to development remains consistent with some of the purposes of ANCSA, which requires that “the public interest in these lands is properly protected,” including factors such as subsistence hunting and fishing, habitat connectivity, protection of cultural resources, and protection of threatened and endangered species.
The lands under consideration stretch across the State, spanning the Bay, Bering Sea-Western Interior, East Alaska, Kobuk-Seward Peninsula, and Ring of Fire BLM planning areas. The draft analysis considers the impacts that may result from removing those protections, including changes to land use that could affect residents, wildlife, vegetation, and cultural, air, and water resources, and subsistence use.
“The draft analysis takes another look at impacts of revoking or maintaining withdrawals across a vast area of BLM-managed lands in Alaska” said BLM Alaska State Director Steve Cohn. “We are grateful for the work of many—BLM staff, Alaska Native Tribes and Corporations, and others—who got us to this point. We look forward to engaging with the public over the coming months to ensure we provide a comprehensive analysis to the Secretary to inform her decision on these withdrawals.”
Specifically, the 2021 Action under review is revocation of the ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawals as described in Public Land Orders 7899, 7900, 7901, 7902, and 7903. This analysis evaluates the resource conditions on these lands and incorporates and describes additional coordination with other Federal agencies, State and local governments, federally recognized Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations and other stakeholders to ensure that the environmental analysis previously conducted will be updated and expanded upon as appropriate. This additional analysis is necessary to ensure disclosure of the impacts of revocation of the ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawals; to correct errors in the previous decision-making process regarding these withdrawals; and to ensure that opening these lands is consistent with the purposes of ANCSA 17(d)(1),
In 2022, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland partially revoked the withdrawals on these lands to allow for land selection by Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans. That decision made an additional 27 million acres available to the approximately 1,900 Veterans eligible to select their 160-acre land entitlement under the Dingell Act.
The Bureau is initiating a 60-day public comment period that closes February 14, 2024. Please submit comments online through the Participate Now link at the BLM National NEPA Register (preferred) or deliver to “Attn: ANCSA 17(d)(1) Withdrawals EIS, Anchorage District Office, 4700 BLM Road, Anchorage, AK 99507.” The project webpage includes maps, planning documents, and other information about the project and will house information about future public meetings, subsistence hearings and other engagement opportunities as they are scheduled.
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.