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OUR LAND Needs Our Voice

Alaska Tribes nominated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern – for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Alaska Bering Sea-Western Interior Resource Management Plan, but all Tribe’s nominations were rejected in BLM’s 2021 final plan. That plan also eliminated all existing land protections and made the it BLM’s first plan approved without significant conservation elements.

Now BLM is exploring lifting public land orders on that same land that were put in place with passage of ANCSA that currently prevent mining on land surrounding hundreds of Alaska communities – the ANCSA 17 D-1 Public Land Order Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  BLM’s Public Land Order EIS decision will determine the future of 28 Million Acres of land that surrounds hundreds of communities.

Where is this land BLM is considering opening land to mining? Affected land shown in RED.

Our Indigenous communities living in intrinsic connection with these lands will be most impacted by the BLM’s decisions on the D-1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  Because of large contiguous blocks of BLM-managed land in several regions are under review in this process, the impact from the decision could be significant and wide-spread. 

The Bering Sea Interior Tribal Commission supports the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) process to review and thoughtfully consider the impacts that decisions on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) 17(d)(1) withdrawals will have on our communities, fish and wildlife populations, and subsistence resources.

The subject 28 million acres of BLM-managed lands being analyzed in the D-1 EIS support important subsistence resources and include key fish spawning and rearing habitat, and also important habitat for moose, caribou and reindeer.

The previous administration prepared five Public Land Orders (PLOs) without adequately consulting the federally recognized Tribes and qualified subsistence users who will be most impacted by the decisions. The flawed decision to advance lifting the PLOs was also made without consideration of how lifting D-1 orders could negatively affect Indigenous communities, cultural use areas; fish and wildlife habitat; subsistence resources; hunting, fishing, and gathering rights; and food security for hundreds of communities, and thousands of federally qualified subsistence users. So the Biden administration paused the lifting orders to evaluate the impacts of opening this land to mining.

Under ANCSA, the Secretary of the Interior must determine whether the D-1 protection should remain in place to protect the public interest. The Bering Sea Interior Tribal Commission believes it is in the public interest to retain all the D-1 public land orders which supports land remining under federal management that prioritizes subsistence users.

Alaska is at the forefront of climate change and widespread impacts are already occurring including melting permafrost, coastal and riverbank erosion, increasing air and water temperatures, and the habitat displacement of fish and wildlife populations across subarctic and arctic environments. In this rapidly changing environment with so many future unknowns, it is in the public interest to adopt a precautionary approach and prioritize the protection of the natural environment that supports our subsistence resources and our way of life on our ancestral lands and waters.

The Bering Sea Interior Tribal Commission urges BLM take action to retain the D-1 public land orders to protect subsistence habitat and resources that support our peoples’ way of life.

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