What is Happening With Our Traditional Land?

Written by Communications_Dept on . Posted in Newsletter Frontpage and Current

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is creating two land plans to decide the next 30 years of allowable uses for our traditional land. BLM will make land plans called Resource Management Plans for the Central Yukon / Dalton Highway Corridor and the Bering Sea Western Interior planning areas between November 2018 and April 2019 on a fast-tracked schedule. These two planning areas cover the middle third of the state, from the shores of the Arctic Ocean down the Dalton Highway and into the heart of the Yukon & Kuskokwim Rivers and west to the Bering Sea. Land being planned is 26.5 million acres altogether in two separate planning processes.

13.1 million acres of tribal traditional land now managed by BLM is in the Central Yukon planning area that extends from the Beaufort Sea to the Upper Yukon and includes 4 boroughs, 24 communities, 15 tribal governments and the Dalton Highway corridor. (The BLM land is yellow in the Central Yukon Map to the right).

The Bering Sea Western Interior planning area includes 13.4 million acres of tribal traditional land now managed by the BLM (land shown in yellow on map to the left). This area extends from Denali National Park’s western edge west to the Bering Sea, and contains 54 communities, all with federally recognized tribes.

These two plans will decide the future of 26.5 million acres of traditional tribal land – now managed by BLM. Once complete, the plans will last 20 to 30 years. The plans will decide where mining can occur, where oil and gas development can occur, where roads might be allowed, where recreation permits for fly-in hunters would be allowed and many other things.

The BIG CHANGE: Most of these 26.5 million acres have land laws present that prohibit development. These land laws – or Public Land Orders – were put in place during the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act so that selections could be made for undeveloped land. In past plans, BLM has recommended removing these land laws – and we expect the same recommendation for the Central Yukon and the Bering Sea plans.If the public land orders are removed in these two plans, it would allow mining and oil & gas development on almost 100% of the 26.5 million acres. Lifting these public land orders and allowing mining and oil and gas development would be a major change for our tribal traditional lands because huge areas that are currently not available for development would be opened to resource development.

What can we do?
Become informed. Our traditional land needs our activism and our voice so that communities can have the kind of future we want. We know communities across the planning areas prioritize clean water, wildlife and future generations and highly regard subsistence resource values.

TCC’s Bob Sattler, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Suzanne Little and Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association’s Wayne Jenkins are all available to provide support for Tribes in the planning process. These individuals can provide technical support for your community to help elevate your local voices in the Resource Management Planning process by BLM.