Alaska "D-1" Lands Withdrawal Comment Period Open Until October 17

BLM Map showing "D-1" lands to be opened for industrial development. D-1 lands are identified with checkered fill. Photo credit: BLM

Do you hunt, fish, or recreate in the Upper Susitna River, Chilkoot River, Denali Highway, Kobuk, Cantwell, Chilkat River, Wulik River, Paxson, Noatak River, Valdez, Selawik River, Skagway, Lower Yukon River, Icy Bay, Talkeetna River, Iliamna, Naknek, or Kuskokwim areas?  If so, you should be aware of a BLM process that proposes to open federal lands in these locales (among others) to industrial development.

The BLM is currently receiving public "scoping" comments in advance of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement that would initiate the opening of federal lands shown in checkered fill in the map above to industrial development. This scoping period is intended to steer "the scope of the analysis, potential alternatives, and identification of relevant information" in relation to these lands. The comment period is open from now until October 17.

"D-1" lands are federal lands that are "subject to withdrawals established pursuant to Section 17(d)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) on lands within the Bay, Bering Sea-Western Interior, East Alaska, Kobuk-Seward Peninsula, and Ring of Fire planning areas." Mineral and petroleum development and extraction are currently prohibited on "D-1" lands, so the upshot of the proposed withdrawal is that these areas would be opened to industrial exploration and development.

Take a few minutes to pan around this interactive map showing "D-1" lands and see if your favorite hunting locations, valued fishing rivers, or hiking areas might be affected. If so, consider submitting a comment during this scoping period that will help protect special areas from resource development and steer this effort so that our world-class fisheries and hunting opportunities will not be degraded. If you want some comment submission guidance, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has prepared an excellent comment template that may be of use.

A lake trout caught in Paxson Lake, which is surrounded by "D-1" lands slated to be opened to industrial development. Lake trout are long-lived fish that can accumulate heavy metals such as mercury in watersheds affected by mining, which can result in a health risk for anglers who harvest and consume them. Photo credit: Kevin Fraley

BHA champions values of wilderness, solitude, public lands access, fish and wildlife conservation, and outdoor opportunity. Therefore, the large-scale land use change represented by the "D-1" withdrawals is of great concern in relation to hunting, fishing, and recreating on our public lands.

If you have any questions, or need help writing comments on this issue, please contact the Alaska BHA Volunteer Board at [email protected]. We are always happy to hear from and assist our members.

Hunters from around Alaska pursue caribou along the Denali Highway to fill their freezers with the healthiest meat on the planet. The Denali Highway is surrounded by "D-1" lands that could be opened to industrial development. Human perturbations such as new roads, noise, and structures have been shown to disrupt caribou movements and availability near Red Dog Mine and the Dalton Highway in northern Alaska. Photo credit: Justin Mason

About Kevin Fraley

Fisheries ecologist and avid fly fisher and hunter based in Fairbanks, AK

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