(This is the first in a series of posts on D1 lands in ALaska. Read the second post in the series here, the third here, and the fourth here.)
In what has been called the largest public land giveaway in the U.S., the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to give away its lands to state and corporate mining interests at the expense of local communities, fish, water and wildlife, with an aggressive agenda to make good on political promises before Trump leaves office in early 2021.
“D1” refers to all unreserved federal lands in Alaska that were withdrawn from mineral entry under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. These 57 million acres of lands across Alaska, from Bristol Bay to the Brooks Range, the Copper River watershed and northern Southeast Alaska are managed by BLM. The most pressing threats on these lands include mining, oil and gas development and privatization through land conveyance to the state of Alaska and Native Corporations.
Under current Department of Interior Leadership, there has been an aggressive campaign to convey these public lands to private interests and open these lands to mineral entry. 2 million acres have already been conveyed and open to mining and other extractive uses, another 13 million acres are in the final stages of conveyance, and another 27 million acres are in the process of being opened to mining and oil and gas development. In some cases, conveyances have already allowed for the expansion of active mining. In other cases, such as the proposed Ambler Road to the Ambler Mining District, the Chilkat Valley north of Haines, these BLM land conveyances are instigating larger infrastructure projects that threaten Alaska’s communities and wildlife.
Tribal leaders, rural communities, regional recreation businesses and conservation organizations have repeatedly asked for a fair and transparent public process but BLM is systematically ignoring consultation requirements and has so far refused to respond to a letter we submitted to the agency on October 28th, 2020.
The agency is backing away from important balances that had already been struck over many years under the Obama administration where communities identified important food and water gathering areas, important areas for biological diversity and migratory wildlife corridors which were identified as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern in the resource management plan for each BLM planning region.
In an October 28th letter to the BLM, Audubon along with other conservation groups, Indigenous government leaders and rural community members from across the impacted regions asked the agency to stop the giveaway of these federal lands. The BLM has stated that these giveaways are necessary for veterans to make land claims, but this is an agency interpretation that can be changed with a new administration. The Biden administration can also choose to stop this process, and instead, proceed with a new process that addresses the potential impacts of climate change, and protects the areas of critical environmental concern that have been identified through years of community-led dialogues. We have raised this issue to the highest levels of the new administration’s leadership and it will remain a priority in coming months.
We encourage you to read our blog to learn more about these important lands in Alaska!