Interior delays consideration of opening public Alaska lands to development

Interior delays consideration of opening public Alaska lands to development
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The Interior Department on Thursday announced a two-year delay of a determination on opening millions of acres in Alaska to mining.

The effective date for the public lands orders, which affect 28 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in Alaska, will be delayed for two years, according to the Interior announcement.

“During this time, the BLM will work to correct defects associated with initial analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, including inadequate review of potential impacts on subsistence hunting and fishing,” the statement reads. “As part of the supplemental review, the BLM will engage the public and hold Tribal consultations.”


Five public lands orders signed in the final week of the Trump administration would open the lands in question to mineral and mining development. One of the five was set to take effect Feb. 19, but was later delayed 60 days to April 19. There was no official effective date for the other four.

“The Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act of 2019 made lands available to Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans until 2025,” the statement reads. “The Department is committed to honoring those land selections, as well as land selections made by the State of Alaska, on eligible lands.”

The orders followed a series of federal moves beginning in 2018, which collectively removed protections from more than 11 million acres, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. The full implementation of those plans would represent “one of the largest openings of public land to extractive development in contemporary American history,” the Pew analysis said.

Interior Secretary Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden officials announce clean energy plans Biden administration announces actions bolstering clean energy  MORE is the first Senate-confirmed Indigenous Cabinet secretary, and tribal groups have expressed optimism that the department under her will be a sympathetic ear on Native issues.

The delay comes the week after Haaland returned from Utah, where she consulted with local tribal leaders and elected officials on two national monuments whose boundaries were shrunk under the Trump administration. Haaland is set to complete a report on the shrinking of the monuments commissioned by an executive order President BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE signed in January.