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The Bureau of Land Management announced the new Resource Management Plan for the Eastern Interior Planning Area on Thursday, saying its plan is balanced to increase recreational access as well as ensuring access for mining and development in the area.
BLM stated that they had met with stakeholders, that included the Chalkyitsik Village Council, Gwichyaa Zhee Tribal, White Mountain recreational users and miners and the State of Alaska, before developing the plan for the area. The plan encompasses 6.5 million acres on public land managed by them in the Forty-Mile area, the Steese National Conservation Area, and the White Mountain Recreational area. It also includes BLM-managed lands in the subunits of Draanjik (formerly known as the Upper Black River) and along the highway system.
“People rely on these public lands for their livelihood, for subsistence, for recreation, for access to state and private lands and many other reasons,” said Geoff Beyersdorf, District Manager of the BLM Fairbanks District Office. “Over eight years, we have listened and taken the public’s concerns into account. With approval of these plans, we can move forward with management of these public lands in a way that balances use, development, and conservation.”
Alaska’s Governor Walker expressed disappointment with the BLM plan, saying that the Department of Interior has rejected multiple efforts to bring the plan into alignment with state and federal land management plans as well as existing laws.
The Walker administration says that the state of Alaska, as well as Doyon Limited, that consists of 19,000 native shareholders, have protested the plan, and also says that portions of the plan violates the 1958 statehood act as well as other laws.
Walker said in a press release, “We are concerned that implementing this plan will reduce economic opportunities in Interior Alaska. For example, the plan preemptively bans mineral exploration and development on more than three quarters of the available public lands, with no opportunity to show that these activities can be done in compliance with existing state and federal laws.”
The governor stated that because the plan has been adopted without fixing serious defects, he will work with the incoming Trump administration, as well as the state’s congressional delegation, to address the decision.