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BLM Releases Eastern Interior Land Use Plan

Posted by Northern Center at Aug 02, 2016 11:20 AM |

The BLM has released the Eastern Interior Resource Management Plan and Final EIS that will govern 6.5 million acres of some of Alaska's most remote and pristine public land.

The BLM has approved the Eastern Interior Resource Management Plan and Final EIS that, once approved, will govern 6.5 million acres of some of Alaska's most remote and pristine public land. This area includes the White Mountains National Recreation Area, the Steese National Conservation Area, the Fortymile area, and the upper Black River (Draanjik) area as well as land along the highway system; portions of these remote lands have never been included in BLM land use plans before. 
 
The BLM worked together with multiple native groups, including the Chalkyitsik Village Council and the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in Tribal Government to draft this plan which allows 6.5 million acres of BLM-managed land for "off-highway vehicle use," including the White Mountains Recreation Area. Although more than one million acres is available for continued development in the Fortymile Mining District, and 4,000 acres in the White Mountains remain open to mining, the plan includes protection of priority habitats for moose, caribou, and other critical subsistence species.  
 
Included in this plan are 1.8 million acres (approximately 72%) of the Upper Draanjik River subunit which will remain closed to mining and over one million acres designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). 52% of BLM lands (approximately 3.5 million acres) in the Eastern Interior are identified as lands with wilderness characteristics (LWC) and will be managed to protect those characteristics. Additionally, 4.8 million acres will be closed to solid and fluid leasable mineral entry and 3.6 million acres will be closed to locatable mineral entry in the planning area covered in Alternative E. All ACECs, Riparian Conservation Areas, the Draanjik River Watershed, the Steese National Conservation area, and the White Mountains Recreation Area are designated closed to mineral activity. 
 
This has been a years-long process that the Northern Center membership has remained engaged in, and we would have ultimately liked to see more protection for areas like the Fortymile Mining District, but the collaboration between BLM, tribal governments, environmental groups and mining interests is an example of how multiple organizations can come together to create a land-use plan that has benefits for all involved parties while also conserving "natural and cultural values," and preserving wilderness landscapes for recreational and subsistence use. The Northern Center hopes that this plan speaks to a future of continued collaboration for protecting our wild lands.
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