Interior Department Initiates Next Steps for Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment Program Selections

Agency Begins Tribal Consultation on Decisions to Open Additional Public Land to Selection

Last edited 06/14/2021
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Date: Thursday, May 13, 2021


WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today announced next steps in the implementation of the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment Program. While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reviews the previous Administration’s broad Public Lands Orders (PLOs), the bureau will expedite and process veterans’ allotment applications across the area addressed by those orders.

The Department will also conduct government-to-government consultations with federally recognized Alaska Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations to kick off BLM’s efforts to reconsider and correct defects identified in the decision-making process to open these lands, including lack of consultation with affected Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations.

“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans. I know the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military, and I will not ignore a right owed to our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans,” said Secretary Deb Haaland, whose father served during the Vietnam War. “Interior Department personnel are moving forward expeditiously to ensure that Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans are able to select the land allotments they are owed, with an expansive selection area.”

The Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program was established by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019. Through this program the BLM can provide eligible individuals the opportunity to select an allotment of up to 160 acres from vacant, unappropriated, and unreserved federal lands in Alaska or lands selected by the state or Native corporations, if that entity agrees to relinquish that portion of their selection. Lands are available for selection through December 29, 2025. This represents the third time that federally-managed land has been offered to Alaska Native Vietnam veterans, who did not have access to land allotments while serving during the Vietnam War.

In its final days, the Trump Administration attempted to open an additional 28 million acres of BLM-managed land in Alaska to mining and mineral development through five PLOs. The BLM will prioritize review of those lands in order to provide them for selection by eligible veterans and will accept applications across the 28 million acres during its review of the land orders. Based on pending applications, veteran claims would represent 0.14% of the 28 million acres of land proposed for extraction.

The BLM is already actively accepting and processing applications for allotments within the approximately 1.6 million acres currently available for selection by eligible veterans.

“The BLM is committed to expediting Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans’ land applications, even as we review and complete the analysis for the decisions in the previous Administration's land orders,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs Nada Culver. “We must make sure that any decisions we make have the benefit of Tribal input, including impacts on Indian trust assets and potential impacts to cultural resources and federal subsistence users.”

Native communities across Alaska rely on subsistence resources for their cultures and livelihoods. The attempted lands actions by the previous Administration were rushed and relied on outdated environmental analysis. As a result, they would have endangered rural subsistence preference for many Alaska Native individuals. The BLM has begun reaching out to potentially affected Alaska Native representatives regarding the upcoming nation-to-nation consultation.

The Interior Department has delayed the effective date for implementation of the previous Administration’s PLOs by two years in order to address the legal defects in the decision-making process for those orders. The BLM is first initiating consultation on the decisions made in PLOs 7899, 7900, 7901, 7902, and 7903, including issues generally related to the withdrawals more broadly. In the coming weeks, the BLM will announce more details on public involvement for the analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act to address those defects and to reconsider the PLO decisions.

For more information on the Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program, please visit BLM's program page.


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