Murkowski Blasts BLM Proposal for Eastern Interior Planning Area

Effectively Withdraws Over One Million Acres of Land, Threatens Fortymile Economy

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today strongly criticized the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Proposed Regional Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement” (RMP/EIS) for the Eastern Interior Planning Area of Alaska.

“While it will take time to pore through the 1,800 pages of this excessively complex and unwieldy proposal, BLM is clearly attempting to restrict economic opportunity in our eastern Interior region, and seeking to effectively withdraw over one million additional acres of land through the use of a wilderness derivative that violates ANILCA,” Murkowski said. “I am also stunned by the timing of this proposal, which comes at the height of fishing season and the busiest time of year for miners. Many who stand to be impacted may not even be aware of it, let alone have anywhere near enough time to review it, under BLM’s 30-day protest procedures.”

BLM is proposing to designate a total of 1,022,000 acres of land in the Eastern Interior Planning Area as new “Areas of Critical Environmental Concern” (ACECs), including 362,000 acres in the Fortymile region. BLM claims the withdrawal is necessary to protect habitat for local wildlife, even though it has successfully coexisted with local mineral production for decades. If finalized, this designation would negatively impact Alaskans, who have already faced repeated resource-related restrictions from the federal government in recent years.

According to BLM, the publication of the RMP/EIS in the Federal Register will kick off a 30-day period in which “any person who participated in the planning process…and has an interest which is or may be adversely affected by the planning decisions” may file a formal protest.

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has sought to protect access in the Eastern Interior Planning Area during BLM’s planning process. She submitted comments on BLM’s draft plan in March 2015, and will be requesting that BLM ensure Alaskans are able to provide meaningful comment on today’s proposal.