Murkowski: BLM Expands Lands Available for Native Veterans Allotments

Calls on DOI to Lift PLOs Entirely, Administration to Support Selections Beyond BLM Lands

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued the following statement about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to open 27 million acres of land for Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans to select their birthright allotments—which could have been the case from day one of the Biden administration onward. BLM’s decision is based on an environmental assessment that found there would be no significant impact from lifting outdated Public Land Orders (PLOs) for this purpose.

“While this decision will expand the options that some veterans have as they select their allotments, BLM is now responsible for implementing it in a manner that does not create new conflicts over lands in our state. And let’s not forget that this would not have been necessary, at all, had the administration simply let former Secretary Bernhardt’s revocation of PLOs stand when it took office,” Senator Murkowski said. “To truly do right by our veterans and all Alaskans, the Biden administration must take two additional steps. First, they need to help us open already-identified refuge and Forest Service lands so that hundreds of veterans – especially in Southeast and Southwest – can select allotments closer to where they actually live. Second, the Department of the Interior needs to admit that the PLOs are obsolete, serving no valid purpose, and lift them across Alaska in their entirety.”

Murkowski sponsored the John D. Dingell Conservation, Recreation, and Management Act of 2019 (P.L. 116-9), which created the Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment Program based on legislation she, Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and the late Congressman Don Young (R-AK) had previously introduced. The program offers an estimated 3,000 Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans an opportunity to finally receive their rightful allotments after missing the window to apply while serving our nation.  

Murkowski also reiterated that the location of the lands made available under this program is of equal importance to the volume of acreage made available. In 2020, the Department of the Interior released a study recommending the opening of roughly 3.7 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge System lands in Alaska, as many eligible veterans do not live near BLM lands. Many of those veterans’ traditional hunting and fishing grounds have been locked away by federal land management designations for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that occurred without any consultation. Murkowski and Sullivan have introduced legislation in this Congress, S. 1951, the Alaska Native Vietnam Veteran Land Allotment Fulfillment Act, to formally open the recommended lands to allotment selection. 

Related Issues: Veterans