Murkowski Slams BLM’s Final Plan for Eastern Interior Alaska

Withdraws Over One Million Acres of Land, Closes Bulk of Region to Mineral Entry

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

“Once again, it is clear that the Obama administration is trying to ram through as many plans, regulations, and policies at the eleventh hour as possible,” Murkowski said. “As a result of this new plan, another one million acres of Alaska will be withdrawn and almost five million acres will be closed to mineral entry. BLM has continued to disregard its multiple-use mission and the livelihoods of Alaskans as it seeks to impose unnecessary conservation designations.”

Under the RMP/EIS, BLM has designated over one million acres of land in the Eastern Interior Planning Area as new “Areas of Critical Environmental Concern” (ACECs). Roughly three-quarters of the 6.5-million acre region will be closed to mineral entry, including roughly 40 percent of the gold-bearing Fortymile District. While Murkowski values the subsistence attributes of the Eastern Interior, targeted rather than blanket application of land access restrictions have historically demonstrated satisfactory results. 

“Broad brushes by the BLM do not protect the needs or interests of all Alaskans. While some parts of the Eastern Interior deserve special protection, the withdrawals and closures in this plan are intentionally excessive,” Murkowski said. “As has become the norm over the past eight years, the Obama administration has gone well beyond what is necessary, in an attempt to shut down economic activities such as mineral entry that it simply refuses to support.”

Murkowski, chairman of the 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, sought additional time for public comment on the proposed plan in July 2016, and will work with the incoming administration to overturn many of the midnight rules and directives released in the final days of the Obama administration.