Murkowski Urges Fair Protest Period for Mammoth BLM Land Plan

30 Days is Not Enough for Alaskans to Review, Protest Nearly 1,800-Page Proposal

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today strongly urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to provide Alaskans with sufficient time to review and challenge its “Proposed Regional Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement” (RMP/EIS or proposed Plan) for the Eastern Interior Planning Area of Alaska.

“At more than 819,000 words, the proposed Plan is roughly 40 percent longer than the epic novel War and Peace—not to mention, far more technical and complex. Even if the average Alaskan set aside time to pore over 10 pages every day of the week, it would still take six full months to read the proposed Plan in its entirety,” Murkowski wrote to BLM Director Neil Kornze. “In order to provide Alaskans with sufficient time to review and protest this sweeping document, I urgently request that you extend the current protest period by 90 days and establish a supplemental protest period during the month of October 2016.” 

BLM has provided Alaskans with just 30 days to review and protest the land use restrictions within its proposed management plan, which encompasses 6.5 million acres in eastern interior Alaska. BLM is attempting to close 74 percent of those acres to mineral leasing and mineral location and has proposed the withdrawal of 1,022,000 acres as new Areas of Critical Environmental Concern. Some 362,000 acres would be withdrawn in the Fortymile region, where Alaska families have earned their livelihoods through placer mining for more than 100 years.

Murkowski also objected to the timing of BLM’s proposed plan, which marginalizes Alaskans’ ability to read, understand, and effectively protest the 1,791-page document. 

“August is the height of mining activity, fishing season, and the beginning of hunting season in Alaska,” Murkowski wrote. “The deliberate timing of BLM’s release means that countless Alaskans who stand to be affected by the proposed RMP/EIS will not even know it has been issued—let alone have a chance to properly review it and develop substantive comments.”  

According to BLM, the publication of the proposed Plan in the Federal Register on July 29, 2016 started a 30-day clock 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. The current protest period is set to end on August 29, just 19 days from now.    

“Rather than subverting Alaskans’ rights to participate in the land management process and understand how regulatory decisions will impact us…I urge BLM to extend the protest period to 120 days in total and establish a supplemental protest period during October,” Murkowski wrote. 

Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has sought to protect access in the Eastern Interior Planning Area throughout BLM’s planning process. She submitted comments on BLM’s draft plan in March 2015. A copy of her most recent letter to BLM is available on the committee website.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska