Murkowski Welcomes New Federal Land Allotments to Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) issued the following statement after the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced it has finalized the first federal land allotments under the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veteran Land Allotment Program. Murkowski worked with Senator Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young (both R-AK), as well as Alaskan champions such as Nelson Angapak, Sr., to establish the new allotments program through her omnibus public lands bill in 2019.
“We worked hard to enact this program, and after a rocky start in this administration, I’m pleased the Department is making these allotments to our Native Veterans,” said Senator Murkowski. “This is a small sign of progress, but nowhere near enough. It remains imperative that Interior assist all eligible individuals to fairly select and access lands near where they actually live. Secretary Haaland can help make millions of additional acres of land available for allotments by reconsidering the indefinite pause it placed on the last administration’s Public Land Orders. It’s long past time for these veterans and their families to have the lands they deserve, and I will continue to push DOI to allow for that without delay.”
Murkowski has consistently urged DOI to fulfill its decades-overdue promise to eligible veterans and their families while making additional lands available to them for selection. This could be accomplished by lifting outdated Public Land Orders (PLOs), not postponing the revocation of PLOs already scheduled to be lifted, or by making a small percentage of National Wildlife Refuge System lands in Alaska available for selection.
DOI has so far contacted over 1,400 eligible individuals and received nearly 130 applications under its current program. Allotments can be selected under it through December 29, 2025.
- The Dingell Act, Murkowski’s comprehensive lands package, became law in March 2019. It established the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment Program based on legislation sponsored by Sullivan, Murkowski, and Young to ensure the federal government fulfilled its decades-old promise to provide allotments to Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam War.
- The roots of the allotment issue date back to 1906, when Congress passed a law allowing Alaska Natives to acquire 160-acre parcels of land. Those rights were extinguished with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971. At that time, however, many Alaska Natives were serving during the Vietnam War and didn’t get the chance to apply for their own allotment.
- The Alaska Native Veterans Act of 1998 attempted to partially fix this injustice, but due to restrictions, less than 500 Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans ultimately applied. An estimated 2,800 veterans have still not received their allotments.
- In April 2021, the Alaska delegation urged DOI to fulfill its promises to Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans after the Department announced it was imposing a two-year stay on the revocation of PLOs covering nearly 10 million acres of federal land in Alaska, despite the revocation orders already being signed and the PLOs themselves expiring decades ago.
- In June 2021, Murkowski, with Sullivan as a cosponsor, introduced S. 1951, legislation to amend the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment program to make an additional 3.7 million acres of federal land in the National Wildlife Refuge System in Alaska available for selection. (If S. 1951 became law, only a minute fraction of those lands, at most, would ever be selected.) Murkowski developed the bill based on a report and recommendations from then-Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to help ensure that Alaska Native Vietnam veterans can select lands closer to their homes, rather than having to travel across the state at great expense and inconvenience. For perspective, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently manages nearly 77 million acres of land in Alaska.