Bureau Of Land Management Takes Steps Toward Protecting D-1 Lands In Alaska (Updating)

The Bureau of Land Management is following through on promises to help protect designated wilderness in Alaska, about 28 million acres referred to as “D-1 Lands.”

Here’s the BLM press release:

Biden-Harris Administration Takes Steps to Protect Tribal Subsistence, Vital Ecosystems in Alaska

Recommends continued protection of 28 million acres of public lands crucial for Alaska Native and rural subsistence

Organization: Bureau of Land Management

BLM Office: Alaska State Office

Jun 28, 2024

Reviewing Continued Protections for 28 Million Acres of Public Lands

Today, the BLM also released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzing the proposed revocation of existing withdrawals on 28 million acres of BLM-managed public lands across Alaska. The Final EIS identifies “no action” as the preferred alternative, which would retain current protections for these lands and avoid potential impacts to natural and cultural resources from future potential development.

The comprehensive analysis comes in response to the previous Administration’s decision in its final days to lift the longstanding withdrawals without sufficient public notice and comment, Tribal consultation, or analysis of potential socioeconomic and environmental impacts. This sweeping action would have opened the 28 million acres to extractive development activities, such as mining and oil and gas drilling, and removed the federal subsistence priority from millions of acres. The previous Administration’s decision was put on hold to allow full consideration of the potential consequences and ensure adequate engagement with the public and Alaska Native communities.

The BLM’s analysis found that revoking the protections would likely harm subsistence hunting and fishing in communities that would lose federal subsistence priority over some lands, ranging from 44 to 117 communities, depending on the alternative. The analysis also found that lifting some or all of the withdrawals could have lasting negative impacts on wildlife, vegetation and permafrost.

During the public comment period and in 19 community meetings held last winter, the BLM heard overwhelming support for retaining the withdrawals in their current form, which many Alaska Native Tribes, Corporations and Tribal entities have noted are vital to protecting important subsistence hunting opportunities.

The withdrawals, established pursuant to Section 17(d)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), stretch across the BLM’s Bay, Bering Sea-Western Interior, East Alaska, Kobuk-Seward Peninsula and Ring of Fire planning areas. The BLM analyzed a range of alternatives, including the “no action” alternative that would retain the withdrawals and several action alternatives ranging from partial to full revocation.

The BLM undertook a robust public process to gather input from Alaska Native Tribes and Corporations, rural and urban communities, and the public on this analysis. In total, the BLM received approximately 15,000 public comments on the draft. A Record of Decision will be signed no sooner than 30 days after the publication of the Final EIS in the Federal Register. This analysis will inform a decision by the Secretary of the Interior.

The lands analyzed in the EIS are already available and would remain available for selection by eligible individuals under the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment Program. In 2022, Secretary Haaland partially revoked the withdrawals on these lands to allow for land selection by Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans, making an additional 27 million acres available to the approximately 1,900 Veterans eligible to select their 160-acre land entitlement under the Dingell Act, and has been followed by the Secretary making an additional 812,000 acres available last summer.


The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Some of the D-1 Lands designated for Alaska are located in the critical salmon-spawning watersheds of Bristol Bay. (EPA PHOTO)

And here’s some reaction, starting with SalmonState and the Wild Salmon Center:

Wild salmon nonprofits applaud Bureau of Land Management for listening to Alaskans, Tribes, communities, protecting D-1 lands


June 28, 2024

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — SalmonState and the Wild Salmon Center applaud the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its announcement today that it is listening to Alaskans, Tribes, businesses and communities and taking a big step toward retaining protections for 28 million acres of D-1 lands across Alaska, from the Yukon-Kuskokwim, to Bristol Bay, to Eastern Alaska. 

“With this decision, the Biden Administration is prioritizing protections for fish, wildlife and the people who depend on them,” said SalmonState Public Lands and Waters Lead Rachel James. “We applaud this decision, which is supported by more than half of Alaska’s 227  federally recognized Tribal governments, more than 120 businesses, and 145,000 Alaskans and Americans, and we urge Secretary Deb Haaland to finalize safeguards for Alaska’s D-1 lands as soon as possible.” 

“These places represent some of the nation’s largest remaining intact ecosystems, from high alpine tundra to the pristine estuaries and wetlands in places like Bristol Bay, home to the world’s most abundant wild sockeye salmon runs,” said Emily Anderson, Alaska Director at the Wild Salmon Center. “With today’s announcement, the Biden Administration is demonstrating its commitment to maintaining our nation’s biodiversity, climate refugia, and to listening to the communities most impacted by this decision. We look forward to the Biden Administration finalizing this important decision as soon as possible.”

Alaska’s BLM D-1 lands were withdrawn from mineral entry and oil and gas development 50 years ago under section 17 (d)1 of the Alaska Native  Claims Settlement Act. During its final days, the Trump Administration attempted to open 28 million acres for extractive development.  One of the Biden Administration’s first actions upon taking office was to pause those orders and undertake an environmental review to evaluate the potential effects that lifting the D-1 protections would have on fish and wildlife habitat, subsistence resources and the Alaska Native communities who utilize BLM lands for subsistence hunting and fishing.  

Following today’s Final Environmental Impact Statement, BLM is expected to issue a Record of Decision in 30 days and make a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior about a course of action consistent with its decision.  The Secretary of the Interior will then determine whether to maintain the D-1 protections and rescind the previous administration’s public land orders.

Key statistics:

  • 74% of D-1 lands are designated as federal subsistence, which means they are vital to rural and Alaska Native food security.
  • 183 Alaska Native villages are within 50 miles of a D-1 land area, with an additional 26 villages within 100 miles of a D-1 land area. In total, 209 Alaska Native villages are within 100 miles of D-1 lands.
  • About 6,700 miles of anadromous waterways reside within or directly adjacent to the boundaries of D-1 lands. Of those, approximately 2,422 miles are used by species for spawning habitat (36%) and 3,277 miles are used by species for rearing habitat (49%). That means they’re vital for wild salmon and other anadromous species. 

Anadromous species are those like salmon, which travel from the freshwater to the sea and then back.

  • In total, about half of all D-1 lands are within the range of the Western Arctic Caribou herd.
  • On average, D-1 lands contain approximately 1,255,777,251 tons of manageable carbon, which is equivalent to 4,604,516,587 tons of CO2.  Manageable carbon is areas where carbon loss is driven by direct land-use conversion, which could be halted or directly mitigated through adaptive management.
  • On average, D-1 lands contain approximately 164,299,103 tons of “irrecoverable carbon”, which is equivalent to 602,430,048 tons of CO2. “Irrecoverable carbon” is vulnerable to release from human activity and, if lost, could not be restored by 2050 — when the world must reach net-zero emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.


Alaska Native Tribal consortia support letter

Alaska Native Tribal governments letter to Sec. Haaland

5 Maps of BLM Lands Under Consideration


BLM “D-1 Lands” Page

The mission of Wild Salmon Center is to promote the conservation and sustainable use of wild salmon ecosystems across the Pacific Rim. Over 30 years of work from California to the Western Pacific, we have worked alongside local partners to protect more than 7 million acres around salmon stronghold rivers and prioritize 89 of those rivers for wild fish. 

SalmonState works to keep Alaska a place where wild salmon and the people whose lives are interconnected with them continue to thrive.

Also a press release from United Tribes of Bristol Bay:

In Alaska, Federal Land Managers Take a Big Step Toward Maintaining Protections on 28 Million Acres of Public Land

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay applauds the move, which comes years into a campaign to safeguard long-protected “D-1” lands from extractive industrial development. 

Dillingham, Alaska | June 28, 2024— Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took a big step toward finalizing protections for 28 million acres of federally-managed “D-1” lands in Alaska, including 1.2 million acres in the Bristol Bay region. 

The review was prompted when the outgoing Trump Administration threatened to open these long-protected lands for extractive industrial development. BLM’s final environmental impact statement is one of the final steps in the agency’s multi-year review of how lifting existing protections would impact D-1 lands. This included potential impacts on fish and wildlife habitat, subsistence practices, and our Tribal communities who depend on D-1 lands to sustain traditional ways of life. 

“The BLM final environmental impact statement makes it clear that we must retain protections on all 28 million acres of D-1 lands in Alaska,” UTBB executive director Alannah Hurley said in response to the news. “The majority of the federally recognized Tribes in Alaska have voiced support for protecting these critical lands. Lifting protections on these lands will dramatically harm the health and wellbeing of our Tribal communities and threaten the continued vitality of our sacred ways of life. We are grateful for the work to date and now, we urge the Biden Administration to uphold its responsibilities to Alaska Native Tribes and all whose livelihoods depend on clean habitat by finalizing this decision to keep D-1 lands protections in place.” 

Over the last two years, United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB) has actively participated in BLM’s environmental reviews and provided input on how D-1 lands are critical to traditional ways of life for our member Tribes. UTBB is encouraged that BLM recommends existing protections be kept in place, continuing to safeguard these lands from unsustainable development. Following the FEIS release today, BLM is expected to issue a Record of Decision in 30 days. A final decision from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is anticipated later this summer. 



UTBB is a Tribal consortium working to protect the traditional Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq ways of life in Southwest Alaska that depend on the pristine Bristol Bay watershed and all it sustains, most notably Bristol Bay’s wild salmon. UTBB represents 15 federally recognized Tribes in Bristol Bay which constitutes over 80 percent of the region’s population.

UPDATE: More reaction from Mother Kuskokwim:

Mother Kuskokwim Tribal coalition celebrates Biden Administration’s Alaska D1 Lands Announcement


JUNE 28, 2024

BETHEL, ALASKA — The Mother Kuskokwim Tribal coalition celebrates the Biden Administration’s announcement today that it is moving forward with protections for 28 million acres of D1 lands across Alaska, including several million acres in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region.

“The Biden Administration’s decision today is an important step toward a future full of wild salmon, healthy people, and healthy lands and waters. We look forward to seeing protections for Alaska’s D1 lands upheld and finalized as soon as possible,” said Anaan’arar Sophie Swope, Executive Director of Mother Kuskokwim. “D1 lands in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region are vital to our people’s way of life. These protections ensure future generations will be able to live safely with and on the land, carrying our customary and traditional knowledge.”

Many of the D1 lands in the region are the headwaters of river systems. They are important to whitefish, sheefish, salmon, many other fish species, caribou, moose, waterfowl, and other migratory birds — and to people.

The Trump Administration attempted to roll back Alaska’s D1 protections, which have been in place under section 17 (d) 1 of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act for more than 50 years, during the final days of its administration — without even notifying Tribes. The Biden Administration paused that action during its first days in office. During a 2023 comment period, the Bureau of Land Management held 19 hearings around Alaska, including one in Bethel, where testimony was unanimous in support of protections.  State-wide, over half of Alaska’s federally recognized Tribes stood in solidarity to keep all protections in place. Several Native Corporations including Calista also submitted comments in support of no the ‘no action’ Alternative which would keep all protections in place.

2.2 million acres of D1 lands are around Crooked Creek, the proposed mine site for the Donlin Gold mine, in the Kuskokwim River system. D1 lands also connect important migratory routes for both salmon and caribou, and they are vital to Indigenous and rural food security, with 21,139,400 acres of D1 lands designated as Federal Subsistence Lands.

Learn more about Mother Kuskokwim at https://nodonlingold.org