[Federal Register Volume 86, Number 139 (Friday, July 23, 2021)]
[Pages 39053-39055]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2021-15726]



Bureau of Land Management


Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Assessment To 
Consider Opening Lands Subject to ANCSA 17(d)(1) Withdrawals to 
Selection Under the Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment 
Program of 2019

AGENCY: Bureau of Land Management, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (NEPA), as amended; the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 
1976 (FLPMA), as amended; the Alaska National Interest Lands 
Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA), as amended; the Alaska Native Claims 
Settlement Act (ANCSA), as amended; and the John D. Dingell, Jr. 
Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 (Dingell Act), the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) intends to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment (EA) to consider the effects of opening lands withdrawn 
pursuant to Section 17(d)(1) of ANCSA to selection by eligible 
individuals under the Dingell Act.

DATES: This notice initiates the public scoping process for the EA. 
Comments on relevant issues may be submitted in writing by September 
21, 2021. The deadline to submit public comment is September 21, 2021.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments on issues related to the proposed 
project by any of the following methods:
     ePlanning Website: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2014748/510.
     Mail: 222 W. 7th Avenue, Stop #13, Anchorage, Alaska 

[[Page 39054]]

     More details and instructions for submitting public 
comment can be found on the BLM ePlanning website at https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2014748/510.
    Documents pertinent to this proposal may be examined at the 
ePlanning website.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Serena Sweet at (907) 271-4534, or by 
email at [email protected] on questions specific to NEPA, and Paul 
Krabacher at (907) 271-5681, or by email at [email protected], on 
questions specific to the Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment 
Program of 2019. People who use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Relay Service (FRS) at 1-800-877-8339 
to contact the above individual during normal business hours. The FRS 
is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to leave a message or 
question. You will receive a reply during normal business hours.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Public Land Order (PLO) 7899, addressing 
lands in the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula planning area, was signed on 
January 11, 2021, and published in the Federal Register on January 19, 
2021 (86 FR 5236). PLOs 7900, 7901, 7902, and 7903--addressing lands in 
the Ring of Fire, Bay, Bering Sea-Western Interior, and East Alaska 
planning areas respectively--were signed on January 15 and 16, 2021, 
but were never published in the Federal Register and therefore do not 
have an opening date. The Department extended the opening order for PLO 
7899 by 60 days on February 18, 2021, to provide an opportunity to 
review the decisions and ensure the orderly management of the public 
lands (86 FR 10131). Subsequently, certain procedural and legal defects 
were identified in the decision-making process for these PLOs, 
including insufficient analysis under NEPA, failure to follow section 
106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and possible 
failure to adequately evaluate impacts under section 7 of the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA). Due to these deficiencies, on April 16, 
2021, the Department--relying on inherent authority to revisit 
decisions based on identified legal errors--delayed the opening of 
lands under PLO 7899 and the publication of PLOs 7900, 7901, 7902, and 
7903 for up to two years.
    In the meantime, the BLM has committed to undertaking a process to 
update the NEPA analysis for these decisions, comply with the consent 
requirements of Section 204(i) of FLPMA, and complete appropriate 
consultation under Section 106 of the NHPA, Section 7 of the ESA, and 
Section 810 of ANILCA in order to ensure that any decision to open some 
or all of the lands under reconsideration for selection under the 
Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment Program is adequately 
supported under the law and, once conveyed, there are no questions 
about ownership of Alaska Native Veterans' allotments.
    The Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment Program was 
established by Section 1119 of the Dingell Act. Through this program, 
the BLM can provide eligible individuals the opportunity to select an 
allotment of up to 160 acres from vacant, unappropriated, and 
unreserved Federal lands in Alaska, or lands selected by the State of 
Alaska or Alaska Native corporations if that entity agrees to 
relinquish that portion of their selection. By law, lands will be 
available for selection only for a period of five years, which began 
when the regulations became effective on December 28, 2020, and 
continues through December 29, 2025. For more information on the Alaska 
Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment Program, please visit 
    Currently, approximately 1.6 million acres of BLM-administered land 
in Alaska is available for selection by Alaska Native Veterans, 
including lands selected by the State of Alaska and Alaska Native 
Corporations. The areas subject to this review would--if opened for 
selection under the Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment 
Program--make available up to 28 million additional acres of lands 
within the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula, Ring of Fire, Bay, Bering Sea-
Western Interior, and East Alaska planning areas.
    Because the Dingell Act allows eligible individuals to select lands 
for only a limited period, and consistent with the Congressional intent 
that the Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land Allotment Program 
quickly convey allotments to eligible individuals, the BLM will hold 
any applications for lands covered by PLOs 7900, 7901, 7902, and 7903 
within the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula, Bay, Ring of Fire, Bering Sea-
Western Interior, and East Alaska planning areas while the agency 
completes the EA to consider opening the lands for selection. All 
complete applications for lands within those planning areas will be 
considered as simultaneously filed at the time that any lands covered 
by those applications are opened to selection. If the BLM receives 
applications for an allotment within these lands, the agency will send 
a letter acknowledging receipt and notifying the applicant that all 
valid applications received at or prior to 8 a.m. Alaska Time on April 
16, 2023, or the time that the lands covered by the applications are 
opened to selection, would be considered as simultaneously filed at 
that time. If the lands selected are not made available at the end of 
this process, the BLM will provide the applicant notice and they will 
have 60 days to make a substitute selection.
    The input of Alaska Native Tribes is of critical importance to this 
EA. Therefore, the BLM has already held a series of government-to-
government consultations with Tribes and a consultation meeting with 
Alaska Native corporations. During the planning process, the BLM will 
continue to consult with potentially affected Federally recognized 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis, and with affected Alaska 
Native corporations in accordance with Executive Order 13175 and other 
policies. Native concerns, including impacts on Indian trust assets and 
potential impacts to cultural resources, will be given appropriate 
consideration. We respectfully request participation in consultation by 
these Alaska Native entities to receive their views and recommendations 
on lands to be opened for selection by eligible individuals. The BLM 
anticipates holding additional informational meetings and will also 
hold individual consultation meetings if requested.
    The BLM will utilize and coordinate the NEPA process to help 
fulfill the public involvement process under the NHPA, including as 
provided in 36 CFR 800.2(d)(3). The information about historic and 
cultural resources within the area potentially affected by the proposed 
action will assist the BLM in identifying and evaluating impacts to 
such resources. Federal, State, and local agencies, along with Tribes 
and other stakeholders that may be interested in or affected by the 
proposed opening of lands withdrawn by Section 17(d)(1) of ANCSA to 
selection of allotments for the Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Land 
Allotment Program, are invited to participate in the scoping process 
and, if eligible, may request or be asked by the BLM to participate in 
the development of the EA as cooperating agencies. Potentially affected 
Tribes will receive a letter initiating consultation under Section 106 
of the NHPA in the coming weeks and the BLM will work

[[Page 39055]]

with consulting parties to schedule consultation meetings.
    The BLM is seeking public comments on issues, planning criteria, 
concerns, potential impacts, alternatives, and mitigation measures that 
should be considered in the analysis. Substantive comments will be used 
to prepare an EA. Additional opportunities, for public participation 
will be available upon publication of the draft EA.
    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

Chad Padgett,
State Director, Alaska.
[FR Doc. 2021-15726 Filed 7-22-21; 8:45 am]