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27 Million Acres Opened for Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Seeking Land Allotments

Sullivan Says Announcement Creates New Delays & Complications for Alaska Native Vietnam-Era Veterans Seeking Allotments

Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN


April 21, 2022
Thursday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - During a roundtable discussion today with Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Tracy Stone-Manning announced that the Interior Department will open approximately 27 million acres of federal lands to selection by eligible Alaska Native veterans.

jpg Secretary Deb Haaland

Secretary Deb Haaland (Biography) made history when she became the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. She is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and a 35th generation New Mexican. 

jpg Tracy Stone-Manning

In September 2021, Tracy Stone-Manning (Biography) was confirmed as the 19th Director of the Bureau of Land Management. 

“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans. I honor the sacrifices made by those who serve in our military, and I will not ignore land allotments owed to our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans,” said Secretary Deb Haaland, whose father served during the Vietnam War. “I am grateful to the veterans we met with today for their patience as we have worked through the needed analyses, and to the BLM team that moved expeditiously to deliver on this promise.”

The Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Program was established by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 and was championed by the Alaska Congressional delegation. Through this program, the Bureau of Land Management can provide eligible individuals the opportunity to select an allotment of up to 160 acres from available federal lands in Alaska. Currently there are approximately 1.2 million acres of available federal lands open to allotment selection.

This represents the third time that federally managed land has been offered to Alaska Native Vietnam veterans, who did not have access to land allotments while serving during the Vietnam War.

The BLM recently completed an environmental assessment and issued a finding of no significant impact on the effects of opening of federal lands within the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula, Ring of Fire, Bay, Bering Sea-Western Interior, and East Alaska planning areas to selection under the 2019 Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment program.?

The Environmental Assessment documented the environmental analysis of three action alternatives:

Alternative B, BLM’s Proposed Action, which would open approximately 27.8 million acres of additional BLM- administered land to allotment selection under the Allotment Program.

Alternative C, which is the same as Alternative B, except that the BLM would not open lands to allotment selection that top filed lands which the State of Alaska has identified as Priority 1 or 2

Alternative D, which is the same as Alternative B, except that the BLM would not open lands identified by the Calista Regional Corporation during public scoping. Alternative C would open approximately 27 million acres and Alternative D would open approximately 25.7 million acres .

The Bureau of Land Management announced today the selection of Alternative C which would open approximately 27 million acres of land to allotment selection under the Alaska Native Allotment Program. Lands opened to allotment selection under Alternative C would not include lands within a quarter mile of important cultural resource sites, including lands applied for by regional corporations pursuant to ANCSA section 14(h)(1) and known cultural resources that the BLM identified as needing protection. Similarly, Alternative C would not open lands for allotment selection within a minimum of 500 feet of the Iditarod National Historic Trail (EA, Section 2.2.1).2 Finally, Alternative C would not open areas with top-filings that have been identified as Priority 1 or 2 by the State of Alaska (roughly 840,000 acres).

The Bureau of Land Management will now complete the legal descriptions to open the lands to selection. Lands are available for selection through December 29, 2025.

However, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) today disputed Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s claim that she is “[moving] expeditiously to deliver on [her] promise” to Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans to take steps to swiftyly approve the public land order the Biden administration inherited.

“The Biden administration inherited a commonsense solution to the land issues that have plagued our Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans for the last fifty years,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said from Fairbanks, “They received a public land order from the Trump administration that simply needed to be published into the Federal Register. Secretary Haaland should have immediately issued the public land order prepared by the Department of the Interior’s professional Alaska-based staff. "

Today, Haaland accepted a “Finding of No Significant Impact” from the acting Alaska Bureau of Land Management director on the Environmental Assessment for the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Allotment Program. Quoting a news release from Sen. Sullivan, "In accepting the “Finding of No Significant Impact”, Secretary Haaland again declined to take steps to approve and send the public land orders completed by the prior interior secretary, David Bernhardt, an action supported by a broad coalition of Alaskans. "

Sullivan said, “Alaska’s congressional delegation for the past year has been encouraging her to do so, including most recently in a letter sent earlier this week (pdf). Despite assurances to the [Alaska] delegation that she would urgently address this issue, the secretary has delayed for over a year. Sadly, many of these Vietnam-era veterans who fought for our country and suffered discrimination thereafter have not lived to receive the land our federal government promised them. After today’s announcement, it now appears many more may not either."

“This announcement is cause for great concern. The environmental assessment will delay the program undeservedly, complicate the land pattern unnecessarily, and bring about years - if not decades - of litigation," said Sullivan. 

Sullivan said, “I call on the secretary to reverse course immediately and take the steps outlined in our letter to swiftly approve the public land order the Biden administration inherited. Anything less disrespects our Alaska Native veterans and is unacceptable.”

Quoting the letter signed by both Sens. Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, Haaland was "reminded that section 1119 includes a five-year sunset of the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment Program, and every day of continued delay for additional reviews, consultations, and analysis further jeopardizes the ability for Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans or their heirs to receive their promised allotments. We ask that you do the right thing and remedy the situation by immediately lifting the PLOs - in their entirety - because it is simple, takes no more time, and adds no additional costs. Your commitment to this result will accelerate the selection of lands by Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans, and help fulfill the largest Native claims in American history after a more than 50-year wait. "


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. However, at that time, 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.

On March 12, 2019, President Donald Trump signed S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, legislation authored by Senator Lisa Murkowski and shepherded through the House by Congressman Don Young. The bill included a provision authored by Senator Sullivan allowing several thousand Alaska Native veterans who served during the Vietnam era to apply for their congressionally-promised ANCSA land allotment of up to 160 acres after missing their initial opportunity due to their service.

In April of 2021, the Interior Department under President Joe Biden imposed a two-year stay on the implementation of several new Public Land Orders (PLOs) in Alaska, despite the PLOs already being signed. These PLOs would have lifted withdrawal restrictions on 28 million acres of BLM land that have been in place for nearly a half century and whose purposes have long been met.

On March 24, 2022, Secretary Haaland, through BLM, introduced an Environmental Assessment for the Alaska Native Vietnam-era Veterans Land Allotment Program, causing further complications and delay.

The Dingel Act makes land selections available through December 29, 2025, which the senators say means the Biden administration’s actions since taking office have significantly narrowed the window of time available for eligible veterans or their heirs.

Source of News:

Office of U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan

U.S. Dept of Interior

Bureau of Land Management

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