Delay revoking land orders irks Alaska congressional delegation

A Biden administration decision to postpone the revocation of public land orders signed by Trump administration Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is drawing criticism from Alaska’s congressional delegation, for its potential impact on resource development.

Interior Department officials on Jan. 19 published a final notice in the Federal Register to revoke, in part, 11 PLOs issued in 1972 and 1973 that were put in place to allow Alaska Native corporations to select lands promised to them by Congress 50 years ago, the delegation said. Since the selections are complete, the federal Bureau of Land Management recommended that the PLOs be revoked through the Kobuk-Seward Peninsula Resource Management Plan.

By removing the PLOs, the land will return to multiple-use status and could potentially be used for resource development on nearly 10 million acres of Bureau of Land Management territory in Western Alaska, the delegation said.

The 60-day delay moves the revocation of the PLOs from Feb. 18 to April 19.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young, all R-Alaska, said these lands were opened up for responsible resource development with Alaska’s best interest in mind and consistent with BLM multiple use mission, ensuring productivity of public lands. “These delays also have significant implications for the implementation of the Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Act, as they are preventing Native veterans from being able to apply for that land,” they said.