BLM decision allows for potential lands exchange with CAC

Bureau of Land Management officials say they are conducting an environmental analysis in advance of potential exchanges of land near Thompson Pass with Chugach Alaska Corp.

The BLM decision announced on Monday, Jan. 31, said that the decision includes a finding of no significant impact for an amendment to the East Alaska Resource Management Plan of 2007 on those lands in the vicinity of Valdez.

Each of two parcels of land approved for potential exchange is 640 acres, for a total of some 1,280 acres. The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act required the BLM to identify “accessible and economically viable federal land” within the Chugach region that could be recommended to Congress for exchange options with Chugach Alaska Corp., the Alaska Native regional corporation established under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Josie Hickel, executive vice president of CAC, said that the regional corporation has been working closely with the BLM on a potential land exchange for several years.

“We applaud the BLM for issuing an amicable decision that allows us to move forward with this process,” Hickel said. This decision will ultimately provide better access to adjacent lands owned by Chugach and two village corporations in the Chugach region, the Tatitlek Corp, and the Eyak Corp., she said. “We are also grateful to the state of Alaska for their willingness to provide a conditional relinquishment of these lands to allow for an exchange with Chugach.”

Hickel said that Chugach has no specific development plans for that land at this time, and that any further development would take into consideration the needs and opportunities of local stakeholders in the area.  Still the corporation is looking forward to continued partnering with agencies to complete the exchange as expeditiously as possible including honoring existing public easement on the property, she said.

The BLM manages relatively few lands in the Chugach region and most of those lands are within the East Alaska planning area. Since the management plan does not identify any lands available for exchange, the Federal Lands Policy Management Act requires the BLM to amend the plan to allow for a potential exchange.

The environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact was made available for a 30-day protest period before a decision record was signed.