To which lands do the Approved RMPs apply?
The Draanjik ROD/RMP applies to approximately 2.4 million acres of BLM-managed lands in the northeast portion of the Eastern Interior Field Office. This is the first land use plan for BLM-managed lands in this area.
The Fortymile ROD/RMP applies to approximately 1.8 million acres of BLM-managed lands in the Fortymile region. This RMP replaces the 1980 Fortymile Management Framework Plan.
The Steese ROD/RMP applies to approximately 1.3 million acres of BLM-managed lands, including the Steese National Conservation Area, Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River, and scattered parcels near Circle and Central, Alaska. This RMP replaces the 1986 Steese RMP.
The White Mountains ROD/RMP applies to approximately 1 million acres of BLM-managed lands including the White Mountains National Recreation Area and associated lands, and lands near Livengood, Alaska. This RMP replaces the 1986 White Mountains RMP.
What time period is covered by the Approved RMPs?
An RMP is a blueprint explaining how the BLM will manage areas of public land and has no specific life-span. BLM District Offices prepare RMPs for the lands within their boundaries. RMPs contain decisions that guide future management actions and subsequent site-specific implementation decisions. RMPs establish goals and objectives for resource management (desired outcomes) and the measures needed to achieve these goals and objectives (management actions and allowable uses).
RMPs are periodically evaluated to determine whether management decisions contained within them are still current and adequate. Where changing conditions (such as the Federal listing of a wildlife or plant species as threatened or endangered) and/or demands on the public lands have resulted in the need to update management decisions in the RMP, the BLM may either revise or amend the RMP to bring it into conformance with these changing conditions.
Why did the RMPs take so long to complete?
Resource Management Plan development is a complex process that requires intensive staff and public involvement. At numerous points in the process, the BLM responds to public comments received. For this plan, the public raised concerns about several issues – including subsistence, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and mineral resources in the White Mountains – prompting the BLM to do additional analysis in order to move forward. There are various internal and external reviews as well, including Tribal governments and the State of Alaska. While RMPs often take a long time to complete, it is important to take the time necessary to understand the issues to be addressed and be thoughtful in crafting appropriate management approaches to address those issues.
What happens next?
The Approved RMPs guide future decisions the BLM makes on requests for use of the public lands. Activities permitted by the BLM must be consistent with the Approved RMPs. The BLM will conduct site specific analysis of impacts under the National Environmental Protection Act for future permitting decisions and internal activities.
The RMPs also require development of activity level plans and supplementary rules. These actions require an additional decision making process, involving public participation. The process for developing supplementary rules is outlined in section 2.2.1 of each Approved RMP. When beginning a transportation and travel management plan or developing supplementary rules, the BLM will notice the public through a variety of means including press release, website, social media, existing mailing lists, and other appropriate means.
Does the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) allow the BLM to designate Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs)?
Concerns have been raised about BLM’s adherence to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANICLA) with the designation of ACECs. The designation of an ACEC in Alaska does not violate ANILCA’s “no more” clause. The BLM gave careful consideration to the provisions of the ‘no more clause’ when determining the designation of these ACECs, and they do not violate the intent of ANILCA.
Do the Approved RMPs designate any ACECs?
Yes. The Approved RMPs designate three Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs): the Salmon Fork ACEC in the Draanjik Approved RMP, and the Fortymile ACEC and the Mosquito Flats ACEC in the Fortymile Approved RMP. Additionally, four Research Natural Areas (RNAs) are carried forward as valid existing administrative designations in the Steese and White Mountains Approved RMPs: Big Windy Hot Springs (Steese), Mount Prindle (Steese and White Mountains), Limestone Jags (White Mountains), and Serpentine Slide (White Mountains) RNAs.
What is a 17(d)(1) withdrawal?
This refers to Section 17(d)(1) in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. ANCSA authorized the Secretary of Interior to withdraw and reserve public lands for study and classification. This was done through a series of Public Land Orders (PLOs) issued between 1972 and 1975. The PLOs closed the lands to disposal and appropriation under public laws, including mining and leasing. The withdrawals kept the lands unencumbered for selection by ANCSA corporations, and prevented the creation of new third-party interests that would interfer with land conveyance. The withdrawals also allowed the BLM time to study and classify the lands.
Are there 17(d)(1) withdrawals in the planning area?
Yes. Portions of six 17(d)(1) withdrawals cover lands in the Eastern Interior Planning Area. These PLOs effectively close the planning area to mineral entry and location under the 1872 mining law, and to mineral leasing under the mineral leasing laws.
If the 17(d)(1) withdrawals are modified or revoked, would that make lands in the planning area available for mineral development?
Lifting the 17(d)(1) withdrawals would open some lands in the planning area to leasable and locatable minerals. In some cases, lifting the (d)(1) withdrawals would not have an immediate effect. Lands selected by ANCSA corporations and the State of Alaska would remain "segregated" (unavailable) to leasable or locatable mineral entry. Additionally, the White Mountains National Recreation Area, the Steese National Conservation Area, and some lands within wild river corridors are withdrawn from mineral entry pursuant to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). In some areas, such as the Steese National Conservation Area, the Secretary of Interior has the authority to modify the ANILCA withdrawals, and make lands available for mineral entry. In other areas the Secretary does not have this discretion. In most cases the ANILCA withdrawals apply to public lands that are also subject to 17(d)(1) withdrawals. In areas withdrawn pursuant to ANILCA, removal of the 17(d)(1) withdrawals could result in opening the area to leasable minerals, but would not open it to locatable minerals unless the ANILCA withdrawal was also modified.
Do the Approved RMPs place limits on the use of off-highway vehicles?
The RMPs implement off-highway vehicle (OHV) area designations for all planning areas and a travel management plan for the Draanjik Planning Area. Future travel management plans for the Steese, White Mountains, and Fortymile planning areas would impose some restrictions on motorized use. The specific restrictions recommended in travel management plans would be implemented through supplemental rules.
Would new areas be opened to mining under the Approved RMPs?
The RMPs collectively recommend the Secretary of Interior partially revoke ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawals to open 1.7 million acres of BLM-managed lands to mineral location (staking of mining claims) and mineral leasing. The final decision would rest with the Secretary of the Interior.
How do the Approved RMPs address concerns over the future health of caribou herds?
To minimize disturbance to caribou, the RMPs recommend designation of 362,000 acres of Fortymile Caribou Herd habitat as an ACEC and also identifies management actions for crucial caribou habitat outside of the ACEC. Proposed ACEC management recommends the Secretary of the Interior issue withdrawals to close some caribou habitats to mineral exploration and development. In addition, wildlife management decisions in the RMPs establish seasonal restrictions on some activities in crucial caribou habitat and propose reclamation standards intended to benefit caribou. Travel management planning will further refine restrictions on OHV use in caribou habitat.
Does the White Mountains RMP allow for mineral leasing or location in the White Mountains National Recreation Area?
No. The White Mountains ROD/RMP keeps the White Mountains National Recreation Area closed to hardrock mineral leasing.
Do the Approved RMPs result in any new wilderness areas or wild and scenic rivers?
No. Only Congress may designate wilderness or change the status of wilderness areas. The Approved RMPs do not propose any such designations. Through a wilderness characteristics inventory, the BLM found that 99 percent of lands in the Eastern Interior Planning Area have wilderness characteristics. The Approved RMPs would indirectly maintain wilderness characteristics on 3.4 million acres through proposed or existing designations, such as ACECs, Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Steese National Conservation Area, and the White Mountains National Recreation Area. Additionally management of high-priority riparian areas and crucial caribou and Dall sheep habitats would also protect wilderness characteristics.
Under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, only Congress or the Secretary of the Interior may designate a wild and scenic river. The Proposed RMP/Final EIS considered five rivers to be eligible for potential designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers, but the RODs do not determine them to be suitable for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers, instead protecting them through other means.