To which lands does the Proposed RMP apply?
The Eastern Interior Planning Area includes approximately 30 million acres of public, State, and private lands, of which approximately 6.5 million acres are managed by the BLM. Management measures described in this Proposed RMP apply only to BLM-managed lands in the planning area; no measures have been developed for private, State, or other federally managed lands. However, the BLM-managed lands considered in the Proposed RMP included 2.3 million acres of lands that were selected by the State of Alaska or Alaska Native corporations for conveyance. The BLM has responsibility to manage these selected lands until they are either conveyed or selections removed.
What time period is covered by the Proposed RMP?
An RMP is a blueprint explaining how the BLM will manage areas of public land and have 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).
The BLM would begin to implement the RMP upon approval of the record of decision (ROD). There will be four records of decision — one for each planning subunit: White Mountains, Steese, Fortymile, and Upper Black River (Draanjik).
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 RMP 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.
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.
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.
Does the Proposed RMP place limits on the use of off-highway vehicles?
Motorized use is currently unrestricted on 66 percent of BLM-managed lands due to the absence of off-highway vehicle (OHV) designations, and is subject to only minor limitations on the remaining lands where OHV designations are in place. The Proposed RMP would implement OHV area designations and future travel management plans would impose some restrictions on motorized use on all lands in the planning area. The specific restrictions recommended in travel management plans would be implemented through supplemental rules.
Would new areas be opened to mining under the Proposed RMP?
The Proposed RMP recommends the Secretary of Interior partially revoke ANCSA 17(d)(1) withdrawals to open 2.4 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 does the Proposed RMP address concerns over the future health of caribou herds?
To minimize disturbance to caribou, the Proposed RMP recommends 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 Proposed RMP 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 Proposed RMP allow for mineral leasing or location in the White Mountains National Recreation Area?
The Proposed RMP recommends keeping the White Mountains National Recreation Area closed to hardrock mineral leasing. This decision was made after reviewing and considering public comments on the Supplement to the Eastern Interior Draft RMP/EIS.
Would the Proposed RMP 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 Proposed RMP does not propose any such designations. Through a wilderness characteristics inventory, the BLM found that 99 percent of lands in the planning area have wilderness characteristics. The Proposed RMP 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 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 identifies five rivers within the planning area that are eligible as wild and scenic rivers under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act criteria but finds none of them suitable for designation.
Why doesn’t the Proposed RMP reflect the recent official name change from Black River to Draanjik River?
On April 30, 2014, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names officially changed the name of the Black River to Draanjik River. Draanjik is the traditional Gwich'in name for the river and translates as "caches along the river." In the PRMP/FEIS, the BLM continues to use the name "Black River” to avoid confusion, – especially for those comparing draft and proposed versions of the document. However, in the Approved RMP and Record of Decision, the BLM will change the name of the "Upper Black River Subunit" to the "Draanjik Subunit", change all references to the mainstem Black River to Draanjik River, and update maps to show the new name.
What are locatable and leasable minerals?
Locatable minerals are minerals for which the right to explore, develop, and extract mineral resources is established by the staking of mining claims, under the General Mining Law of 1872. Examples of locatable minerals include metallic minerals (i.e., gold, silver copper, zinc, etc.) and non-metallic minerals (i.e., certain limestones, gypsum, diatomaceous earth, fluorspar, etc.).
Leasable minerals are defined by the Mineral Leasing Act and are either solid or fluid leasable minerals. Solid leasable minerals include coal, oil shale, native asphalt, phosphate, sodium, potash, potassium, and sulfur. Fluid leasable minerals include oil, gas, coalbed natural gas, and geothermal resources. Exploration and production of these minerals on BLM lands may only occur on leases acquired by competitive leasing.