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Historic Opportunity to Safeguard 28 Million Acres of Salmon-Dwelling Public Land

Comment now to tell the BLM not to rollback crucial protections for high-value Alaskan species like salmon.

Historic Opportunity to Safeguard 28 Million Acres of Salmon-Dwelling Public Land

The BLM opened a 60-day public comment period as it reviews a sweeping rollback of protections to Alaska's salmon habitat. (Photo courtesy of the Wild Salmon Center)

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opened a 60-day public comment period as it reviews a sweeping rollback of land protections to 28 million acres of Alaska's public land from extractive industrial development. The issue centers around five Public Land Orders proposed by the Trump Administration's Secretary of the Interior in the final days of the presidency, aiming to open up vast areas to extractive industries, including salmon- and wildlife-rich regions in Bristol Bay, Bering Sea Western Interior, East Alaska, Kobuk Seward, and the Ring of Fire. Anglers now have two months to voice support for the five species of Pacific salmon, native trout, and char that inhabit these areas.

These orders target the federally managed "D-1" lands which have been off-limits to mineral, oil, and gas extraction since the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. These unfragmented habitats support diverse ecosystems from alpine tundra to pristine estuaries, providing critical environments for the world's most abundant wild sockeye runs in Bristol Bay.

“It is incredibly hard to protect large landscapes,” Wild Salmon Center Alaska Program Director Emily Anderson said on the non-profit’s website. “So it’s huge that, for the first time, BLM is really looking at how land use decisions could impact large landscapes, fish and wildlife habitat, and cultural and subsistence resources beyond its standard lens.”

The D-1 lands are vital for Alaska Native communities relying on subsistence fishing and hunting, ensuring food security and preserving a way of life With the pressures of climate change threatening these natural systems, human communities, and fish and wildlife populations, the protection of D-1 lands is becoming increasingly crucial, say representatives from the Wild Salmon Center.

A person kneeling facing away from the camera looking at a river in Alaska.
These orders target diverse ecosystems from alpine tundra to pristine estuaries. (Photo courtesy of the Wild Salmon Center)

"These are prime coldwater fisheries for salmon and trout," Oakley Brooks, Communications Director for the Wild Salmon Center, said.  "Allowing these lands to be opened means they'll forever be vulnerable to mining and drilling." 

The previous administration's Public Land Orders now force the BLM into a decision-making process, triggering an environmental review that spans wide-ranging BLM lands. This comprehensive perspective is a departure from the agency's standard approach, considering the impact of extractive development on large landscapes and high-value migratory species like salmon.

Anderson stressed the urgency of this historic opportunity, emphasizing the need to secure a significant win for Alaska's ecosystems and communities, preserving some of the last undisturbed public lands.

“Help us protect public land uses that support local communities, and prioritize clean water, healthy habitat, and food security over industrial development,” Anderson said. “Right now, BLM needs to hear our message loud and clear. We have 60 days to stand up for some of the last, intact large landscapes left on the planet.”

Click here to make your voice heard.




A map showing BLM lands in Alaska.
If the contested Public Land Orders take effect, over half of Alaska's BLM-managed D-1 lands would lose crucial protections for migrating fish, caribou, and Alaska Native communities' priority use for fishing, hunting, and foraging. (Map courtesy of the Wild Salmon Center)

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