Biden administration freezes Alaska mineral development orders, veteran allotments

A dredge in a river bed
This dredge, located in Flat, Alaska, is a relic of the once-thriving gold rush era community. (Josh Edge/Alaska Public Media)

The U.S. Interior Department has announced a two-year delay of several orders issued by the Trump administration that looked to open 28 million acres of land in Alaska for mineral development.

The federal government’s decision will allow a review of five public land orders issued by the agency between Jan. 11 and Jan. 16 — the final days of the Trump administration, Interior Press Secretary Tyler Cherry said in a statement on Thursday.

The decision covers land that Alaska can select for state ownership.

It also covers many of the lands that an estimated 2,000 Vietnam-era Alaska Native veterans can select for 160-acre allotments under a 2019 law, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Veterans that qualify have until 2025 to apply for the allotments.

“The department is committed to honoring those land selections, as well as land selections made by the state of Alaska, on eligible lands,” the Interior Department said in a statement.

The department said it wants to review “defects” in the public land orders regarding requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The areas to be reviewed included ones that involved an “inadequate review of potential impacts on subsistence hunting and fishing,” the agency said.

The Interior Department said it will determine whether all 28 million acres should be eligible for mineral development.

The lands include ground overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in Western Alaska, such as the Western Interior, the Seward Peninsula, Bristol Bay, Southcentral Alaska and eastern Alaska.