Resource Development Council

RDC Action Alert:
Bristol Bay Area Plan

Comment deadline was May 6, 2013

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The State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is taking public comment on the proposed draft determination of reclassification and plan amendment to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan (BBAP). The comment period closes on May 6, 2013.

The BBAP will manage approximately 19 million acres of State land. Much of the lands in the BBAP are resource rich, and much of the area is designated for mining.

DNR agreed to a plan amendment process as part of a stipulation entered into between the DNR and the plaintiffs in a lawsuit, Nondalton Tribal Council et al. v. State of Alaska, 3DI-09-46CI. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Nondalton Tribal Council, Trout Unlimited, and other entities, opposed to mining activities in the area.

Many of the issues raised by the plaintiffs in that case concern the management approach and classification changes in the 2005 BBAP from the 1984 BBAP. Plaintiffs and other groups that oppose resource development, particularly mining exploration and development, claim the 2005 BBAP favors mining above all other uses and fails to adequately protect wildlife habitat and subsistence.

Please consider submitting your own comments to rebut these claims by those who oppose managing state lands for multiple uses.

The plan amendments are generally technical in nature. Among other changes, the proposed reclassification would increase the lands classified for “wildlife habitat” and “public recreation” by 723,811 acres, and revise the management intent for an additional 1.3 million acres classified for “resource management.”

The classification of land in Alaska is important because land classifications represent management intent, and some classifications can limit how the land is treated. For example, land classified as Wildlife Habitat cannot be selected for municipal entitlement. The addition of Habitat land would remove that land from potential selection by the Lake and Peninsula Borough, and could have the potential to reverse some existing Borough land selections.

DNR has said that “the cumulative impact of these proposed changes is that more lands in the Bristol Bay region would be managed for wildlife habitat and public recreation than under either the 1984 or 2005 area plans.” Significantly, these lands are to be managed for multiple use.

The state's proposed revisions to the 2005 BBAP adequately protect wild game, salmon, subsistence, recreation, sport fishing, or other public uses of land, fish, and game.

Further, groups opposing resource development in the area are urging the public to submit comments to DNR, and to ask the agency to create a new classification specifically for subsistence, to increase habitat classifications for wildlife and fish even more than DNR has already proposed, to prohibit metallic sulfide mines in the Nushagak and Kvichak drainages, and to implement a new Mineral Closing Order that would ban new mining claims on or along salmon spawning streams.

Action Requested:
Submit comments to DNR asserting that the 2005 BBAP struck an appropriate balance between various stakeholder interests, and proposed amendments beyond those agreed to in the settlement of Nondalton Tribal et al v. State of Alaska, are not necessary. Furthermore, the revisions set a dangerous precedent for future area plans.

Submit comments:

Mr. Ray Burger
Resource Assessment and Development Section
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1050
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3579


Fax: (907) 269-8915

To read the full plan, or to submit comments online, visit:

Points to consider in your comments:

  • DNR has a constitutional obligation to manage state-owned lands for the “maximum public benefit” based on the directive in Article VIII Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution: “to encourage the settlement of its land and the development of its resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest.” Sole designation of large sections of the state for wildlife or recreation is contrary to constitutional mandates.
  • DNR agreed to a settlement, which led to this plan revision, to make six changes to the Bristol Bay Area Plan. Considering that the original plan went through the normal process of public hearings and review, the changes should be limited to those agreed to in the case.
  • Using litigation to force further changes in an area plan sets a dangerous precedent to let groups opposing specific projects hold sway, especially over an area plan that impacts 19 million acres.
  • Area planning should be seen in the context of the broader permitting scheme – this does not mean, for example, that because an area has been classified as “mineral” that a mine has been or will be permitted – the classification identifies resource potential, not fully permitted activities.
  • Banning certain activities in an area plan ignores constitutional mandates that include development and multiple use.
  • The 2005 BBAP does not favor mining above other uses. More lands were classified as “mineral” lands in this version because of the additional inventories done between 1984 and 2005 that reflected this potential use. “Mineral” lands are still managed for multiple use, and in most cases are still available for recreation, hunting, fishing, and subsistence activities.
  • Subsistence activities are included in the regulatory definition of “Wildlife Habitat Land,” so there is no need to add a separate category for “subsistence.” Additionally, subsistence is a generally allowed use on state land, and area plans do not affect “generally allowed uses.”
  • Managing “Subsistence” activities is outside of DNR’s jurisdiction. DNR manages land, and the Board of Game decides what subsistence and hunting activities occur in that area.
  • Alaska contains known deposits of Rare Earth Elements (REEs). Many of these REEs are imported to the United States, often from countries with lesser environmental regulations. According to the Mineral Commodities Summaries 2012 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. depended on imports of 50-100% of needs for 43 minerals in 2011, some of which are found in Alaska. Keeping areas open to mineral extraction in Alaska not only provides the opportunity for future responsible resource development, it may also improve national security.
  • Resource development in the area could provide economic benefits to the region, as well as improved or added infrastructure and access to areas for multiple use.
  • Multiple uses should include mining (exploration, leasing, development), as well as recreational and other potential uses. With less than one percent of Alaska in conventional private ownership, access should be available on other lands.
  • The area included in the BBAP should be further evaluated for mineral potential before restrictive land designations are implemented. Sufficient mapping and geological information should be acquired, and until then, the area should be left open to all uses.
Comment deadline was May 6, 2013

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