Interior, BLM seeks comments for land allotment for Alaska Native Vietnam vets

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/27/2020 10:00 AM
WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management are seeking public comments to inform the land allotment program for Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans. 

The provision was enacted as a part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which would allow thousands of Alaska Natives who served the country during the Vietnam-era to receive up to 160 acres promised to them in previous Native allotment statutes. These veterans missed their opportunities to apply under previous laws because of their military service.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is delighted to see Alaska Natives who served in Vietnam receiving the opportunity to gain allotments of land in acknowledgement of their service to the nation as Congress intended,” said Secretary of Veteran Affairs Robert Wilkie. “Alaska Native and other Native Americans serve at astonishing rates not seen anywhere else in the country. This public comment period represents progress toward achieving the congressional mandate and soon will allow these veterans to realize allotments.”

The BLM welcomes feedback from the public on the proposed rules, which are the product of extensive collaboration between the BLM, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as Alaska Native organizations.

“As the father of an active-duty Marine and a Marine Corps veteran myself, I know the sacrifices made by veterans and their dedication to our nation – particularly those who served during the Vietnam Era,” William Perry Pendley, BLM deputy director for Programs and Policy, said. “That’s why I’m proud that the BLM is helping honor America’s commitment to many of them through this collaborative effort.”

BLM now features a real-time Available Lands Map, which helps eligible individuals identify BLM-managed public lands currently and potentially available to them for selection under the Alaska Native Vietnam era veterans land allotment section of the 2019 John D. Dingell Act. BLM and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Realty Tribal Service Providers are undergoing training to help eligible veterans make selections using the available lands map once BLM eligibility notifications begin later this year. The map is updated in real time as additional lands are made available, and basic navigation is similar to popular internet maps already in use.

The BIA determined Native status for about 10 million records it received from the DOD and VA in 2019 and 2020. The BLM will use BIA findings to notify those who have not previously received land allotments that they may be eligible to apply under the new law. Eligible individuals will then begin receiving notifications and application material in separate mailings from the BLM, with a copy of their notification sent to their BIA Realty Services Office Tribal Service Provider. 

Eligible veterans should ensure their mailing address and phone number are up to date with the BIA, their BIA Realty Tribal Service Provider and their personal representatives if applicable (including the cases of heirs). BLM and BIA suspects contact information remains outdated for notifying some veterans of their eligibility, and through outreach will notify veterans and their loved ones of their eligibility.

Public comments will guide the land allotment program for Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans, fulfilling the congressional mandate. The announcement opens a 30-day public comment period on the proposed rule, which closes 30 days from publication in the Federal Register.

One may submit comments on the proposed rule, identified by the number RIN 1004-AE66, by any of the following methods:

· Mail/ Personal or messenger delivery: S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134 LM, 1849 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240, Attention: RIN 1004-AE61; and

· Federal eRulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter “RIN 1004-AE66” and click the “Search” button. Follow instructions on this website.

The proposed rule includes information collection activities that must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget within 30-60 days. One may submit comments on the information collection activities by any of the following methods. Please indicate “OMB Control Number 1004–AE66” regardless of the method used to submit comments on information collection by calling the fax number 202-395-5806 or by emailing OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov.

Find progress updates, information, timelines, the available lands map and answers to frequently-asked questions about the Alaska Native Veterans Program of 2019 on BLM Alaska’s program web page. 

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