FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, October 11, 2021
Terri Parr, Executive Director
PORTLAND, OR — A resolution passed by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) calls on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to initiate and complete a rulemaking to improve how Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) are established and managed for current and future generations. ACEC regulations were mandated nearly 50 years ago in the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 but never developed or implemented by the agency. Tribes whose ancestral lands are now managed by the BLM believe that updated ACEC guidance will provide an important basis upon which BLM can conserve natural, cultural, and historic resource values in support of Tribal rights and interests.
ACECs can be used “to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources or other natural systems or processes” However, in practice, the BLM has not fulfilled the promise of this designation. While Congress, through FLPMA, has directed the BLM to “give priority to the designation and protection of” ACECs, the agency chose to eliminate almost 4 million acres of existing ACECs and reject the more than 14 million acres of nominations for new ACECs put forward by Alaska Tribes in the Bering Sea-Western Interior and Central Yukon Resource Management Planning processes. BLM’s disregard for Tribal interests in ACECs in these two Alaska plans compelled ATNI to advance this resolution.
Even though FLPMA required the development of regulations to guide the establishment and management of ACECs, no regulations have been developed in the more than four decades since the law’s enactment. ATNI’s resolution states that because of the lack of an ACEC regulation, the criteria for establishing ACECs varies across BLM-managed lands, and areas designated as ACECs are managed inconsistently. Tribes are especially concerned about ACECs nominated for protection of Traditional landscapes since they are intended to protect values on the ground, such as critical watersheds and migration corridors.
ATNI stands firmly with Tribes in seeking federal government action to correct this oversight and asks the BLM to promptly develop ACEC Regulations. “Tribes have been experiencing unjust management of Traditional lands by the Bureau – even wholesale rejection of Tribal nominations for conservation – and having a Regulation will resolve uneven application and management of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern,” said Terri Parr, ATNI Executive Director. “This ACEC rulemaking will prioritize, define, identify, designate, and conserve ACECs, and updated guidance could improve how ACECs are established and managed – and this is good for Tribes.”
The resolution will now be reviewed and considered at the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) Annual Virtual Convention, which starts this week.
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians
In 1953 farsighted tribal leaders in the Northwest formed the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and dedicated it to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Today, ATNI is a membership-based, nonprofit organization representing over 50 Northwest Tribal governments from Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Southeast Alaska, Northern California, and Montana. ATNI is an organization whose foundation is composed of the people it is meant to serve — the Indian peoples. Through its conferences, forums, networks, and alliances, ATNI intends to represent and advocate for the interests of its member Tribes to national Indian and non-Indian organizations and governments.