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Comments Needed on River Protection in the Arctic

Posted: 04/06/2021
By: Kevin Colburn

A new proposed Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management plan for 55.7 million acres in Northern Alaska would fail to protect any of the 11 rivers their analysis finds to be eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. If you have paddled any of the affected rivers in this area we strongly encourage you to review the planning documents and submit comments in support of protection of Wild and Scenic River values in the Central Yukon Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. The comment deadline is June 9, 2021


The BLM routinely finds rivers eligible for Wild and Scenic designation and then, through a questionable practice that American Whitewater has asked them to cease doing at a national level, eliminates the protections that would come with eligibility by finding the rivers "unsuitable" for designation. This suitability phase includes a political snapshot of designation support that is more often than not negative. It is important to ask that the BLM find all eligible streams to also be suitable and to support those requests with information on why the rivers merit protection. 


In this proposed plan, Alternative C2, which BLM has identified as the “Preferred Alternative”, would strip eligibility protections from all eligible streams by finding them unsuitable. Under Alternative A ( no action ) and Alternative B, 603 miles of these rivers, even if not designated for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic river system, would continue to be managed as eligible to protect their values. These conditions include free-flowing condition, “ORV’s” ( Outstanding Remarkable Values ), and adequate water quality. Continuing current management would not diminish these qualities. 


The 11 eligible rivers that stand to lose Wild and Scenic eligibility protections are: 

Atigun River
Colville River
Dietrich River
Dulbi River
Hogatza River
Jim River
Kanuti-Kilolitna River
Mathews River
Sagavanirktok River-Lower (Sag) 
Sulukna River


While we focus on the Wild and Scenic management of potential Wild and Scenic Rivers, the plan's scope is much bigger. The Approved Plan and Record of Decision for the Central Yukon RMP/EIS will guide management of these public lands for the next 15 to 20 years for the benefit of current and future generations as part of BLM’s multiple-use mission. This planning effort is updating management decisions for public land uses and resources, including mineral development, recreation uses, access to public lands, subsistence, and wildlife and riparian habitat. When complete, the updated Central Yukon RMP will replace the Utility Corridor RMP (1991), the original Central Yukon RMP (1986), and portions of the Southwest Management Framework Plan (1981), as well as provide RMP-level decisions for unplanned lands west of Fairbanks.

If you are not already aware of this plan, a good place to start is the Virtual Public Meeting located at
The relevant documents to review can be found here: 
The section about how to provide useful and substantive comments is important. 

If you have run rivers in this area, please submit substantive comments sharing the values of the river, photos, and support for Wild and Scenic protection. 

Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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