The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized its rules to allow nearly 2,000 Alaska Native veterans to apply for federal land allotments of up to 160 acres in the state under the 2019 Dingell Act.
The program is open to all eligible Alaska Natives who served between Aug. 5, 1964, and Dec. 31, 1971, and it removes the requirement for personal use or occupancy mandated under previous laws. Those receiving allotments under previous programs are ineligible.
Rules governing the 5-year program are final and effective, and the application period will begin, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which is anticipated in the coming weeks. They explain all facets of the program, including eligibility requirements; how and where to apply; how to find and select available land; and how different potential disputes would be settled.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, the Department of the Interior is proud and committed to delivering on this decades-old promise,” said Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. “This program finally delivers equity to Vietnam-era Alaskan Native veterans, who were unable to participate in the allotment process due to their tremendous service and sacrifices to our Nation.”
“The BLM, in conjunction with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is ready to process the applications for Alaskan Native veterans or their heirs,” said the BLM’s Deputy Director of Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “This is a great example of the BLM serving our community and doing our part to honor our nation’s military veterans.”
“This program affirms our commitment to Alaska Native veterans, in addition to our Congressional mandate,” said BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett. “We’re excited to get started on this next step of getting land selected and transferred to these deserving veterans over the next five years, and I’m truly inspired by the collaboration and commitment of so many agencies and organizations to get us to this point.”
The BLM notified 1,975 Alaska Native veterans and heirs between July and September that they are eligible to apply for the program. Second notices with applications confirming eligibility are being mailed to individuals and their Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Realty Services Office Tribal Service Providers in conjunction with today’s announcement. Eligibility for about 270 veterans is still pending discharge status verification.
“The Alaska Native Vietnam veterans who missed the deadline to apply for land claims because they were serving our country finally have a new chance to apply for their rightful allotments,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski, who sponsored the Dingell Act that carried this new program into law. “I thank the teams at the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management for seeing this provision through to reality and opening up this new application period. I especially thank Nelson Angapak and his fellow veterans for their service, tireless advocacy, and decades-long persistence in shining a light on this issue to ensure the United States rights this historic wrong.”
“Thousands of Alaska Natives, who courageously stepped up to serve our country in a time of war, are finally in sight of the land allotments they are legally entitled to but missed out on due to their service,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “I have been honored to work alongside my delegation colleagues and so many Alaska leaders to get this new application opportunity passed into law and implemented. Alaskans have spent years championing this noble cause — never giving up, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable hurdles and bureaucracy — and that determination is paying off. I want to thank the DOI and BLM officials who have faithfully executed the law and worked diligently to quickly stand up this program and ensure every eligible veteran or their heir is reached.”
“Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans put their lives on the line for our nation, and for too long, the federal government fell shamefully short of making good on the promises of land allotments made to them. I am very proud that with the support of tireless Alaska Native advocates, the Alaska Delegation, and the Administration, we have finally rectified this injustice,” said Congressman Don Young. “Opening up applications and outlining the process is a critical step forward for our heroes. I am grateful to the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management for working with the Alaska Delegation, ANCs, and countless veterans and their advocates throughout this process. I want to especially thank Nelson Angapak, whose dogged advocacy and commitment to his fellow Alaska Native Vietnam veterans helped make this possible. I look forward to well-earned land finally being allotted to these brave Alaskans and remarkable Americans.”
The BIA determined Native status for about 10 million records it received from the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs in late 2019 and early 2020. The BLM used BIA findings to notify those who have not previously received land allotments that they may be eligible to apply under the new law. The newly published rules also provide instructions for veterans not receiving notifications to demonstrate their eligibility and apply.
Rules for the program were developed over the past year through extensive collaboration between the BLM, BIA, Department of Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the State of Alaska, Alaska Native corporations, Native entities, and tribal representatives. More than 140 public comments received on proposed rules during July and August 2020 also informed rule development.
Veterans who need assistance or believe they are eligible but were not notified should contact their BIA Realty Tribal Service Provider or the BLM Alaska Native Allotment Section with questions at (907) 271-5998 or CGrimes@blm.gov.
Rules and downloadable applications – as well as contact information, FAQs, and a link to select currently available land – are also available on the program web page at https://www.blm.gov/alaska/2019AKNativeVetsLand. Applications will also be available from BIA Realty Services Office Tribal Service Providers and BLM Alaska Public Rooms once the rules are published in the Federal Register.