Federal order opens more land to selection by Alaska Native Vietnam veterans

More than 50 years after many Alaska Natives were unable to apply for their rightful 160 acres of land because they were fighting in Vietnam, a solution is now in place that overcomes laws and regulations that stifled their efforts for decades.

About 27 million acres of public land in Alaska managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management are being made available, with details and applications available online, according to an order filed Aug. 15 in the Federal Register. The parcels are mostly in the Northwest, Southwest and Interior regions of the state, with a relatively small number of lots in Southeast in the vicinity of Skagway and Haines.

Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s order vastly expands the 1.2 million acres of federal land made available for the program under then-President Donald Trump, authorized when Congress passed a bill in 2019 sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

It also removes some bureaucratic complications in the application and evaluation process, including some of the original lands being put under a stay in 2021 when President Joe Biden called for a review of orders issued by Trump.

The stay received significant criticism from veterans and Alaska Republicans.

George Bennett Sr., an Alaska Native Vietnam veteran in Juneau, expressed enthusiasm for the new order opening up more land. “That’s probably going to be a big plus for a lot of our veterans to finally have a choice beyond the original lands they gave us to choose from,” he said Aug. 18, referring to the 1.2 million acres previously allotted.

Bennett said one of his hopes going forward is efforts will be made to obtain land parcels for heirs of veterans who were killed while serving overseas during the 1960s.

Alaska Natives were promised 160 acres of land in the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act, but restrictions prevented many people from applying until the 1960s, when it wasn’t feasible for many serving in Vietnam and elsewhere overseas. The process was interrupted by the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971.

“Subject to valid existing rights, the lands described in the Public Lands Order will be open to selection and application processing starting at 8 a.m. Alaska time on Sept. 14,” the Bureau of Land Management announced in a statement. “The BLM has already received approximately 203 applications for allotments on these lands. All valid applications received prior to the opening date shall be considered simultaneously filed at that time. Those received thereafter shall be considered in the order of filing.”

Eligible veterans can apply for allotments until Dec. 29, 2025.


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