Bureau of Land Management

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 gives the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) responsibility for managing the land and resources of the public lands of the United States, including those in Arctic Alaska. Management is based on the principles of multiple use and sustained yield, a combination of uses that takes into account the long-term needs of future generations for renewable and nonrenewable resources. These resources include soils, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watersheds, fish and wildlife, wilderness, and natural, scientific and cultural values. The research work is typically site specific for identified problems, as opposed to research for the sake of expanding knowledge.

Funding(thousands)

FY 96 FY 97

Natural Ecology 1,500 2,500
Minerals Research 0 115
Cultural Resources 250 200
Pipeline Monitoring 500 550
Fire Control 350 350
Mining Administration 250 320
Total 2,850 4,035

The BLM's focus has been shifting from commodity development through stages of multiple-use management and resource conservation to ecosystems management. The Department of the Interior established the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Biological Resources Division, which is responsible for most of the Department's biological research (including the BLM's).

Breeding Bird Surveys

Three drainage systems were surveyed for all species of breeding birds as part of a nationwide effort to determine trends in North American bird populations. Surveys were initiated in 1996 with the establishment of a Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route on the Unalakleet River, which flows into Norton Sound. In 1997 an additional route was established on the Anvik River, and a preliminary survey done on the Bonasila River. In 1998 the Bonasila will become a permanent BBS route. The BBS program was administered initially by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and now by the Biological Resources Division of the USGS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. The objective of these surveys and the BBS program is to collect data on bird species and numbers throughout North America, which provides a source of standardized data on populations of breeding birds.

The BBS program has existed since 1966. Currently the BBS consists of approximately 3700 active survey routes throughout the continental U.S., Canada and Alaska. Each route is randomly located and 25 miles long, with 50 stops at half-mile intervals. All birds seen or heard within a quarter mile of each stop during a three-minute point count are tallied. For each species the total number of individuals counted along a route is used as an index of relative abundance. A trend analysis statistical procedure is used to produce an estimate of population change, or trend, presented as a mean percent change per year. In Alaska many routes are set up and run along rivers because of the lack of a road network.

Thirty-four species of birds have been recorded on the Unalakleet route, 42 on the Anvik route, and 54 on the Bonasila route. The Canada goose and common redpoll were the two most abundant species on the Bonasila River, while the Wilson's warbler and bank swallow were most abundant on the Anvik, and the blackpoll warbler and northern waterthrush on the Unalakleet River. The population trends of these species in these watersheds, most of which are migrants from Central and South America, can only be determined if annual surveys are continued.

Stream Analysis and Mining

Stream data were collected in June 1997 in the George River drainage, 75 miles southwest of McGrath. The project involved gathering geomorphic information to characterize the streams and creeks of the area to prepare a stream reclamation plan. The data will be used to reclaim Julian Creek to a pre-mining functional condition that will provide for fish passage and fish rearing/feeding areas.

Cooperation in Archaeology

On April 25, 1997, BLM-Alaska Director Tom Allen signed (as the first Federal signer) the "Multi-Agency Five Year Agreement with the State of Alaska, Office of History and Archaeology Concerning Support for Alaska Project Archaeology Program." This agreement formally established a cooperative relationship among various agencies and the State of Alaska, Office of History and Archaeology, for achieving mutual heritage education goals. This includes providing classroom curriculum enrichment materials about Alaska's heritage, such as its archaeological and historic sites in the Arctic, as well as throughout other parts of the state.

BLM-Alaska, in cooperation with the national Heritage Education office in Dolores, Colorado, co-authored the following publication for use by teachers (grades 4-7) in Alaska's schools statewide: Intrigue of the Past, Discovering Archaeology in Alaska. BLM is facilitating the distribution of this publication and is helping with the multi-agency effort to train teachers in the use of this and other educational materials in their classrooms. These publications and other efforts are designed to foster a better public understanding of the importance of protecting archaeological and historical resources in Alaska and elsewhere for their educational and other benefits.

National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Studies

In February 1997 the Secretary of the Interior announced the beginning of an Integrated Activity Plan (IAP)/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for 4.6 million acres on the northeast corner of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). An 18-month time frame was given to accomplish this task.

The NPRA sits atop Alaska and the continent. The Arctic Ocean, with the Chukchi Sea west of Point Barrow and the Beaufort Sea to the east, forms the northern boundary of the reserve. The eastern and southeastern boundary follows the western bank of the Colville River from its mouth at Harrison Bay to the confluence of the Etivluk River. Here the boundary plunges due south to the Continental Divide at the crest of the Brooks Range. The boundary follows the divide westward to a point due south of Icy Cape. A line from that point to Icy Cape makes the western boundary.

There are three predominantly Inupiat Eskimo villages in the area of particular interest: Barrow, with a population of over 4000; Atqasuk, with a little over 200; and Nuiqsut, with just over 400.

The planning area consists of primarily coastal plainwetlands with many lakes. It is totally underlain by permafrost. The entire area is important for subsistence. The northern third is high in resource values. It is a key area for nesting and molting migratory waterfowl and is the location of a Teshekpuk caribou herd calving area. It is also potentially high in oil and gas resources.

The planning effort is being conducted with the cooperation of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which has extensive experience develop-ing EISs on nearby areas. Work on this EIS has occurred in an exceptionally open and cooperative environment, featuring an on-going dialogue among all interested groups and including the State of Alaska and the North Slope Borough as active partners in the document's preparation. Other Federal agencies have been actively involved in reviewing various sections of the draft document, including the USGS, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the USFWS. Various public groups and organizations have received scoping or update briefings from BLM management in Alaska as well.

Substantial effort has been made to apply the best available science to the process:

The draft analyzes the impacts of five alternative management schemes and contains an analysis for impacts on subsistence as required by section 810 of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The alternatives cover management of all resource values in the area. They include opening or not opening all or parts for oil and gas leasing and options for designating the Colville River as a Wild and Scenic River (with the suitability determination yet to be made). They include various management options for use and/or protection of resource values and include the use of stipulations to reduce potential impacts.

The EIS process is still on track for a July 1998 decision. The draft EIS was made available for public comment in December 1997. The comment period ended March 12, 1998. The draft EIS did not contain a preferred alternative. This is so the decision will reflect the best public interest in view of all the information available. Current project planning calls for a final EIS to be made available by June 26, 1998, with the Record of Decision published by July 31, 1998.

The draft was made available to the public via the Internet on November 24, 1997. The use of a web page has provided an innovative approach to public access of project information. Visit the home page at http://aurora.ak.blm.gov/npra/

Mineral Land Assessments

In February 1996 the Alaska staff of the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) was transferred to the BLM with a mandate to conduct mineral assessments under the auspices of ANILCA, section 1010.

Industrial Minerals
In 1995 the USDA Forest Service (USFS) and the USBM entered into a three-year interagency agreement to conduct a survey of the mineral materials located within the Chugach National Forest (CNF), Alaska. When the USBM Alaska personnel were transferred to the BLM, the interagency agreement was transferred also. The field work for the project was conducted by the BLM in 1996. The intent of the project was to determine the location, accessibility, quantity and quality of mineral material sources. Sources of materials for aggregate, shot-rock, riprap and other common varieties used in the construction industry were the main focus.

Two major areas of interest were identified during the preliminary literature search: the Kenai Peninsula study area and the Cordova study area. These areas are located along existing transportation systems and are identified with major ongoing and proposed road construction activities. Field work in 1996 was limited to the road corridor of the Seward and Glacier Districts on the Kenai Peninsula.

During 1996 the BLM conducted a 40-day field season mapping and sampling 27 material sites and gravel deposits in the Kenai Peninsula area. To identify potential new material sources, "grass roots" exploration was conducted in areas with no previous mining or gravel extraction. Work was restricted to the areas along the existing roads, highways and trail systems. A total of 67 samples were collected. Ground-penetrating radar geophysics tests were performed at 12 sites to aid in determining the depth to the water table and/or bedrock.

Two reports were prepared and delivered to the USFS in early 1997: Mineral Materials Survey of the Seward and Glacier Ranger Districts Road Corridor, Chugach National Forest, Alaska: Volume I. Summary and Site Descriptions and Volume II. Application of Ground Penetrating Radar to Site Delineation and Reserve Estimation.

Mineral Investigations of Native Land Selections
During the summer of 1997 the BLM completed field work on a one-year mineral assessment of Ahtna, Inc. selections within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska. The assessment was conducted to provide Ahtna, Inc. the necessary minerals information to finalize their regional selections within the park (as requested by the National Park Service).

Through a literature search and field investigation, the BLM identified mineral occurrences located within a one-mile radius of the Ahtna, Inc. selections. Of these occurrences, 9 were historically producing mines, 25 development prospects, 21 exploration prospects and 9 raw prospects. The majority (55) were hard rock deposits and 9 were placer deposits. Mines, prospects and occurrences were sampled to aid in determining the type, amount, distribution and economic viability of mineral deposits located on Ahtna-selected lands within the park boundary. A report was completed in the second quarter of FY 98.

Tongass National Forest Mineral Assessments
Studies of the mineral development potential of mining districts in southeast Alaska are continuing at the request of the USFS. The objectives of the Chichagof-Baranof and Stikine area studies currently underway are to identify the type, amount and distribution of mineral deposits, determine ore reserves, complete economic feasibility studies, and address the economic and environmental effects of mineral development.

The Chichagof-Baranof study was initiated in 1995. Field work for the study was completed in 1997. Two reports detailing work accomplished in 1995 and 1996 have been completed and released. The draft of an economic feasibility report on two mineral deposit types in the Chichagof-Baranof area was released in the fall of 1997. The final Chichagof-Baranof report is due to be completed in the summer of 1998.

The Stikine area mineral assessment, encompassing the Wrangell and Petersburg forest areas, was initiated in 1997. A report detailing the first year's activities as well as background information on land status, geology, mining history and previous studies and a bibliography will be completed during FY 98. Current plans call for the Stikine mineral assessment to be completed in 1999. Yearly reports are anticipated along with a comprehensive final report to be completed in 2000.

Upper Koyukuk Mineral Assessment
The Upper Koyukuk mineral assessment is an examination of Federal, state and Native lands. The program is a comprehensive study of past and current mining activities as well as future mineral development potential in the Koyukuk Mining District.

The district comprises approximately 11.6 million acres drained by the upper Koyukuk River and the Kanuti River. The region contains over 320 known mineral properties, including placer and lode gold, copper, tin, tungsten and massive sulfide sites.

Clear creek mine
Collecting GPS data from the workings of the Clear Creek Mine.

The four-year program will include literature and records searches, an airborne geophysical survey, geologic field investigations, and construction of an extensive mineral database for the district. Results will be made available to the public in three open-file reports. During the 1997 field season, approximately 30 sites were visited and 264 samples collected for analysis. The sites included historic and active placer mines, an underground placer mine, and other areas of potential mineralization.

Geophysical Surveys
In 1997 an airborne geophysical survey of mineralogically prospective areas in the Wrangell and Petersburg areas was conducted. The objective of the survey was to define mineral exploration targets, refine geologic maps, enhance the BLM's current mineral assessment, and spur economic activity in the area. Funding for the study included $300,000 of carry-over funds from the BLM and $200,000 from Wrangell's share of the Southeast Alaska Economic Fund. Survey contract administration was provided by the State of Alaska, Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys (ADGGS).

A geophysical survey of potentially mineral-bearing areas in the vicinity of Wiseman, Alaska, began in August 1997. The instruments being used include a magnetometer and an induced electromagnetic conductivity sensor operating in five frequencies. Approximately 530 square miles were covered, with lines flown at quarter-mile spacing. The project participants include the BLM and the ADGGS. The BLM has supplied funding in the amount of $220,000, and ADGGS provided contract administration and management. The results of the survey were slated to be available to the public in the spring of 1998.

Abandoned and Inactive Mine Inventory

The BLM is examining abandoned and inactive mine (AIM) sites in the Tongass National Forest (TNF) and CNF for the USFS as part of an interagency agreement initiated in 1990. Project work was started by the USBM and subsequently transferred to the BLM in February 1996. To date, 109 sites have been examined for physical and chemical hazards in the TNF and 137 sites evaluated in the CNF. Work in 1997 included returning to seven significant AIM sites in the TNF and performing an integrated site assessment to more clearly define the chemical hazards present. Inventory-level sampling was completed at three AIM sites. Inventory work was conducted at several AIM sites in the CNF during 1997 to establish consistency with the previous evaluations and facilitate a comprehensive prioritization for AIM sites in both forests (TNF and CNF together comprise USFS Region 10).

The BLM has provided individual site files for the 109 sites evaluated in the TNF. Presentation packets including a narrative summary for all sites was also provided. Oral presentations detailing results and prioritization of sites were given to Chatham, Stikine and Ketchikan district personnel in 1996 and 1997. Future work includes additional integrated site assessment and removal preliminary assessment reports at high-priority AIM sites. BLM personnel will provide additional data as requested by the USFS.

Geologic Analyses and Studies
The Energy and Minerals Team is participating in the geologic analyses of three parts of the Arctic. Recently announced oil and gas discoveries with their subsequent development plans have implications for disposition of Federal minerals.

A geologist and a geophysicist from the Energy Minerals Team are working with USGS geologists to determine the nature and extent of the economic bedrock geology beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This includes areas defined under sections 1002 and 1008 of ANILCA. Analysis of seismic data and field geology suggests that this is a predominantly clastic stratigraphic section and is of lower Paleozoic age.

Both onshore discoveries and offshore exploration drilling on Alaska State leases affect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 1002 area. Geological and seismic analyses of recent exploration activity shows that features similar to those currently garnering industry interest extend and exist beneath the 1002 area. As a result these analyses show
there is potential for drainage of Federal leasable minerals when recent discoveries, such as at Sourdough well, begin producing. However, it is determined that no drainage will occur until these Alaska State leases begin producing. Currently announced industry plans do not project development on these State leases before 2001.

Other geological investigations of northeastern Alaska stratigraphy and biological marker compound geochemistry of oils show that three separate petroleum systems are present and have generated oil that has subsequently charged potential reservoirs. Prudhoe oils of the Ellesmerian System are present in the subsurface of the northwestern portion of the 1002 area. Surficial oil seeps and oil-stained sands belonging to the Hue-Sagavanirktok System are present across the 1002 area from Katakturuk Creek to Manning Point and the Niguanak area. The oil seep at Angun Point does not match any of the previous oils. Oil at Angun Point is speculated to be from a third independent petroleum system generated by Tertiary rocks offshore. This work will be included in Short Notes on Alaskan Geology.

The Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) for the NPRA involves the Energy and Minerals Team at several levels. Team members and MMS geologists and geophysicists defined potential plays for the reserve and determined both in-place and recoverable oil and gas reserves for its northeast portion. Geologists and geophysicists are interpreting well logs and seismic data to delineate the extent of newly defined plays to determine how they affect potential lease tract values. All tracts are being analyzed to determine geologic parameters needed as inputs to calculate minimum acceptable lease values. In addition, potential lease play definitions and descriptions are being prepared for the remaining parts of the reserve not originally included in the IAP. Both in-place and recoverable resource numbers will be determined, but tracts in the remaining part of the reserve will not be analyzed at this time.

The Energy and Minerals Team participated with geologists from the USGS and the MMS in field work in the westernmost Brooks Range. Understanding this surficial geology has application in defining plays in the Chukchi Sea lease areas and the western NPRA. In addition, the regional geological analysis ties in with understanding the nature and disposition of several potentially large base metal deposits found in the southernmost NPRA.

Geochemical analyses of oil shows found in the Chukchi Sea exploration program show that the oil does not resemble any of the currently described North Slope oils. There is an enigma, however, because the oil is most likely generated from the same source rock that generated a significant portion of the Prudhoe oil group. Chukchi Sea oil bears a strong correlation to oils found in the Sverdrup Basin of the Canadian Arctic Islands. A pre-rift re-rotation of land masses juxtaposes the Chukchi area to the Sverdrup basin during pre-Jurassic time. This geometry suggests a larger area may be prospective for oil. These data will be included in Short Notes on Alaskan Geology.