Sunday, September 24, 2023
HomeThe 907Federal government stakes claim on emerging lands near Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

Federal government stakes claim on emerging lands near Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

The Bureau of Land Management announced Friday that it is claiming another 4,500 acres inside the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest.

Public Land Order No. 7922 will take land that is being exposed with the receding of the Mendenhall Glacier, and ensure that it belongs to the federal government. Without the land order, the ownership of the land might be ambiguous.

- Advertisement -

The agency said it’s part of the Biden Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, which seeks to lock up 30% of American land by the year 2030.

The Mendenhall Glacier, one of Alaska’s most accessible glaciers, draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The glacier is located in the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, which is home to a seasonally bustling visitor center, scenic hiking trails, and breathtaking viewpoints.

The U.S. Forest Service requested the 20-year withdrawal to ensure the long-term viability of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area and to facilitate future Forest Service facility development, but no other development.

Staking a federal claim may also prevent a local tribe from declaring ownership of the land, which would cause complications for the Forest Service, as it will want to build a new visitor center. The current one doesn’t have a good view of the glacier, as it has receded so much. The action also prevents the State of Alaska from laying claim to the emerging lands.

“The withdrawal of these lands reflects our commitment to protecting our natural treasures and ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the splendor of the Mendenhall Glacier,” said the Bureau of Land Management. “This action is consistent with the America the Beautiful initiative, which aims to conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030.”

The boundaries of the withdrawn area include parts that were previously covered by the Mendenhall Glacier, which has been steadily receding since the end of the last mini-ice age in the 1700s.

According to the State of Alaska, the state’s glaciers are among the fastest melting glaciers in the world, with Alaska experiencing twice the rate of warming compared to the rest of the country over the past several decades.

Officials predict that the Mendenhall Glacier will retreat from the existing visitor center’s view by 2050.

The newly established withdrawal aims to protect areas that are becoming accessible as the glacier recedes.

As the glacier retreats, it opens up new ecosystems, leading to increased sightings of salmon, bears, and other wildlife. The withdrawal of the newly exposed lands will help preserve these unique habitats, natural resources, and the area’s pristine setting.

The decision to withdraw the lands is in line with the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area 2019 Master Plan, which was specifically developed to address the ongoing changes caused by the glacier’s retreat. The plan not only capitalizes on new opportunities but also addresses the anticipated increase in visitation over the next 20 years while providing a long-term vision for the next 50 years.

The withdrawal, which went into effect with the publication of the Public Land Order, will remain in place until June 2, 2043.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. It’s not the theirs to claim as owner. Its Alaskas. The federal government already owns what appears based on REIs anchorage map of national parks 3/4 of Alaska land the remaining is State, ANSCA, and private holdings.

  2. see! the earth its been warming- or dying- since the Ice-age with very little help from humans. Glaciers were on a path to melt before the earth knew what was an environmental activist. If we were still driving horse buggies no combustible engines, no factories, no chemical plants, earths glaciers and permafrost would still be melting faster I just betcha ya! The ice is right on track to melt keeping within God’s timeline.

  3. Once Again, the state of Alaska could just say no thanks to the feds. The US dollar is virtually worthless so there isn’t any reason to worry about getting cut off from federal funding. Of course the state of Alaska government is a sub corporation of the US corporation so that isn’t likely to happen.

  4. The Imperial Federal Government strikes again.

    God forbid some of that land might return to the Tlingits.

    • It would be interesting to see if there is a claim upon the land of it having been occupied during an ice free period at some point in time since humans migrated to North America.

      • I think, repeat think, the Tlingits have a claim on every in of land not in private or government hands.

        I can see this in court, easy.

  5. Doesn’t the feds still owe Alaska land from statehood? The feds should not have any states land they should be required to rent what they need. The state should build a cabin on the property for the homeless.

  6. Now this is an interesting case. Navigable waters belong to the state as recent SCOTUS cases have confirmed, this includes waters that are navigable by hovercraft and snowmachine while the water is frozen. Submerged land under water also belongs to the state as recent SCOTUS cases have confirmed. Does glaciated water fall into the navigable waters definition and if so does the land beneath the flowing (if slowly flowing due to being frozen) water then belong to the state? But what happens when the slowly flowing (due to being frozen) water thaws and the formerly submerged water is by defention no longer submerged? At the Statehood Compact these lands were submerged lands, it seems that the Feds would have a hard case to make to say they owned submerged lands that by SCOTUS ruling belong to the state and that have only recently become exposed.

    • This is precisely the legal argument that should be brought by the State of Alaska. Submerged lands do not “count” against our statehood entitlement. Especially since the federal government continues to drag it’s feet and slowwalk the transfer of the thousands of remaining “State selected” lands due us under the Statehood Compact.

      • Pete,
        It’s actually tens and tens of millions of acres that are owed.

        Tentatively Approved Acres: 29,615,420 (as of 1/6/23)
        State Selected Acres: 12,931,392 (as of 1/6/23)

        That’s almost 43 million acres, an area the size of an entire state the size of Virginia is owed to Alaska, or an area the size of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island combined.

  7. I recently decided that after 65 years I cannot stand Juneau any longer and this represents 4500 more good reasons to sell all my holdings and get out.

  8. Another Biden/China land grab. They’ll give it wilderness designation so you won’t be able to set a foot on it.

  9. First the feds stall in giving up the land to the State of Alaska that is rightfully owed and now this additional land grab. The feds are nothing but land thieves. They should not be allowed to claim any land in Alaska and also be compelled to give up the rest of the land that is owed to the State of Alaska. Period!

  10. Emerged lands belong to the State, in the same vein lands being submerged by rising water belongs to the Federal government. Changing water levels is why surveyors and lawyers will always have business

Comments are closed.

Most Popular