Agency reopens comments on Yukon Flats plan

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2008

FAIRBANKS - A federal agency is reopening the comment period on the proposed Yukon Flats land swap.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday it will accept more comments on plans to exchange hundreds of thousands of acres with the Alaska Native corporation Doyon.

The proposed land swap would hand the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge at least 150,000 acres of habitat-rich land owned by Doyon. In return, the corporation would get title to 110,000 acres of land, thought to be rich with oil and gas reserves, and development rights to other land in the Yukon Flats area.

Jim Mery, a senior vice president at Doyon, says it welcomes the extended comment period.

"This doesn't trouble us," Mery said.

Mery said poor weather in the early winter prevented some villages from seeing details of the plan's proposed environmental impact statement.

The comment period closed March 25 but the extension allows for an additional 30 days.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will review the responses after the extended comment period closes May 19 before publishing a final statement.

Dacho Alexander, first chief of the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in tribe in Fort Yukon, said he expects many people will be pleased with the extension. He said residents of Interior villages have felt disenfranchised from the process surrounding the plan, adding that others worry the documents could contain outdated or inaccurate data.

"This is what people have wanted, have been saying they wanted, for a long time now," Alexander said.

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