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Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP)

NALEMP Program Overview by lead Department of Defense Attorney James Van Ness

The participants of the 2016 biannual NALEMP meeting held in Anchorage, Alaska

The Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP) was developed by the Department of Defense DoD) to address environmental issues from past Department of Defense activities on Indian lands which include Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)-conveyed lands and Native allotments. In recognition of the need to address tribal concerns in DoD environmental programs, Congress has provided funds annually to mitigate environmental impacts to Indian lands and ANCSA-conveyed properties.

Most environmental programs use site evaluation and assessment processes that are consistent with national environmental regulatory requirements, but do not consider the potential effects past military operations may have on traditional cultures, such as risks to subsistence activities. Some DoD activities, such as abandoned buildings and debris, typically rank lower or are not eligible for assistance under current cleanup priority systems. In addition, because many Indian lands and ANCSA-conveyed properties are located in remote areas with low population densities, impacts on these lands are often considered to be lower priority sites, except by Tribes.

In 1996, the DoD began a program aimed specifically at addressing the effects of past military operations on Indian lands and ANCSA-conveyed properties. The resultant program is known as NALEMP. The Native American Management System for Environmental Impacts (NAMSEI) is the web site used to track and maintain potential impacts on Native American lands.

The DoD has an ongoing commitment to address impacts from weapons testing, practice bombing, field maneuvers, WWII actions and other activities through the government-to-government consultation process. Through NALEMP, the DoD works closely with Tribes to mitigate environmental impacts and maximum tribal participation.

The impact must be on eligible lands. These include any lands held in fee by any Indian tribe or individual; any lands held in trust by the United States for the benefit of any Indian tribe or individual; any lands held by any Indian tribe or individual subject to restrictions by the United States against alienation; any restricted townsite lots held by Alaska Natives pursuant to the Alaska Native Townsite Act; any lands owned by Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional or village corporations; and any lands and waters covered by a treaty right that has not been extinguished.

All eligible sites are screened annually for available funding. When congressional funding becomes available, the DoD will decide which sites to accept based on the information available in NAMSEI. The DoD will decide which sites to accept based on the information available in NAMSEI. The DoD considers factors other than risk to human health and the environment for cleanup sites on Indian lands including impacts to traditional practices, subsistence lifestyles, and economic viability.

Once sites are selected, the DoD works on a government-to-government basis with the Tribe on specific projects to determine the best course of environmental impact mitigation. If the site in ineligible for funding under NALEMP, the DoD will assist the tribe to obtain other appropriate resources, if available, to address the reported impact. Additional potential funding sources may include other DoD, federal agency, or state environmental programs.

WWII Military Impacts in the Aleutian Islands: About six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor signaled the beginning of the Aleutian Campaign and led to the evacuation and internment of American civilians for the duration of the war.

In early June, 1942, the Japanese followed the Dutch Harbor raid with an invasion of American soil. After months of reconnaissance, they landed on Kiska and Attu Islands in the Western Aleutians, over 1,000 miles from Dutch Harbor. On Kiska, they took a small Naval weather crew captive; on Attu, they took the whole village hostage, later shipping them back to Japan as prisoners of war.

WWII military impacts include sites containing unexploded ordinances, asbestos, oil spill and PCB contamination and military debris including dilapidated buildings, fuel tanks and oil drums. The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA) is leading the NALEMP effort in the Aleutian Islands to clean up these sites and to protect people from exposure to dangers.

The APIA NALEMP project manager is: Bruce Wright, Senior Scientist, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, 1131 E. International Airport Rd., Anchorage, AK 99518-1408, (phone) 907-222-4260, (fax) 907-279-4351, (email) brucew@apiai.org

Progress in Atka includes debris removal and contaminant monitoring and remediation. The Atka NALEMP project is explained on the web site: http://environmentalaska.us/aleutian-islands-wwii-mitigation-nalemp.html.  The PDF link below downloads the long-term planning document, Strategic Project Implementation Plan (called SPIP), for the Native Village of Atka and describes former Department of Defense sites. The Image Gallery contains 16 high resolution aerial images. The Reference page contains PDF links to 20 historical documents dating back to WWII (about 3,500 pages of historical documentation).

1. Strategic Project Implementation Plan (Download PDF 17.8 MB)
2. Environmental Sites Image Gallery
3. References Page