On May 27, 2016, Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced legislation that could have sweeping repercussions for the Tongass and public lands in Alaska.
The legislation includes a number of controversial measures that have not been vetted in any public forum in Alaska. Please ask Senator Murkowski to hold public hearings on this legislation in Southeast Alaska by calling her office at 202-224-6665 or sending an email.
Some of the provisions of S. 3004, the "Alaska Native Claims Settlement Improvement Act" include measures to:
- Grant a total of 115,000 acres of federal public lands near Haines, Petersburg, Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Tenakee Springs to five new native corporations. Sealaska would get the subsurface rights. Affected communities will not know where these lands will be selected from until after the legislation passes. Lands eligible for selection include timber-rich areas protected as Land Use Designation II (LUD II) under the Tongass Timber Reform Act.
- Grant Alaskan veterans who served between 1964 and 1975 (or their heirs if they are now deceased) the right to select 160-acre allotments in the Tongass. The bill also allows veterans and heirs to swap allotments with native corporations, allowing corporate interests to further expand their footprint.
- Buy back 23,000 acres of land in Cube Cove on Admiralty Island National Monument from Shee Atika, the Sitka-based native corporation that rapidly clearcut the area after it is was granted to the corporation under the original 1971 version of ANCSA. The logged land would once again become public and would be incorporated into Admiralty Island National Monument. The funds granted to Shee Atika would be used to purchase other federal property. Sealaska would also trade subsurface rights to the Cube Cove area in exchange for another 14,000 acres of Tongass timberland on Prince of Wales Island.
Also introduced on Friday were S. 3005 which would re-create the Alaska Land Use Council and S. 3006 which would exchange Alaska Mental Health Trust Lands near Juneau, Petersburg, Meyers Chuck, Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Sitka for land on Prince of Wales Island. According to the senator, the exchange would allow an additional 20 million board feet to be logged.
We’ll be taking a closer look at these bills over the next few weeks. In the meantime, if you’re concerned about this legislation please contact Senator Murkowski by calling 202-224-6665 or sending an email.
Sample message: “Sen. Murkowski, your new legislation, the ANCSA Improvement Act, is a really big deal for Southeast Alaskan communities. I have some concerns about the legislation and I encourage you to come to Southeast Alaska and hold field hearing here so we can find a solution that works for all Southeast Alaskans.”
Thanks for taking 60 to 90 seconds out of your day to help start this very important conversation!