Part 1 of 4: Alaska Native Allotment Act (S. 785/S. 1481
Imagine “NO TRESSPASSING” signs within the heart of the world-famous Kenai Wildlife Refuge, on salmon-rich Prince of Wales Island, along famous steelhead rivers like the Situk, or even portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
This nightmare could become a reality under a new bill promoted by Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan, called the “Alaska Native Veterans Allotments Act” (S. 785/S.1481).
Originally passed in 1906, the Alaska Native Allotment Act allowed qualifying Alaska Native individuals to select and receive 160 acres each from federal lands in Alaska. This program sunset when Congress passed ANCSA in 1971. Congress re-opened the program in 1998 for an 18-month period, and is looking to do so again for the third time.
Altogether, here’s what the Alaska Native Veterans Allotment Act means for Alaska
- Allows an estimated 2,800 individuals, or their heirs, to select and receive two parcels, adding up to 160 acres, each. That’s a patchwork of 5,600 inholdings totaling 448,000 acres in some of Alaska’s most valuable and important public lands.
- Allows selections from any vacant federal land in Alaska outside of the TransAlaska Pipeline, National Parks, National Preserves, or National Monuments. Meaning land could be selected from Wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and numerous other important areas. Portions of the Kenai River, Prince of Wales Island, and the Situk River, among other places, could become off limits.
- Removes the requirement that an individual must have a historical connection to the land they receive as an allotment. Meaning that instead of returning historical, traditional, and culturally-important land, this bill allows individuals to select land based on how resource-rich and valuable the land is – immediately providing incentive to sell the land off or exploit it for profit.
Instead of giving away our public lands and making the places we love off-limits in a broad-brush attempt to liquidate our public lands, we should seek a more focused approach. We can find more creative ways to appropriately compensate individuals unjustly left out of Alaska’s century-old Allotment system, while still honoring and protecting the cultural and traditional ties of Alaska Natives to the land AND keeping our public lands public and important salmon protections in place.
Public lands are owned by all of us and these lands are managed for the benefit of all. History has shown that when public lands are privatized, they're exploited for short-term economic profit at the expense of our fish and wildlife, and our lucrative and sustainable fishing, hunting and tourism industries.