Alaska Native Allotment Act (S. 785/S. 1481
On February 7th the Senate Public Lands Subcommittee had a hearing on a series of bills, one of which stands to give away 620,000 acres of public lands. This is the first of a four-part blog series drilling down into the details of the so-called “Alaska Native Claims Settlement Improvement Act” S. 1481.
Email Senator Murkowski and Senator Sullivan to let them know you support keeping public lands public.
Can you imagine if 5,600 in-holdings at many of the most prized and beloved locations around Alaska all the sudden became private and off-limits to public access across the state?
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.
We support Alaska Natives and our veterans. But when you dig down into this bill, it becomes clear that this bill isn’t really about addressing inequity; it’s a land grab. This bill is far too broad in scope, not only expanding the number of people who could qualify, but also expanding the kinds of lands that could be selected. This bill would remove important protections for fish and wildlife, and the land included could be logged, mined, developed or otherwise exploited for short-term gain, without concern for long-term consequences.
Altogether, here’s what the Alaska Native Veterans Allotment Act means for Alaska
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.