Sealaska’s Land Legislation Scheduled for U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearing
The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands has scheduled a hearing on S. 340, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, for April 25, 2013. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the legislation.
The Senate bill results from robust public dialogue related to previous land legislation introduced in the last two Congresses and reflects more than 100 significant revisions responding to concerns posed by numerous individuals and groups.
“This legislation provides unprecedented public access to Sealaska lands in perpetuity for the purposes of recreation, subsistence gathering and education,” said Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil, Jr. “It is a collaborative interaction of stakeholders, honors the intent of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and is a strong conservation bill.”
The Senate bill now secures 150,000 acres of newly designated conservation lands, adding to the 87% of the Tongass forest already in federal conservation. It also achieves a net benefit to the Tongass by removing more than 118,000 acres of old growth and 255,000 acres of inventoried roadless from potential selection.
The bill would restore up to 70,075 acres to Alaska Native ownership that were promised 42 years ago in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Sealaska is one of 12 regional Alaska Native corporations established by the settlement act. Today, Sealaska represents more than 21,000 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian tribal member shareholders and works to strengthen its people, cultures and homelands.
“The Senate bill is a comprehensive and balanced solution that addresses the economic, cultural and environmental priorities of responsible stakeholders,” said McNeil. “The current bills under consideration by Congress would fulfill a promise made to Alaska Natives and the public while resolving the discrepancies between 1970s priorities and today’s issues.”
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Southeast Alaska Natives lost their homelands through an executive order in 1907 that created the 16.8-million-acre Tongass National Forest. Passage of the legislation would finalize the land claim adopted by Congress in the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.