SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Section 17(b) of ANCSA & Public Access
By Florian Sever


June 13, 2011

Dear SitNews Editor;

I want to clear up a claim that Sealaska representatives always make when they address the issue of public acess, regarding public the 3,600 acres of prime anchorages, sockeye streams, cabin sites, and camping areas they want to make under the guise of Cultural, Sacred, Enterprise and other classifications, under the terms of Senator Lisa Murkowski’s, S. 730 “The Sealsaka Lands Bill”.

Sealaska always points to Section 17(b) of ANCSA, which DOES provide for access corridors through native lands.  Continually citing this section is a pure case of ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Sealaska always implies that ANCSA 17(b) guarantees public access to the selected native “sacred” and “cultural” sites addressed in the bill.  Free public access is forbidden under ANCSA regulations.  Once the public land at these sites is conveyed to Sealaska it is no longer public; ANCSA restrictions then kick in.

This, from the BLM Brochure which governs ANCSA restrictions :  

“What are 17(b) easements?

17(b) easements are rights reserved to the United States. They take the form of 60-foot wide roads, 25- and 50-foot trails, and one-acre sites for short-term uses. These rights are reserved when the BLM conveys land to a Native corporation* under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). There are no 17(b) easements across public lands.

*Native Corporation refers to all corporations established by ANCSA.

What is the purpose of 17(b) easements?

Most 17(b) easements are reserved to allow the public to cross private property to reach public lands and major waterways. Using 17(b) easements does not allow the public to use the private lands these easements cross. It is very similar to the street in front of many homes. The public has the right to travel on the street, but they do not have the right to dump litter on private property or trespass on private lawns.”

Once these lands are withdrawn under S.730, there will be NO GUARANTEED ACCESS to these lands, ever.

Florian Sever
Sitka, AK

About: "Florian Sever is a long-time union and environmental activist. He was a pulp mill worker at Sitka's Alaska Pulp Corporation, and was fired by APC for testifying before Congress in favor of the Tongass Timber Reform Act."

Received June 13, 2011 - Published June 13, 2011


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