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U.S. House Gives Quick Approval To Sate, Native Corp. Land Acceleration Bill
Sen. Murkowski Thanks House For Quick Approval


November 19, 2004

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) thanked Congressman Don Young (R-AK) Wednesday for quickly shepherding her Senate bill through the House, gaining final approval for a law that will speed the conveyance of pending Alaska and Native corporation land claims within the next five years.

"It's been 45 years since Statehood and 33 years since passage of ANCSA and the repeal of the (Alaska Native Land) Allotment Act. Yet under current law and procedures we were at least 20 years from seeing these conveyances completed and by some estimates maybe 85 years or longer away from Alaskans gaining the land that is rightfully theirs," said Murkowski.

"I am pleased to work with Senator Murkowski on this issue. The goal of the bill is to complete the process of making final land conveyances by 2009. It's an excellent bill and it makes no substantive change to what is already in place," said Congressman Young (R-AK).

"This bill will speed up the process greatly so that we can largely complete the conveyance process by the end of the decade," said Murkowski after the House approved the senator's Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act (S. 1466) on a unanimous vote. The bill, which passed the Senate Oct. 11, now heads to the President for his signature.

Murkowski, joined by Sen. Ted Stevens, earlier in the 108th Congress proposed the legislation designed to speed up the conveyance of federal lands to the state and Alaska Native Corporations ­ an attempt to complete the transfer of all of Alaska's Statehood selections before the 50th anniversary of Statehood in 2009. The bill includes a number of technical changes to solve a host of land conveyance problems.

The bill is intended to lay out a blueprint for the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to complete the surveying and final title transfer of 89 million acres, 60 million of the Alaska's outstanding 104-million-acre Statehood entitlement and the remaining 29 million acres of the 44 million acres given to Alaska Native Corporations under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The bill also includes measures that will assist in completing the transfer of some 2,500 Native allotment parcels claimed under terms of the 1906 Alaska Native Allotment Act.

The bill was modified extensively by Murkowski prior to Senate passage to address concerns raised by Alaskans during an Anchorage field hearing on the measure in August 2003 and a Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests Washington, D.C. formal hearing on Feb. 12, and to accommodate suggestions made by Democratic staff and environmental groups. Some of the provisions in the final bill:

  • The bill will help speed conveyances to the State of Alaska by giving the Secretary of the Interior authority to identify specific lands to be conveyed.
  • The bill allows the University of Alaska system to select the federal reversionary interest in its own properties.
  • The BLM is given 18 months to prepare recommendations to Congress on lands that can be opened.
  • It clarifies the rights of miners' to convert from federal to state mining claims without jeopardizing ongoing mining operations. Properly maintained federal claims will continue to be excluded from conveyance.
  • The bill sets up a process where BLM will have broader authority to solve land claim disputes and give it the right to confer with land owners to get land transferred more quickly. It also sets up a timetable for the state and Native corporations to submit final conveyance priorities.
  • The bill gives the Secretary of the Interior authority to establish an Alaska field office at the Office of Hearings and Appeals and to staff it with Administrative law judges and members of the Interior Board of Land Appeals. The goal is to speed up the slow pace of hearings in Alaska on all types of appeals
  • To help settle Native regional corporation selection problems, the government was authorized to provide corporations up to 200,000 acres in additional conveyances. · The bill has completely revised a title recovery section so that procedures similar to an existing court-approved settlement process for title recovery from the State of Alaska can be used for title recovery from ANCSA corporations.
  • And the bill removes proposed new deadlines affecting allotment applications, a key issue for many Native allotment holders.

Murkowski said the measure should accomplish its main goal of helping the federal government complete conveyances of most all of its outstanding land conveyances by the end of this decade.

"Alaskans have waited for two generations to obtain the land we were promised at Statehood. Hopefully that long wait is now at an end," said Murkowski. Additional funding to speed the pace of surveying and conveyance has been proposed in the federal budget for next year to implement the terms of the act.


Sources of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski
Web Site

Office of Congressman Don Young
Web Site


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