SitNews: Bills Introduced to Improve the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act

Last week a total of 15 bills were introduced to improve the 46 year-old Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and ensure that it continues to serve Alaska Native residents, tribes, and corporations.

“ANCSA was intended to be a living measure that would change as the needs of Alaska Natives changed,” U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said. “Over the years, Congress has amended the Act more than 40 times, and this package contains the latest series of common-sense solutions to real issues that have arisen with it. The bills we introduced will help ensure the federal government lives up to its promises to Alaska Natives, and I am eager to work with Sen. Sullivan and the rest of my colleagues to advance it.”

“Since the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act’s passage in 1971, it has been amended many times,” U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said. “This comprehensive legislation, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Improvement Act - would be the latest iteration, and is needed to assist in the resolution of issues specific to many communities in Alaska."

Sullivan said, "This bill is a combination of many small efforts and aims to resolve many local issues, some of which have been around since the initial passage of ANCSA. This collection of provisions doesn’t represent monumental issues for Congress, but is life changing for the citizens across our great state that are affected by this bill. I look forward to working with Senator Murkowski and Congressman Young to address them.”

Murkowski and Sullivan introduced 14 discrete bills and the conglomerated ANCSA Improvement Act of 2017 to address issues associated with the 46-year-old law and other federal statutes affecting Alaska Native communities.

The bills in the package will correct oversights in the original Act and respond to challenges ranging from erosion to incomplete land selections. Introducing both individual measures and one comprehensive bill will give Murkowski and Sullivan greater flexibility to move them through the Senate.

The ANCSA Improvement Act would:

S. 1486, allows the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation (UIC) to obtain gravel for construction in Ukpeagvik (formerly Barrow) from underneath its surface estate holdings inside a local gas field, as intended by legislation enacted in 1984.

S. 1482, grants Shishmaref an easement for a road to provide access to a rock source needed to protect the village against coastal erosion.

S. 1483, ensures the Shee Atika Corporation can maximize shareholder compensation for land sales it has already initiated with the federal government.

S. 1484, creates a mechanism for Sealaska to exchange its subsurface estate at Cube Cove, located within the Admiralty Island National Monument, to the Forest Service in exchange for other lands.

S. 1485, provides Cook Inlet Region Inc. (CIRI) with options from which to select land owed to it under ANCSA.

S. 1487 and S. 1490, allows Kaktovik to select its remaining lands, Canyon Village to select lands at its original northeast location, and Nagamut to select lands closer to its residents’ traditional hunting sites or settle their land claims.

S. 1491, authorizes urban corporations for five Southeast communities—Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Tenakee and Haines—and more than 4,500 Alaska Natives who were unjustly left out of representation under the terms of the original Act.

S. 785, improves the selection process so that Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam War are eligible to select land allotments to help make good on the 1998 federal commitment to provide land to those who served our country in war.

S. 1492, allows the Secretary of the Interior to convene a meeting of the shareholders of the 13th Regional Corporation for the purpose of electing a board of directors, thereby providing a process for the Alaska Natives who gave up their aboriginal land claims and moved to the Lower 48 to reconstitute the corporation.

S. 1493, directs a study of the effects that federal land acquisitions have had on Chugach Alaska Corporation’s ability to develop its subsurface estate in Prince William Sound, as well as options for a possible land exchange where the corporation could trade those holdings to the federal government in exchange for other lands or bid credits.

S. 1494, increases the amount that Alaska Natives can earn in dividends from regional, village, and urban corporations that is exempt from income limitations for federal “needs based” programs. This would be the first such increase in nearly 30 years and is necessary to account for inflation.

S. 1495, makes a technical change to allow corporations to simplify their bookkeeping by converting fractional shares of ANCSA stock to full shares, which is important when computing dividends for shareholders.

S. 1496, clarifies the definition of a corporation under ANCSA to enable those that have lost legal status to reincorporate, allowing their shareholders to benefit from original ANCSA provisions.

All of the bills listed above were introduced las week with the exception of the veterans’ allotment provision, which Sullivan and Murkowski introduced on a stand-alone basis in late March.

Murkowski is chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Source: SitNews