Murkowski Applauds Settlement of Seward Peninsula Lands Claims

Salmon Lake Legislation Passes Senate as 40th Anniversary of ANCSA Approaches

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, released the following comment upon Senate passage yesterday of the Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act, which ratifies a settlement between the state of Alaska, the federal Bureau of Land Management and the Bering Straits Native Corp., completing land conveyances promised in the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA):

“As we near the 40th anniversary of passage of ANCSA, it is great news that legislation resolving the remaining conflicts over land conveyances in Northwest Alaska has finally passed the Senate,” Murkowski said.

Shortly after becoming a state in 1959, Alaska selected lands near Salmon Lake, a major fishery resource in the Bering Straits region. When Congress passed ANCSA to resolve aboriginal land claims throughout the state, Bering Straits selected lands in the Salmon Lake region overlapping state selections, because the lake and the waters upstream and downstream from the lake spawn and contain fisheries resources of significance to Alaska Natives and also offer land suitable for a variety of recreational activities. The lake, located 40 miles northeast of Nome, is also a popular recreation destination, with campgrounds and other public lands managed by the BLM. 

“For the past four decades there have been conflicts over the conveyances, delaying land from going to the corporation, harming the economic and cultural benefits of the corporation to Native shareholders, and complicating land and wildlife management between federal and state agencies,” Murkowski said. “This bill, which implements a June 2007 agreement between all parties, finally will resolve the controversy and largely complete the land conveyance to Bering Straits for the benefit of its Native shareholders and all residents of the Seward Peninsula.”

Under the agreement, both the state and Native corporation relinquished some claims to settle the dispute. The agreement conveys 3,084 acres of land around the lake to the state, and 14,645 acres to the corporation, while maintaining BLM ownership of a nine acre campground with access to other important federal lands nearby. 

The BLM retains ownership of a 9-acre campground at the outlet of Salmon Lake, which provides road access to public camping opportunities from the Nome-Teller Highway. The agreement also retains public access to BLM-managed lands in the Kigluaik Mountain Range.

“This agreement is the classic ‘win-win-win’ solution that all sides should be congratulated for crafting. It is great news that on the eve of this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, that Bering Straits should soon gain the lands that its shareholders have waited so long to receive,” said Murkowski, who noted that the 40th anniversary of ANCSA’s enactment will fall on Dec. 18th.

The bill fully protects recreation and subsistence uses in the area, while providing the Native corporation with access to recreational-tourism sites of importance to its shareholders.