Murkowski Highlights Need for University Land Grant, ANCSA Fulfillment Act at Legislative Hearing

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today highlighted two bills important to Alaska at an Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining (PLFM) legislative hearing. Murkowski spoke about the need to provide long-term fiscal stability for the University of Alaska (University) and to resolve a set of outstanding issues from the almost 50-year-old Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA).

Murkowski’s first bill, S. 4696, the University of Alaska Fiscal Foundation Act, will resolve the University’s outstanding land grant by directly transferring up to 360,000 acres of land from the federal estate to the University. The transferred land will count against Alaska’s Statehood entitlement, so it will come at no net loss to the federal government. Murkowski also submitted statements of support from Governor Dunleavy, the President of the Alaska State Senate, the University’s Board of Regents, and the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities for the record of today’s hearing. Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, is a cosponsor of S. 4696 and Congressman Don Young, also R-Alaska, has introduced companion legislation in the House.

“Right now our largest state has a land-grant university with a land grant smaller than just about every other land-grant university in every other state. Alaska has a tremendous need for long-term support and stability for our University system as we navigate some of the most significant economic headwinds our state has ever faced,” Murkowski said. “This bill brings the State of Alaska and federal government together to cooperatively execute a program to fulfill the University’s land entitlement.”

Murkowski’s second bill, S. 4889, the ANCSA Fulfillment Act, is a package that aims to resolve a number of outstanding issues related to the landmark 1971 law, including: addressing the outstanding entitlement for the villages of Kaktovik and Canyon Village; ensuring Alaska Native elders are still eligible for federal need-based assistance; and authorizing the five “landless” communities in southeast Alaska to form urban corporations and receive lands. Sullivan is also a cosponsor of S. 4889 and Young has introduced companion legislation for the landless communities in the House.

“This bill aims to fulfill the spirit of ANCSA in a number of important ways. It would help alleviate the poverty and healthcare challenges faced by many rural Alaska communities, address delays for outstanding land entitlements, and end an outdated requirement for village corporations,” Murkowski said. “It will also remedy the half-century injustice where five southeast communities were omitted from ANCSA’s authorizations to form urban corporations and thus have not received land entitlements. I encourage my colleagues to listen to the Alaska Native leaders whose parents pushed for the passage of ANCSA when they were children, and who are now passing the torch to their own children to right this wrong.”

Today’s PLFM hearing featured testimony on multiple lands-related bills. An archived video, the full hearing agenda, and witness testimony from the subcommittee hearing are available on the committee’s website.

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska, Education