Murkowski Introduces Salmon Lake Land Exchange Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced legislation that would provide for a land exchange between the Bering Straits Native Corporation and the State of Alaska.  The Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, would resolve a land conveyance dispute between the Corporation and the State of Alaska dating since 1971 and the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
“Alaska Natives have spent decades fighting for the land they were promised,” Murkowski said.  “All sides have come together in reaching this compromise.  It is my sincere hope that with passage of this bill the issues which have complicated land and wildlife management will be left behind and the corporation shareholders will finally realize the economic and cultural benefits of their land.”
“This bill makes official an agreement among numerous agencies to ensure that the Bering Straits Native Corporation receives its full land entitlement under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. I commend the many Bering Strait area residents and corporation and government officials who reached this resolution,” Sen. Begich said. “Another benefit of the agreement is protecting local subsistence rights and opening the door for greater recreational sites. It’s truly a win-win.”
With passage of this bill the Bering Straits Native Corporation would gain 1,009 acres in the Salmon Lake area, 6,132 acres at Windy Cove, and 7,504 acres at Imuruk Basin.  In return the Corporation relinquishes rights to another 3,084 acres at Salmon Lake to the federal government, who will then give part of the land to the State of Alaska for it to maintain a key airstrip in the area.
The bill fully protects recreation and subsistence uses in the area while providing the Corporation with access to recreational-tourism sites of importance to its shareholders.  The Bureau of Land Management retains ownership and administration of a campground on Salmon Lake and lands in the Kigluaik Mountain Range.  Congress must ratify the land conveyance changes by 2011, when the agreement ratification window closes.   
Murkowski added that passage of the bill was in keeping with the spirit of the Alaska Lands Conveyance Acceleration Act that Congress passed five years ago.  This was intended to help settle all outstanding land conveyance issues by 2009 – the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood.