Murkowski, Sullivan Introduce Legislation to Sunset the Municipal Lands Reconveyance Requirement for Village Corporations under ANCSA
Allows Village Corporations to have Lands Restored for the Needs of Shareholders and Residents
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both R-Alaska, introduced legislation to sunset the requirement for village corporations to reconvey lands for municipal uses under Section 14 (c) (3) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). ANCSA did not set a specific timeframe for the reconveyances of lands under 14(c) to municipalities or the State in trust for future municipalities. Until 14 (c) is addressed, the State of Alaska and the land status of many village corporations are in limbo; preventing village needs from being fully met.
“For years we have overlooked this requirement in ANCSA, preventing these village corporations from fully realizing the benefits of the lands that they were granted,” said Senator Murkowski. “It is past time the federal government sunset the 14 (c) land reconveyance requirement and allow these village corporations to exercise self-governance over these lands to address the needs of their shareholders and village residents. “
“For the more than 50 years since ANCSA was signed into law, the Alaska Native people have sustainably managed their lands, fostered world-class businesses that have become the heart and soul of Alaska’s economy, and helped Alaska Native communities preserve their unique cultures, languages and ways of life,” said Senator Sullivan. “Despite the enormous good ANCSA has done, the law was not perfect. Our legislation will remove an obligation that has outlasted its purpose, and restore thousands of acres of ANCSA-protected land to communities across Alaska, which will provide them greater cultural and economic opportunities.”
“AFN appreciates the work of Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan to amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, with a technical amendment to eliminate an unnecessary original provision on transfer of lands to the State of Alaska in trust,” said Julie Kitka, AFN President. “Alaska Native village corporations and the communities they represent are more than capable of managing land issues locally. This provision eliminates and resets a transfer program drafted over 50 years ago and is not needed anymore.”
“Failure of ANCSA to include a sunset clause has led to these village corporation lands being held in perpetuity for future cities that will never exist,” said Charles W. Totemoff, Chairman, President & CEO Chenega Corporation. “It is important to free up this land for economic development and essential services pursued by the villages without state interference or fees. We are grateful for Senators Murkowski and Sullivan working to close this loophole, taking an important step toward giving effect to the promise of self-determination embodied in ANCSA.”
To read the legislation, click here.
Background: Section 14(c)(3) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) requires all Native village corporations that receive land under the provisions of Sections 14(a) and (b) of ANCSA to convey lands to the existing municipality in the village or, if no municipality exists, to the State in trust for any municipality that may be established in the future. Acceptance of the trust responsibility is found in Alaska Statute (AS) 44.33.755, which defines “municipality” as “only first or second-class cities incorporated under the laws of the state.” The lands conveyed to the State in trust are called “municipal trust lands (MTLs).”
There were originally 101 villages covered by the 14 (c) State Municipal Land Trust (MLT) program. According to the State of Alaska, a total of eight villages have incorporated into a municipality, the last one in 1995. Another six villages have approved zero-acre settlement agreements as a “vacant village”, and one other settlement with the re-conveyed lands granted to a borough. All lands were conveyed out of trust for three other communities. This leaves 83 communities that are still covered under the MLT program, with approximately 11,500 acres currently held in trust by the State.