There is no credible justification for the Sealaska Lands Bill introduced again this week by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. If enacted, the end result will be privatization of thousands of acres of cherished public lands including numerous so-called future sites, rights to several tidal, hydro and geothermal resources, use and access issues, and much more. That the corporation has been somehow prevented from making their final selections is the basic myth they perpetuate.
The record is clear. Sealaska’s remaining land selections could easily be finalized today with absolutely no controversy. In 1975, at the specific request of Sealaska president John Borbridge, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was amended to allow their selections from the very same withdrawal areas they now claim to have been unfairly forced to select from. Additionally, in June 2008, as required under the Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act, Sealaska submitted their final selections to the Bureau of Land Management from within those very same withdrawal areas. According to the Act these selections are “final and irrevocable”.
I fully expect Sealaska to offer various excuses why they were “forced” into these selection areas, but the record is clear on the two above points. No amount of spin can change the public record.
During a public meeting in Petersburg last August, Murkowski expressed regret at the “anxiety and tension” created in the small towns and communities of Southeast Alaska as a result of the Sealaska proposal. She acknowledged how it had “pitted neighbor against neighbor” and how the “resentment was not good for communities”. Given her acknowledgement, why does the senator keep pushing this unnecessary legislation?