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Sealaska land bill moves to House floor

Posted: June 12, 2013 - 3:40pm  |  Updated: June 12, 2013 - 11:31pm

A House bill regarding land ownership entitled to Sealaska underwent a markup Wednesday before the House Committee on Natural Resources.

The Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act, or H.R. 740, championed by Rep. Don Young, was approved by the committee and now goes before to the full Congress.

The bill has an amendment offered by Young that would make technical clarifications requested by sportsmen reinforcing continued State management of game on private lands, his office said in a prepared release.

“With passage out of committee today, Sealaska is one step closer to receiving their full land entitlement and completing the federal government’s statutory obligation under ANCSA to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. The legislation will ensure that Sealaska Corp. continues to meet the economic and cultural needs of its shareholders,” Young stated. “I am also pleased that my amendment to address sportsmen’s concerns was accepted by voice vote.”

The bill was approved and reported out in a 29-14 vote in its favor.

“Congressman Young has been an unwavering champion of this bill, and we thank all members of this committee who supported moving the bill forward to the full House,” said Sealaska Board Chair Albert Kookesh in a statement to the press.

As the larger of two proposed bills, H. R. 740 would allocate 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest as part of a legislative promise through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

The smaller of the two bills, H.R. 1306 is meant as a stopgap measure in the event Congress does not approve the full bill and has since been tabled. It would convey only a 20th of the acreage in the full bill.

A similar bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski is currently moving through the U.S. Senate and it will be marked up and considered in a committee next week.

“The Tongass National Forest has always been a Native place,” said Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil Jr. “Sealaska is pleased with the progress being made in Congress on the conveyance of acres that will directly contribute to the economic viability of our villages, the perpetuation of our culture, and provide continuing opportunities for our people. We look forward to seeing this promise fulfilled.”

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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