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Senate committee OKs saving Saint Mary's cabin

Posted: January 3, 2014 - 1:08am

BETHEL — A man from the southwest Alaska village of Saint Mary’s is one step closer to saving his remote cabin, thanks to a recent action by a U.S. Senate committee.

William Alstrom’s cabin is about 31 miles northwest of his village. The federal Bureau of Land Management said the cabin had to go because it is illegally located on the Andreafsky Wilderness in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

The BLM didn’t know about the wilderness when the allotment was granted to Alstrom in 2008. The agency in 2011 said the plot was canceled, but by that time Alstrom had built a small subsistence cabin.

Alstrom contacted Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski about the matter, and the senator drafted an amendment to exempt the cabin. The amendment was attached to the Green Mountain Lookout Act, originally introduced for a similar exemption in Washington state.

The Senate Energy Committee recently passed the legislation and it’s expected to go to the full Senate for consideration, KYUK reported.

“Basically it’s the government’s failure, it’s the government’s mistake, and they’ve acknowledged that,” Murkowski said.

The senator thanked lawmakers for making the exception for Alstrom.

“Very small deal, but for one family, they know the government is actually working with them rather than acknowledging they made a mistake and saying ‘Well, sorry, there’s not much we can do,’” she said. “I just appreciate the willingness of colleagues at these smaller issues we deal with.”

Alstrom, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam, had applied for the allotment as an Alaska Native veterans’ allotment.

Alstrom said he was declining to comment until the matter is finalized.

Saint Mary’s, a village of about 525 people, is located on the north bank of the Andreafsky River, 450 miles northwest of Anchorage.

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