A Juneau family has created a conservation easement to protect about 90 acres of prime wildlife habitat on Excursion Inlet, and will deed a Native cemetery there to a Tlingit clan whose ancestral homelands included the area.
The Regan family's parcel, across from Glacier Bay National Park, has been selectively logged and it housed a shoreside cannery that operated from 1909 to 1931, according to a report by the Southeast Alaska Land Trust.
Caretakers have seen brown and black bears, wolves, coyotes, moose, mink and otters. Harbor seals, Steller sea lions and whales use the inlet.
"So it's got a history in the 20th century of quite a bit of activity yet it's still natural," said Bruce Baker, a natural resource consultant to the land trust.
The land belongs to the estate of Dickerson Regan, a Juneau attorney who died in December 1999. His widow, Judy, and his sons, Juneau attorney Mark and Anchorage attorney Matt, created a conservation easement this spring to preserve the land's character.
The easement, which excludes several acres around a family cabin, prohibits subdivision, new buildings, docks or roads, logging, mining, dredging and filling. Some people who own homes further inland will retain access by two roads.
The family continues to own the land, but the conditions of the easement would pass to any new owners in the future. The Juneau-based land trust, one of five in Alaska, monitors the easement to be sure its conditions are followed.
"It does establish some rules for how the property will be used," Mark Regan said. "It keeps things the way they are for everyone's benefit, for us, for people in Hoonah and for people who live nearby."
In the Regans' case, the process of creating the easement also allowed them to think about other issues with the land. Tlingits from Hoonah buried some people at a cemetery there in the 1900s.
"It's kind of been on my conscience for a while," said Mark Regan. "This wasn't clearly something that people in the clan could do."
Once the land is deeded, the clan's right to bury people there will be clear as a matter of property law, Regan said.
"I think it comes from all the bottom of our hearts to have something like this and we really appreciate it," said Cynthia Creekpaum of Hoonah.
"It's a place of rest for our clan, and that land has been designated to Woosh-Kee-Tawn from time immemorial," said Sam Hanlon, chieftain of the clan, whose name means Eagle Shark.
"I was born over there. When my time comes, I've suggested that I'd like to go back to my place of birth," he said from Hoonah.
"The Woosh-Kee-Tawn have lived in Excursion forever," said Sam's daughter, Ernestine Hanlon. "That's their land. When the flood was over long ago, the Woosh-Kee-Tawn said they would go back to their old stomping grounds, Excursion."
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.