My Turn: Need for land swap to fulfill ANSCA promises

Posted: Thursday, October 02, 2003

Jerry Reinwand's My Turn with respect to the proposed Cape Fox, Sealaska land swap with the US Forest Service struck a responsive chord with me.I was land and engineering officer with Sealaska, and in that capacity assisted the Southeast village corporations in making land selections as authorized by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).A number of villages were faced with serious problems in making land selections, including Klukwan, Kake and Haidaburg, as well as Saxman, which is the village associated with Cape Fox.

The first thing one must understand is that Southeast villages were severely restricted in their land selections. Outside of Southeast, the amount of land selection authorized was based on enrollment to the corporation, the more enrollees, the greater the land authorization.Southeast villages were restricted to one township regardless of the number of enrollees.In addition, all villages were required to select all available land within their core township.

Most of the traditional lands, and virtually all of potentially economic beneficial lands in the Saxman area, were already taken by the enactment of ANCSA.In order to expand the opportunities for selection, we successfully pointed out to the Bureau of land Management (BLM) that Saxman could be considered as being on a township line, thus expanding potentially selectable lands.However, even this did not provide the economic benefits envisioned under ANCSA.

We then took advantage of the fact that while the rest of Alaska Native corporations were required to select in 640-acre sections, that restriction was not included in the Tlingit-Haida settlement clause.Therefore, we used BLM's general rule that allows selections based on 40-acre quarter-quarter section selection criteria.If one looks at the northern boundary of the Cape Fox selections near Harriett Hunt Lake, you will find a stair-step line, each segment of the line having a length of 1/4 mile!Such a boundary is a nuisance to land owners on each side but it was the only way to make a land selection with economic opportunities.

Even at that, the Cape Fox lands were less than desirable for economic reasons, but that was the best we could do under the then-existing circumstances.The proposed land swap will provide Cape Fox with a better economic opportunity, as was envisioned in ANCSA and will allow the U.S. Forest Service better land management opportunities in the Ketchikan area.

The reason Sealaska is tied into this is that Sealaska was required to own the subsurface estate under village corporation lands.If the land swap were just between Cape Fox and the U.S. Forest Service, the Forest Service would own the surface and Sealaska the subsurface of the Ketchikan lands being given up be Cape Fox.By swapping subsurface with Sealaska the U.S. Forest Service will own both the surface and subsurface of the acquired lands.

• Roger Allington lives in Bellevue, Wash.

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