JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill that would allow the Huna Totem Corp. to exchange nearly 2,000 acres of land for more economically-viable land won committee approval Wednesday in Washington.
The 1,999 acres near Hoonah is part of 23,000 acres originally granted as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, said Sam Furuness, the village corporation's chief operating officer.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the Huna Totem Corp. Land Exchange bill for consideration by the Senate. Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-AK, who is head of the committee, reintroduced the bill in March after it failed to win approval last year.
The senator said the bill remedies the problem of land selections made in 1975 that were complicated by difficult terrain surrounding Hoonah, including steep hillsides and cliffs.
''One of the main purposes of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was for villages to acquire lands they could develop to produce income for the corporation's members. In this case Hoonah has been unable to develop the lands they were forced to select because of the terrain in the area,'' Murkowski said in a news release.
Under the 1971 ANCSA act, villages were required to select lands inside townships surrounding the heart of the village.
Furuness said if the bill gets final approval the parameters for land selection would probably be more relaxed, but the corporation would still have to negotiate with the U.S. Forest Service.
''We would get something in the same general vicinity,'' Furuness said.
While the village corporation is not involved in logging now, it likely would want to log the land, he said.
The corporation had revenue of $5.1 million in 2000. It will issue quarterly dividends of $2.61 a share to its 876 shareholders this year.
It is invested in stocks and bonds and Las Vegas real estate, and also puts out a regional magazine.
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