Bill introduced to speed state, Native land conveyance

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Legislation to speed up conveying federal land to the state and Native corporations was introduced this week in Congress by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The goal is to have the job done by 2009, 50 years after Alaska gained statehood, she said.

The state lacks title to 60 million acres of the 104 million-acre grant Congress approved in 1959. Native corporations lack 29 million of the 44 million acres Congress promised in the land claims settlement act of 1971.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which handles the transfers, has given tentative approval and interim conveyance to some of the selected land. That allows the state to manage 89 million acres and corporations to control 31.6 million acres. Murkowski said that's not enough.

''Until we accelerate the conveyance to both the state and Native corporations, Alaskans can't efficiently manage their land holdings, meaning Alaskans continue to be hampered in our efforts to develop Alaska to produce a meaningful economy for our citizens,'' Murkowski said.

Besides mandating that the work be done by 2009, the land conveyance bill would revive an appeal process and give the BLM more authority to make decisions, Murkowski said. It also creates a process to deal with small-scale selections and conflicting selections.

Murkowski, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has organized a hearing on the bill at the Loussac Library in Anchorage on Aug. 6. The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests also will consider bills allowing Native allotments to be subdivided and authorizing a land exchange that would allow the Cape Fox village corporation to obtain U.S. Forest Service lands near Berners Bay, north of Juneau.

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