Federal land to be conveyed to lighthouse group

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The federal government will convey 1,505 acres of land at Point Retreat to the Alaska Lighthouse Association under an appropriations bill approved by a U.S. House and Senate conference committee.

But the land would revert back to the federal government if it isn't used for maritime preservation activities under terms of the measure.

Alaska Lighthouse Association President Dave Benton said the language states his groups intent clearly.

''Its going to allow us to now focus energies where we should be -- restoring the buildings and getting long-term programs in place,'' Benton said.

The private, nonprofit association is restoring the former U.S. Coast Guard light station at Point Retreat, located on Admiralty Island, and plans to open a maritime history museum and bed-and-breakfast on site. It currently leases the property.

The measure was approved by the House on Friday. It now goes to the Senate and then to the president.

The land transfer drew fire from Southeast hunting and fishing organizations, some Angoon residents and environmental groups which were concerned about turning over so much land to a private organization.

Hunting and fishing groups feared they would lose access to the land. The association had said it would not restrict outdoor activities there. And the measure approved by the House allows hunting and fishing activities to remain largely unchanged.

''It's up to the new landowner to make good on their intentions,'' said Matthew Davidson, of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. ''And people in Juneau and others who are concerned will have to hold their feet to the fire.''

Benton said the association plans to move forward with a conservation easement to protect the land and allow recreational activities such as fishing and hunting to continue.

''Because of the language going through, our plans have not changed,'' Benton said.

The association plans to offer interpretative and educational programs, he said. It would likely take two years to finish restoration at Point Retreat, Benton said.

President William McKinley first set aside 1,505 acres of land at Point Retreat for a lighthouse in 1901. The land was later made part of the Tongass National Forest.

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