April 3, 2014
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today applauded the passage of her bill securing protection of a privately owned subsistence cabin on an Alaska Native veteran allotment within the Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge from demolition by federal land managers. The Senate unanimously supported Murkowski’s amendment to protect the cabin.
The language allows for a one-time exemption to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) to provide William Alstrom ownership of a small plot of federal land in the Andreanoff wilderness area of the Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Because of a mistake made by federal land management agencies, Alstrom was issued an Alaska Native veteran allotment on land within the wilderness area of the refuge.
“One family’s cabin in Alaska isn’t going to move the needle for most folks,” Murkowski said. “That’s fine. This isn’t about most folks. This is about that one family in Alaska, and making sure they’re not unjustly penalized for a mistake by the federal government. This matters to them a great deal.”
In 2003, Alstrom applied for an Alaska Native veterans’ allotment under ANCSA. He was granted a parcel of 80 acres within the Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge in 2008, building a small subsistence cabin on the land later that year.
In 2011, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said the allotment had been mistakenly granted on land within a restricted wilderness-designated area and notified Alstrom that the cabin would need to be moved or it would be burned down.
After failing to reach a reasonable settlement with the federal agencies, Alstrom visited Murkowski’s office in November and asked for her help. Murkowski drafted language to resolve the issue and correct the federal government’s mistake by granting Alstrom title to the land. Alstrom also agreed to give up a second allotment parcel in exchange for a similar plot of land outside the wilderness boundary.
“The Alstrom family didn’t do anything wrong here and shouldn’t be penalized for someone else’s mistake,” Murkowski said. “With today’s passage through the Senate, we’re very close to making sure the Alstrom family’s subsistence cabin isn’t unduly demolished.”
Murkowski’s amendment was attached to the Green Mountain Lookout Act (S. 404), originally introduced by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (both D-Wash.), which provides a similar exemption for a structure to remain on wilderness land in Washington state. The legislation now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to be taken up for consideration in the near future.