Murkowski introduces Salmon Lake land exchange bill

March 4, 2009
02:41 PM
MARCH 4, 2009                                            or ANNE JOHNSON (202) 224-7875                                   
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced legislation that would provide for a land exchange between the Bering Straits Native Corp. and the state of Alaska. The Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, would resolve a land conveyance dispute between the Native corporation and the state of Alaska, dating back to 1971 and the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
“Alaska Natives have spent decades fighting for the land they were promised,” Murkowski said. “All sides have come together in reaching this compromise. It is my sincere hope that with passage of this bill the issues that have complicated land and wildlife management will be left behind and the corporation’s shareholders will finally realize the economic and cultural benefits of their land.”
“This bill makes official an agreement among numerous agencies to ensure that the Bering Straits Native Corp. receives its full land entitlement under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. I commend the many Bering Strait area residents and corporation and government officials who reached this resolution,” Sen. Begich said. “Another benefit of the agreement is protecting local subsistence rights and opening the door for greater recreational sites. It’s truly a win-win.”
With passage of this bill the Bering Straits Native Corporation would gain 1,009 acres in the Salmon Lake area, 6,132 acres at Windy Cove, and 7,504 acres at Imuruk Basin.  In return the corporation relinquishes rights to another 3,084 acres at Salmon Lake to the federal government, which will then give part of the land to the state of Alaska to maintain a key airstrip in the area.
The bill fully protects recreation and subsistence use in the area while providing the corporation with access to recreational-tourism sites of importance to its shareholders.  The Bureau of Land Management retains ownership and administration of a campground on Salmon Lake and lands in the Kigluaik Mountain Range. Congress must ratify the land conveyance changes by 2011, when the agreement ratification window closes.   
Passage of the bill is in keeping with the spirit of the Alaska Lands Conveyance Acceleration Act that Congress passed five years ago, Murkowski said. That bill was intended to help settle all outstanding land conveyance issues by 2009 – the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood.