Lands and Wilderness Bills: S 881
Marcilynn A. Burke
Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior
Senate Energy &Natural Resources Committee
October 8, 2009
Thank you for the opportunity to testify and provide the Department of Interior's (Department's) views on S. 881, the Southeast
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Alaska State Office, is responsible for expediting federal land conveyances to individual Alaska Natives, Native corporations, and the State of
ANCSA established a framework under which Alaska Natives could form private corporations to select and receive title to 44 million acres of public land in
S. 881 would amend ANCSA to allow Sealaska to receive conveyance of lands outside of the original withdrawal areas established by the Act in 1971, and would create new and unique categories of selections not available to other regional corporations.Specifically, it would allow Sealaska to select and receive conveyance from Forest Service-administered lands in the
As noted, the Department supports finalizing entitlements under ANCSA and the BLM is maintaining the accelerated pace of the program while ensuring that the intent of ANCSA is implemented.By the end of FY 09, BLM has surveyed and patented 58 percent of lands to the native Corporations, and has granted interim conveyance on an additional 34 percent.The Department is concerned that S. 881 would provide an impetus for other regional corporations to attempt to reopen land claims at this critical final stage in the land transfer program.If this occurs, it would obstruct the progress of the program, and prolong the process of completing ANCSA entitlements.Provisions of S. 881, such as future selections, would also create uncertainty regarding the boundaries of federally-managed public lands in
In addition, the Department is very concerned with the deadlines for conveyance set in S. 881.These deadlines would put the completion of Sealaska conveyances ahead of all other regional corporations, individual Alaskan Natives, and the State.This "front of the line" approach would set a negative precedent of preferential treatment and interrupt progress on conveyances to other entities.The BLM has made significant progress since the enactment of the Alaska Land Transfer Acceleration Act of 2004, which gave the BLM the tools it needed to expedite these land transfers.An amendment such as S. 881, which would change fundamental provisions of this statute, would serve to reverse much of the progress we have made thus far.
S. 881 would also remove existing covenants on historic and cemetery sites conveyed under ANCSA Section 14(h)(1), which restrict activity that is incompatible with these sites' cultural or historic values.The Department believes this would provide an opportunity for other regional corporations to request removal of similar restrictions from other Native corporation sites, further negatively impacting the land transfer program.
The cooperative management agreement provisions in sections 3(a)(2) and 3(c)(2) of the legislation would require the National Park Service (NPS) to offer to enter into cooperative management agreements with Sealaska and other corporations for activities in
In addition, requiring cooperative management agreements for such activities such as guided tours and establishment of visitor sites with profit-making corporations would be inconsistent with the open, competitive process currently provided under concession management law and regulation.Existing practices are already resulting in engaging Native Alaskans in the visitor experience: a subsidiary of Huna Totem Corporation has the
The Department also has concerns about Section 5(e)(2), which would broaden the definition of tribal lands under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to include all ANCSA lands in
As noted above, the Department supports the goal of completing ANCSA entitlements as soon as possible and is working diligently to maintain the accelerated pace of the land transfer program.The Department is committed to working with the parties to reach a solution.Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this matter.I will be glad to answer any questions.