Agreement Transfers Land to BSNC
June 6, 2012 - (Washington, D.C.). The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation that would ratify the Salmon Lake Land Ownership and Consolidation Agreement (Senate Bill S.292). The bill will now be sent to the President, who is expected to sign it.
This legislation was enacted after years of negotiations when a final agreement was entered into by Bering Straits Native Corporation, the State of Alaska, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on July 18th, 2007 to resolve competing claims held by the State and BSNC in the area of Salmon Lake, approximately 30 miles north of Nome under the processes called for in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).
A result of four years of discussions and negotiations, the agreement will facilitate the transfer of specific tracts of land to both the State and BSNC and resolve outstanding issues in competing claims for the tracts. Lands of the BSNC are located in the far northwestern part of Alaska. Some are strategically located only two miles from Russia at their closest point.
Upon its signature by the President, the legislation would authorize the Bureau of Land Management to convey the eastern portion of Salmon Lake to BSNC and the western portion to the State in furtherance of the negotiated agreement reached among all parties. The Act also allows conveyance of the Imuruk Basin Lands to BSNC. All of the lands included in the agreement benefit the people of the region for subsistence and recreational activities and provide critical habitat for various species of salmon, moose, caribou and other game resources. The long process of land selection, adjudication, and conveyance culminated through this bill that started with the passage of the ANCSA over 40 years ago is nearly complete for the BSNC region and its member villages.
"Over the past three decades, following the processes set forth in ANCSA, BSNC has had to refine and prioritize the lands which were of the greatest value to the region?s shareholders," said Gail Schubert, President and CEO of Bering Straits Native Corporation. Schubert noted that Salmon Lake was determined to be particularly important because of the reliance local residents have on the subsistence resources found there. The lake is one of the westernmost spawning areas for red salmon on the North American continent and has long provided an essential harvest for the people of the region. Caribou were once hunted in great numbers in the area and have recently returned. Salmon Lake also provides recreational opportunities due to its location on the seasonal road that stretches north from Nome and the Bering Sea Coast.
Schubert also noted, "Our elders have long understood the importance of this area to our people and our culture. While the process of securing these lands has been difficult at times, the future of BSNC and its shareholders, particularly with respect to subsistence activities and resources, will be enhanced and enriched by the receipt of the lands at Salmon Lake and Imuruk Basin for current and future generations. We want to thank Congressman Don Young for his dogged determination in getting this passed through the United State House of representatives. We also want to thank Senator Lisa Murkowski for sponsoring this bill in the Senate and getting it passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which she sits as Ranking Member. We also thank co-sponsor Sen. Mark Begich as well as Chairman Doc Hasting and Ranking Member Ed Markey for their support in getting this bill passed through the House Natural Resources Committee. We also thank the State of Alaska and the BLM for working with us in good-faith to finalize these lands claims that we have been working on since passage of ANCSA."
About Bering Straits Native Corporation
Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) was formed in 1972 as the regional Alaska Native Corporation for 6,333 original shareholders under authority of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Part of the impetus for achieving passage of ANCSA during the Administration of President Richard Nixon was to settle aboriginal land claims so that the U.S. could extract oil from the Prudhoe Bay sedimentary basin that has been of such great benefit to the nation.
The Bering Straits region encompasses the majority of Alaska's Seward Peninsula and the coastal lands of eastern Norton Sound. BSNC owns and manages nearly 2 million acres of subsurface estate of land selected by 17 village corporations in the region. This region is one of the most culturally diverse areas in the state with three Native languages spoken: Siberian Yup'ik, Central Yup'ik, and Inupiaq.
BSNC is headquartered in Nome, Alaska. Regional operations include real estate management and development, tourism, construction, mining services and sales of rock and aggregate. BSNC also has offices in Anchorage, which oversee the company's government contract work under the SBA's 8(a), HubZone and small business programs. Anchorage operations also include construction and various support services for commercial clients and shareholder services.