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Murkowski, Young Welcome Settlement of Bering Straits Lands Claims

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, today applauded passage by the full Congress of the Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act, finalizing a settlement between the state of Alaska, the federal Bureau of Land Management and the Bering Straits Native Corp., and fulfilling a promise made in the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

“It took more than 40 years, but today I’m happy to see that the Bering Straits land conveyance is headed to the president’s desk for signing. The agreement passed by Congress resolves a long-standing conflict over land selections on the Seward Peninsula and finally gives the shareholders of the Bering Sea Native Corp. their full land endowment,” Murkowski said.

“This is a good day for the residents of the Bering Straits region,” said Young. “The federal government made a promise to Alaska Natives back in 1971 with the passage of ANCSA and today, by passing this legislation. Congress is finally fulfilling its promise to the residents of the Bering Straits. After having worked for years with all parties on this legislation, and even passing it out of the House a couple years ago on a 410-0 vote, I am pleased to see this crucial piece of legislation head to the president's desk for signing.”

The Salmon Lake land exchange was passed Tuesday by the House of Representatives. The Senate approved the legislation last year. The bill now goes to President Obama for signing.

“The enactment of this bill shows that all sides are capable of compromise and that land conveyances can be done for the benefit of all involved. Let this serve as an example for future land transfers,” Murkowski said. “I want to thank Congressman Young for working doggedly to get this important piece of legislation through the House of Representatives.”

Last December marked the 40th anniversary of enactment of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. 

Background:

After gaining statehood in 1959, Alaska selected lands north of Nome around Salmon Lake, an important subsistence hunting and fishing area to the Inupiat Eskimos who have called the area home for thousands of years. When Congress passed ANCSA in 1971 to resolve aboriginal land claims, the newly created Bering Straits Native Corp. received rights to 145,728 acres of land but some of its selections around Salmon Lake overlapped with state claims.

The agreement approved by Congress Tuesday fulfills a critical component of Bering Straits’ land entitlement by conveying to it 1,009 acres in the Salmon Lake area, 6,132 acres at Windy Cove and 7,504 acres at Imuruk Basin.

Salmon Lake, located 40 miles northeast of Nome, is currently one of the westernmost sockeye salmon spawning lakes in North America, and is important to the culture, history and ongoing subsistence lifestyle of the Inupiat Eskimos who are the Bering Straits Native Corp.’s shareholders.

BLM retains ownership of a nine-acre campground at the outlet of Salmon Lake, which provides road access to public camping opportunities from the Nome-Teller Highway. The agreement also retains public access to BLM-managed lands in the Kigluaik Mountain Range.

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