State Asserts Ownership to the Mosquito Fork of the Fortymile River
June 1, 2012, Anchorage, Alaska – Today, the State of Alaska filed suit against the United States government to assert ownership of the land underlying the Mosquito Fork of the Fortymile River. This case is an important step toward addressing jurisdictional difficulties facing owners of mining claims within the bed of the river.
Under the U.S. Constitution as well as federal law, the State of Alaska gained ownership to the beds of navigable or tidally-influenced water on the date of statehood. The only exceptions are waters expressly withdrawn by the federal government prior to statehood or waters determined to be "non-navigable." The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rejected evidence presented by the state that the Mosquito Fork is navigable. It has instead labeled the river "non-navigable" and denied the state's ownership of the land underlying that river.
“Contrary to BLM's determination, the evidence of historic and current use clearly establishes navigability and the state's ownership of the Mosquito Fork,” Attorney General Geraghty said.
Through a recent agreement between the state and BLM, Alaska enjoys the only successful program in the nation which can administratively clear up disputes over the state’s ownership of riverbeds. This program has been successful for other waterways.
“Despite our best efforts, BLM has been unwilling to reconsider its determination that the Mosquito Fork and other rivers in the Fortymile area are non-navigable," Geraghty said. "BLM's failure to reconsider the status of these rivers has forced us to resort to litigation to protect these important constitutional rights."
For more information on the case, please contact Assistant Attorney General Jessie Alloway at 269-5100.