Alaska, Business, Economics, Politics

Who Owns Alaska?

Alaska Land OwnershipBy Brandii Holmdahl –

Communities of the Eastern Peninsula are going to be impacted by land decisions that have been generations in the making. Current land ownership in Alaska has been impacted by three major events in history. The first occurred on October 18, 1867, when Russia sold the Alaska Territory to the United States. From 1867 until 1959 the U.S. government owned the entire territory, or a land area of 375 million acres.

On January 3, 1959 Alaska was granted statehood and 28% of federally owned territory land. The new state government selected approximately 103 million acres under 3 types of grants: Community (400,000), National Forest Community (400,000) and General (102,550,000). In addition, there were territorial grants for schools, universities and mental health trusts lands. All these grants combined gave the state 105 million acres of land.

In 1971 Congress passed the Alaska Natives Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA). This law granted 44 million acres of land to each of the 12 native corporation created under the act. Native land selection was given priority over state selections.

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These three events break down into ownership of land into 4 major categories; Federal (60%), State (28%), Native (11%) and private (1%).

57 years after statehood, land is still being transferred. The Bureau of Land Management is working to finish the transfer of land from federal control to state control, additionally; the state is still in the process of transferring state land to specific trusts. One of these trusts is a state statute that requires the transfer of state land to incorporated boroughs, the Municipal Entitlement Act. The Kenai Peninsula Borough is still seeking 44,000 acres of entitlement land. A program to begin the process of finalizing land transfer under this act started in 2013 and was addressed by the state in 2015. The ramifications of those decisions will eventually impact local communities. The dispensation of this land is a significant responsibility that will affect future generations.

** This is the first of a three-part story discussing the history and future impact of land entitlements on the Seward community.

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