Incorporated in 1972, under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, Eklutna, Inc. plays a vital role in the economic landscape in the Anchorage Municipality, Alaska’s largest city. For the last 50 years, Eklutna, Inc. has been a willing participant in helping the Municipality and State of Alaska establish sites for schools, public safety purposes, parks, highways, transportation and utility right-of-ways, and energy projects. These actions demonstrate our corporate mission to honor our history and culture, protect our lands and assets, grow and sustain our businesses, and maintain strong community relationships.
Eklutna’s Unresolved Land Entitlement
Eklutna’s ANCSA experience has contended with State selections, pre-statehood mental health land withdrawals, the Fort Richardson military withdrawal, the proximity to Alaska Railroad lands, and establishment of the Chugach State Park engulfing traditional Eklutna lands. These competing claims on Eklutna traditional lands all made Eklutna’s land conveyance journey much more difficult, complex, and expensive than was the case for most Alaska Native villages.
- First, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) outlined a framework to develop an agreement within two years to craft a solution to the Anchorage land selection and withdrawal disputes. The North Anchorage Land Agreement (NALA) was the outgrowth of the ANILCA framework to settle those disputes.
- NALA resolved many issues; however, it also resulted in leaving Eklutna unable to gain benefit from the two mainland interests afforded in NALA.
- The primary interest Eklutna received in resolving all the issues and complexities for the benefit of Anchorage, the State, and the public-at-large, was the vested right to receive up to 15,404.5 acres of land within the Fort Richardson Military base.
- Unfortunately, those lands cannot be conveyed until the Department of Defense determines that the lands are surplus or excess to their military needs.
- In return for this vested right, Eklutna ceded management of its lands within Chugach State Park to the State of Alaska, leaving Eklutna unable to derive financial benefit from those lands as well.
- Eklutna has waited over 40 years to realize the promises from NALA. Considering current geopolitical tensions, Eklutna will wait for 40 years or more without a legislative solution.
We see fulfilling promises as an important value. It is the foundation for making agreements and reaching compromise – progress. When an agreement is made and the promises contained in that agreement were never intended to be fulfilled, it frustrates and stifles progress. That has been the Eklutna predicament for 40 years – stifled.
The Equitable Resolution
Successful resolution requires Congressional action, specifically through federal acquisition of Eklutna’s vested interest in the military lands. Eklutna recognizes that any action taken by Congress in the context of private relief must prioritize minimizing any adverse impact on others, and our request to the federal government is based on principles of equity and fairness.
- This proposed course of action recommends that NALA be left untouched, with all existing interests negotiated under NALA remaining intact, except for those relating to Eklutna.
- Proposed action by Congress should allow Eklutna to realize the value it bargained for without materially diminishing the values held by the other parties. An assignment of Eklutna’s NALA interest in the military lands, essentially replacing Eklutna with the Secretary of the Interior in NALA, with all the rights and responsibilities that Eklutna owns being transferred for some value, allows Eklutna to move forward.
- Removing Eklutna from an agreement that is essentially between governments also produces better public policy. Should the military lands ever be found to be in excess it is more appropriate for Anchorage, the State, and the BLM to work through the location of public interest and recreational lands vis-à-visa general governmental plan for development.
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