Second bill proposes smaller Sealaska land transfer

A second measure transferring Tongass National Forest land to Sealaska is before Congress on Thursday.

It’s stopgap legislation turning 3,600 acres over to the Southeast-based regional Native corporation. Two parcels are proposed, one on the Cleveland Peninsula and the other at Election Creek on Prince of Wales Island.

A much larger bill before Congress would transfer about 70,000 acres.

Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil says it’s needed to keep logging operations going.

“Obviously we’d like the more systemic bill, but it’s important for us to be able to recognize that we have important timing and operational considerations to achieve. And that’s why there’s the second bill, which is really a subset of the first,” McNeil says.

Both measures are sponsored by Alaska Congressman Don Young.

They and four others will go before the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs at 10 a.m. Thursday, Alaska time.

Similar legislation is before the Senate.

The House version of the larger measure includes more of what Sealaska asked for. The Senate bill shows more changes resulting from negotiations with environmental groups, small communities, tour operators and other critics.

Young’s measures are House Bill 740 and House Resolution 1306. The main Senate bill, sponsored by Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, is Senate Bill 340.