The Sealaska land-selection bill has been folded into a larger Congressional measure, increasing its chances of passing.
U.S. House Republican leaders on Tuesday moved its provisions into an omnibus bill. The Sealaska legislation, authored by Alaska Republican Don Young, is among 14 other bills in what’s called the House Conservation and Economic Growth Act.
They say the act will go before the full House next week.
The Sealaska provisions would allow the Southeast-based regional Native corporation to select federal land outside boundaries set in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
Corporate officials say that will greatly expand the corporation’s timber base, keeping logging and shipping jobs in Southeast Alaska. They say it will set aside land for future non-timber development, plus protect traditional and sacred sites.
Opponents, including environmental groups and towns near selection sites, say it’s a giveaway of some of the region’s most valuable lands. They say it will damage salmon streams, interfere with subsistence hunting, and discourage tourism.
The Sealaska bill, and the other 13 included in the measure, have already gone through the hearing process, says House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings.
If the bill passes, it will go to the Senate for consideration, where a committee is fine-tuning a different version authored by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.
Spokesman Robert Dillon says her bill is a compromise with a better chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate. Her staff has been negotiating with environmental groups, the Forest Service, the Democratic majority and Sealaska. The Senate version is not yet finished.