Sheldon Jackson College’s Board of Trustees says it’s strengthened its claim to the area around Redoubt Lake.
The trustees announced Monday that they’ve filed legal paperwork better documenting an earlier claim to the popular sport and subsistence fishing area. Redoubt is about a 15-mile skiff ride south of Sitka.
Trustees Board Vice Chairwoman Heather McCarty says the claim is not part of the larger effort to pay off the closed college’s debt.
“We will not be using ownership of Redoubt to develop or change in any way the current use of the property,” she says. “Our goal is to continue to make available to the general public the access to the subsistence sockeye fishery that is so important to the community as well as the continuation of the fisheries enhancement that the Forest Service runs in the lake.”
The 160-acre claim includes Redoubt Falls, the west end of the lake, and part of the nearby bay. (Scroll down to link to some of the college’s claim documents.)
Attorney Cabot Christianson says Russian colonists used the area for about 70 years, and built a small town. It was sold around the time Alaska became United States territory, and changed hands several times since. He says Redoubt was deeded to Sheldon Jackson College in 1981.
Sealaska Corporation selected some of the property more than three decades ago under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The effort moved forward slightly last year, raising some objections.
Christianson says the trustees decided to speed legal action after reviewing the Southeast regional Native corporation’s paperwork.
“We became concerned that the fisheries protection was not going to be sufficient to protect the fisheries program that’s been ongoing there for the last 30 years. We also became concerned that the public access rights were not being protected,” he says.
It’s difficult to prove ownership because the deed documenting Russian sale into private hands is missing. The legal claim filed by the trustees is called a “color of title,” which documents ownership after that sale.
There’s no timeline for the claim process. Sealaska will likely respond to the trustees’ filing. Earlier this year, the corporation’s chief attorney said the college’s documentation covered only buildings, not land. We’ll have more on that perspective in a later report.
The college is looking for one or more partners to share management of the site, should it succeed. That group or groups would eventually become owners after what’s left of Sheldon Jackson ceases to exist.
Trustee Rob Allen says one option would be a group such as the Nature Conservancy.
Read some of the college’s claim documents: