"Chamber Backs Native Claims for $1 Billion"

Anchorage Daily Times, March 26 1971, p.1

The Board of Directors of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce today endorsed a $1 billion settlement of the Alaska native land claims in a significant move putting the business community of the state behind the aspirations of the natives.

The endorsement of the monetary settlement proposal, including adoption of the long-held native request for a 2 per cent overriding royalty on mineral production, was accompanied by certain limited restrictions favored by the state chamber board.

Additionally, the chamber came out with a strong recommendation to the national administration that the Interior Department should not submit its own legislation to Congress seeking resolution of the claims, which have so long deadlocked land development activities in Alaska.

The action by the state chamber board was made public by Bob Anderson of Anchorage, president of the organization and also a member of the board of directors of the Greater Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

Anderson disclosed to the Anchorage Chamber’s regular Friday board breakfast meeting today that the state chamber’s Native land Claims Task Force had met all day Wednesday hammering out a position for adoption by the organization’s board of directors.

Final board approval of the task force recommendations was obtained today, after members across the state where polled by Anderson.

The task force was headed by Phil Holdsworth, former state commissioner of natural resources, and composed of business leaders from throughout the state, Anderson said.

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce recognizes that settlement of the native land claims in Alaska is a federal question," the chamber said in a formal statement.

However, the chamber said that in the interest of a "prompt settlement and extinguishment of native land claims, and the orderly development of the natural resources of the state" it proposed now that

1. The federal government should be responsible for a monetary settlement in the amount of $500 million by appropriation from the federal treasury.

2. That the state "should be willing to participate in a monetary settlement to the extent of consenting to the payment of 2 per cent of the proceeds from bonuses, rentals, and royalties derived from the disposition of leaseable minerals brought into production after the passage of the settlement bill, but not including a monetary settlement of $500 million and excluding revenues generated form federal outer continental shelf lands and state tide and submerged lands."

3. The land grants accompanying the settlement should be "tied to village areas or existing home sites or camp sites subject to all valid existing rights and the integrity of national forest reserves."

4. A statewide agency "with a majority of native memberships" should handle "initial management of funds received under terms of the act with early transfer of management responsibility to the local area."

Anderson said that under terms of the state chamber position natives would share in royalties from North Slope oil production, assuming that a claims settlement bill would be enacted by Congress before production actually begins on the Prudhoe Bay fields.

By the same token, the royalty would not be collected from already producing fields at Swanson River and the Kenai Peninsula and in Cook Inlet, he said.

The billion dollar settlement already has been proposed in legislation now before Congress, including a $500 million cash payment by the federal government and another $500 million from overriding royalties.

The state chamber’s endorsement of the concept, with certain restrictions as outlined in its statement, is the first time, however, that a major statewide business association has put its weight behind the plan.

The state chamber’s push to get action moving on the land claims was outlined in a telegram sent to interior Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton today, with copies to Alaska’s congressional delegation and to Sen. Henry M. Jackson, D-Washington, chairman of the Senate Interior Committee.

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce," the telegram said, "strongly recommends that, in the interest of speedy action on the native land claims legislation presently before Congress, the Interior Department not submit an administration bill, but report to the respective committees on their position relative to the bills now before them.

"We fear that the introduction of a new administration bill would require a report by the Environmental Protection Agency and thus further delay an early settlement."

A bill to resolve the land claims passed the Senate in the last Congress but died without action in the House Interior Committee.


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