In a historic milestone for Ʒ (Chugach), the Alaska Delegation introduced legislation in the 118th Congress to authorize the exchange of non-federal land held by the Chugach for certain federal land in the Chugach Region.

The long-awaited Chugach Alaska Land Exchange Oil Spill Recovery Act of 2024 (; the “Act”) grants Chugach ownership of approximately 65,000 acres of culturally significant and economically viable full-estate and surface lands fulfilling the terms of the 2019 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (Dingell Act) as being accessible, economically viable, and/or culturally significant.

In exchange, Chugach will transfer ownership of subsurface lands to the federal government to consolidate federal ownership of surface and subsurface rights to reduce split estate conflicts.

“Introducing this bill represents a meaningful and long-awaited step on the path towards healing for the Chugach region and shareholders following the devastation of the Exxon Valdez oil spill,” said Chugach Chairman of the Board Sheri Buretta. “Resolving the existing split-estate conflicts will empower Chugach to exercise self-determination for its people as intended by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. We are grateful for Senator Lisa Murkowski’s leadership, as well as the support of Senator Dan Sullivan and Representative Mary Peltola, in their ongoing advocacy for a fair and just land exchange on our behalf.”

Each tract of land was identified by Chugach for its potential value, either in the form of cultural preservation or economic development; and viability, including accessibility and adjacency to Chugach lands.

The Act is the culmination of several years of groundwork laid by Chugach in partnership with the Alaska delegation. Chugach has long fought for a fair and just land exchange that would resolve the split-estate land conflicts that have lingered since the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (EVOS). In the wake of the spill’s devastation, EVOS settlement funds were used for land conservation to purchase Alaska Native village corporation lands on which Chugach owns the subsurface dominate estate. While the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 had envisioned village and regional corporations having joint ownership of these lands for shared management and mutual benefit, the federal government’s ownership of the lands created challenges to exercising those rights. The land exchange agreement offers a path to resolve these issues in the best interest of both Chugach and the federal government.

In December 2022, the U.S Department of Interior submitted the Chugach Region and Lands Study Report to Congress, more than a year after the 18-month deadline required by the Dingell Act. This report has served as a foundation for the exchange outlined in the current Act.

Chugach’s long-term lands management strategy seeks a balanced approach to managing our lands for the long-term benefits and prosperity of our shareholders.

“By selecting lands that have cultural value or economic potential for the corporation, we can continue to provide benefits for our people and region, while remaining mindful of preserving and protecting our lands for generations to come,” said Buretta. “For instance, the acreage on Nuchek-Hinchinbrook Island is near Chugach land holdings on which the corporation’s Nuuciq Youth and Elder Spirit Camp is held. That land enables us to continue sharing and expanding our culture camp for future generations.”

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Director Randi Jo Gause

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