Alaska Land Conveyance Program--A Slow, Complex, and Costly Process

RCED-84-14: Published: Jun 12, 1984. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1984.

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GAO reviewed the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) conveyance of land in Alaska to Alaskan natives and native corporations to evaluate BLM progress in conveying the land.

GAO found that, at the end of 1983, BLM had conveyed or approved: (1) 73 percent of the land to which the State of Alaska was entitled; and (2) 70 percent of the land to which Alaskan native corporations were entitled. The state, and many of the native corporations surveyed, stated that their economic, social, and cultural development objectives had been adversely affected by the slow speed of land conveyance. GAO found that the three major obstacles to conveyance are: (1) pending native land claims; (2) pending navigability determinations for waterways on land to be conveyed; and (3) the slow and costly process of surveying land. BLM resolution of native land claims has been slow because: (1) the number of applications processed kept changing as the result of court and administrative determinations; and (2) the method by which applications are processed is complex. Navigability determinations are difficult because BLM and the state disagree on the criteria for determining whether waterways are navigable. The Department of the Interior has adopted a policy that lessens the significance of navigability determinations; GAO believes that this policy will speed up the conveyance process. BLM has the administrative capability to handle more land surveys, but lacks funds. In the past, the state made some contributions to help pay for land surveys, but native corporations have made no such contributions. Few of the native corporations surveyed indicated a willingness to contribute to the cost of land surveys.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM informs applicants about specific application deadlines. This is accomplished along regional lines.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, BLM, to require, after providing reasonable notice, that all amendments to native allotment applications in a specified area be filed by a specific date.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency intends to encourage, but not require, participation by the applicant or his designee and the acquisition of an affidavit regarding the allotment locations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, BLM, to require the applicant, or an alternate with power of attorney, to be present when the allotment is field examined and to obtain an affidavit from the applicant agreeing to the allotment location.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency believes that having a policy of accepting money for surveys and other purposes is sufficient and that it does not need a policy to request or actively try to obtain money from the native corporations and the State for surveys.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, BLM, to develop and implement a policy to request contributions for surveys from the native corporations and the State.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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