Kodiak tribe eyes surplus Coast Guard land

Move would restore traditional hunting and berry-picking uses.

Associated PressJuly 13, 2012 

KODIAK -- A tribe on Kodiak Island has unveiled a plan to take over surplus Coast Guard land in a move that tribal members say would allow for economic opportunities and a return to traditional food gathering.

The Sun'aq Tribe of Kodiak unveiled its long-term plan this week. Board member Iver Malutin told The Kodiak Daily Mirror that the proposed land transfer would be a way to restore things to the way they were before the 1940s and the arrival of the military on Kodiak Island.

"We've never owned land," Malutin said, "and we have to protect (the land, air and sea) in order to have a future."

The plan starts with obtaining an agreement with the Coast Guard that allows negotiations to begin. The two groups could then decide which parts of the 23,000-acre Coast Guard complex are surplus and could be transferred to the tribe.

Sun'aq CEO Robert Polasky, natural resources director Rick Rowland, consultant Tim Richardson and board member Iver Malutin said the plan is a way to restore traditional food-gathering land -- where members can hunt and gather berries -- and open opportunities for economic development.

As part of the 1973 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Natives living on Kodiak asked for land formerly occupied by the U.S. military as part of its claim. That land later was designated an EPA Superfund site because it was so heavily contaminated by chemicals and waste left by the military.

If the surplus lands the tribe now is seeking are contaminated, they will need to be cleaned up. It's possible that the tribe could co-manage any transferred land with the Coast Guard after or during cleanup, officials said.

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