UPDATE on Alaska Native Vietnam Era Veterans Land Allotment Act

This news item is an update to our story we published on March 12, 2019

The Klawock, AK community comes together to raise a totem honoring Veterans.

WHAT WAS SIGNED INTO LAW?

Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) advanced a package of public land bills that included the bill finalizing equitable treatment for Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans.  The public lands package was approved in the U.S. Senate on February 12, 2019, with the U.S. House approving the package on February 26, 2019. It was signed into law by the President on March 12, 2019.

Approximately 2,800 Alaska Native Vietnam era veterans from any region of Alaska, who served between August 5, 1964, and December 31, 1971, or their heirs, may have the ability to select an allotment from available federal lands.

WHAT DOES THE ACT DO?

Alaska Native Vietnam era Veterans who missed the opportunity to apply for Native allotments because of active duty can apply for an Alaska Native Allotment. An eligible individual may apply for an allotment up to five (5) years after the effective date of new regulations issued under this Act.

WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW?

  • The Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs will provide a list of members of the Armed Forces during the qualifying dates, and the Secretary of the Interior (“Secretary”) will use this list to determine whether an applicant meets the requirements of active duty.
  • The Secretary will conduct outreach and provide assistance in applying to eligible individuals.
  • The Secretary has 18 months from date of enactment to promulgate regulations to implement this program.

ABOUT LANDS AVAILABLE FOR ALLOTMENTS

  • The final bill removed areas from which veterans’ allotments may be selected, including the Tongass National Forest and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 
  • The available lands may include land “selected by, but not yet conveyed to”, the State of Alaska or a Regional or Village Corporation with the permission of the State or Native Corporation.
  • Lands are not eligible for selection if already conveyed to the State or to a Native Corporation.
  • Not later than one (1) year after enactment, the Act directs the Secretary, in consultation with the State of Alaska and Alaska Native Corporations, to identify federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management as available for allotment selections in the State. 

HOW SEALASKA IS HELPING

  • Sealaska will ensure that our Southeast Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans, or their families, have the information and technical assistance that they will need to submit allotment applications.
  • Sealaska will share more information about the process, including the regulations, as soon as it becomes available.