November 6, 1997
The Administration strongly opposes the enactment of S. 1159 on several
grounds. Because the bill would set an unacceptable precedent by reopening
native entitlements under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the
Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior would recommend that the President
veto the bill.
ANCSA granted over 200 village corporations the right to select public lands in Alaska for a variety of uses. Each corporation was required to select the public lands within the township in which it was located. ANCSA was a final settlement and, as such, represented many trade-offs and compromises by all parties.
If S. 1159 were enacted all of Alaska's village corporations could argue that they too were entitled to exchange land selected under ANCSA for more valuable Federal land. This precedent would threaten to unravel ANCSA's historic settlement through piece-meal amendments. In turn, Federal land management throughout Alaska would be severely disrupted with significant costs and consequences for all taxpayers.
Beyond the question of precedent, the land exchanges proposed in S. 1159 would not be in the public interest. The primary reason the U.S. Forest Service pursues land exchanges is to provide more efficient land management through consolidation of existing Federal ownership and to dispose of isolated parcels that are uneconomical to manage. S. 1159 is in direct conflict with these goals.
The bill is based on the premise that because some of the land that the Kake Tribal Corporation received within the township under ANCSA is municipal watershed land not subject to development, the United States should provide the Corporation with replacement land elsewhere. ANCSA, however, contemplated that villages would obtain all land within the "core" township regardless of its development potential.
Finally, the Federal Government should not administer municipal watershed lands in Alaska, as would be required by S. 1159. Rather, such lands should be managed by those communities which derive benefit from the land. Federal ownership of municipal watersheds is inconsistent with the ownership patterns envisioned by ANCSA, whereby native corporations had to select lands within their core townships.
S. 1159 is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirements of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. The Administration estimates that S. 1159 would result in Federal revenue losses of up to $500,000 per year, beginning in 1998. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 reduced the PAYGO balances to zero, and consequently, any bill that would increase mandatory spending or result in a revenue loss would contribute to a sequester of mandatory programs as called for in the Budget Enforcement Act. In the case of S. 1159, the Administration opposes the bill, and notes that it does not contain provisions to offset the net deficit increases. As a result, if the bill were enacted without further action to provide offsets, any deficit effects could contribute to a sequester of mandatory spending.