The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was enacted into law on December 18, 1971. This Act was intended to settle outstanding land claims and establish clear title to Alaska’s land and resources. To do this, the Act established 12 regional corporations and a method of conveying surface estate (land) and subsurface estate (mineral and other resources) to each regional corporation. ANCSA also established village corporations and gave each village corporation, subject to valid existing rights, the right to the surface estate (land) in and around the village, as identified in Section 11 of the Act, as amended. The amount of land to be conveyed was identified in Section 14 (a) and allotted to the Native population of the village as follows:
The regional corporation for the area received title to the subsurface estate of the village corporation land.
The first Alaska land law, the 1884 Organic Act, Section 8, states in part “… the Indians or other persons in said district shall not be disturbed in the possession of any lands actually in their use or occupation or now claimed by them but the terms under which such persons may acquire title to such lands is reserved for future legislation by Congress.” The Act established the difference between Native land policies in Alaska and the lower 48 states. The United States did not move Alaska Natives to reservations.
Congress also adopted the 1862 Homestead Act and the 1906 Native Allotment Act. These acts established land ownership for individual Natives and non-Natives. The Native claims mentioned in the Organic Act remained unsettled.
State land selections and increased use of natural resources, including those initiated by the discovery of oil on the North Slope, followed statehood in 1959. Congress adopted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971 to provide clear ownership of the land needed for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. With the adoption of ANCSA, the land claims of the Alaska Natives, established more that 100 years earlier, were finally settled.
ANCSA provided for the creation of regional Native corporations and individual village corporations within each region. The Act also provided for conveyance of land to the appropriate village entity. Natives, as a group, received ownership or title to lands through transfer of title to regional and village corporations. However, individual village residents still did not have titles to the lands their homes were on, and few village governments owned land used for public purposes.
Congress recognized the need for land title for occupants of village lands. To meet this need, ANCSA provided that village corporations get ownership (interim conveyance or patent) to the available lands. Under ANCSA Section 14(c), the village corporation then reconveys the title for parcels used by qualifying individuals and organizations.
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ANCSA Section 14(c)(1)(2) and (4) provides that the village corporation must make land available to individuals and organizations occupying the land on December 18, 1971 (valid existing rights). ANCSA Subsection 14(c)(3) provides that the village corporation shall convey to any municipal corporation or the state in trust, any lands identified for present and future community needs. Land conveyed in trust is deeded to the state’s Municipal Land Trustee and is managed under the Municipal Land Trustee Program provided for in Alaska State (AS) 44.33.755.
Because the village corporations received title to only the surface estate, a municipal corporation or the state in trust receiving a 14(c) conveyance from the village corporation receives title to only the surface estates.
ANCSA Section 14(c) has five sections. This chapter deals with the four sections described below. These sections identify the individuals and organizations that can receive land from the village corporation under Section 14(c).
ANCSA Subsection 14(c)(3) spells out the land to be re-conveyed to the municipal corporation or state in trust (if the community is unincorporated) for public purposes. It states “…title to the remaining surface estate of the improved land on which the Native village is located and as much additional land as is necessary for community expansion, appropriate rights-of-way for public use, and other foreseeable community needs… further , that any net revenue derived from the sale of resources harvested…shall be paid to the Village Corporation.”
Improved land may be defined as “land conveyed under ANCSA to village corporations which is so changed from its natural state through valuable additions made to the land or through regular use by the residents of the village,” as provided in the Municipal Trust Land regulations in the Alaska Administrative Code 3 AAC 190.990(5). The following are examples of changes that create improved lands:
Sometimes village corporations propose to include post-1971 homes as a part of the remaining improvements that are to be conveyed to the municipality or state in trust. Because these homes do not qualify for 14(c)(1) conveyances, the municipality or the state in trust may be in a better position to transfer this land to the homeowner. Title 29 and Municipal Trust Land regulations have provisions that allow for the transfer of land where an equitable interest exists.
Next, consider the phrase “as much additional land as is necessary for community expansion.” Communities need land for future projects and activities. As a community grows, it will require land for public use. ANCSA does not specifically define “community expansion.” The municipality can propose land needed for community expansion and negotiate with the village corporation for that land. For example, although an existing housing project may provide for current residents, many young people in the community will need new housing in the future. The municipality may propose a future housing project site and a road right-of-way as 14(c)(3) land.
Understanding the phrase “appropriate rights-of-way for public use” first requires an explanation of right-of-way. A right-of-way is a right of passage over another landowner’s ground. Types of right-of-way include:
Rights-of-way should include existing roads and trails and may include future roads and trails. Refer to Village Land Reconveyance Planning: A Handbook on ANCSA Section 14(c) for more information on rights-of-way.
The phrase “other foreseeable community needs” describes the community needs that can be seen or known in advance. Such needs are identified by the municipality and may be agreed to by the corporation. For example, the community may recognize that a landfill will be needed. A suitable site can be identified as a foreseeable need.
The last phrase quoted from 14(c)(3) is “provided further, that any net revenues derived from the sale of resources harvested…” The intent of this language is to state that if the municipality sells the timber or harvests resources from land received under ANCSA 14(c)(3), profits from the sale must go to the village corporation. Timber or other surface resources may be used for public purposes (to build a community hall, for example) without payment to the village corporation. Remember, the regional corporation owns the gravel and other subsurface resources and the municipality has no right to these resources for any purpose without the owner’s consent.
ANSCA 14(c) decisions are important and require careful consideration: land ownership boundaries are established. Ownership boundaries identify the location of land that will be owned by individuals, nonprofits, businesses, and communities. Corporations and municipalities prepare and review management and land plans. These organizations usually define their goals and purposes to determine land needs. They then make plans to reach their goals. Structures, landfills, and other projects involving land are important parts of these plans. People have a chance to design their future community and plan for what the community will be like.
Before you start the 14(c) process, keep four important points in mind:
Community members should know the powers and purposes of municipalities and village corporations to understand their roles in the 14(c)(3) reconveyance process. Both entities serve local needs and interests. By understanding the powers and purposes of each, the community can decide which can best meet the various needs of the community. For example, the municipality needs land for public purposes, such as a fire hall or public utility. On the other hand, the corporation needs land for its businesses, such as a retail store.
The status of land ownership after land decisions are made is another major factor in deciding which lands should be transferred. The village corporation is a private organization and may restrict use of its lands. The municipality must generally allow public access to lands and facilities.
Staff time and other resources will be needed to complete the tasks of 14(c)(3) reconveyance. In some cases, existing staff can do the job. In other cases additional help will be needed. The Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) can provide sample documents, base maps for use in mapping boundaries, and some technical assistance in getting you started on the 14(c)(3) settlement process.
To make a 14(c)(3) proposal, the municipality needs to know its land needs and match them with the land available for 14(c). Land ownership, land suitability, current land use, and plans for community expansion (future land use) must be examined. The best way to understand the relationship between these factors is to plot the information on a base map. The explanation below describes how to create a base map and add the information describing each factor.
Base map: Start with a base map to plot information. An aerial photograph that shows existing structures and terrain features is the best way to illustrate the existing community. Often it is the only map available at a usable scale. DCCED can provide maps for most communities.
Draw information on the map or on clear plastic sheets that lie on top of the base map (overlays). The use of separate layers allows comparison of several types of information. Plot information on land ownership, current land use, land suitability, and future land use as discussed below.
Land ownership: Only land received by the village corporation under ANCSA is available for selection by the municipality under 14(c)(3). Within these boundaries, the following types of land ownership parcels, which are not available for selection, might be found:
Current land use: Identify current land uses, including public buildings, residences, businesses, public use areas, roads and trails, and utilities.
Land suitability: Identify land suitable for development. Consider such things as:
Future land use: Determine future land needs of the community and identify areas to meet those needs. Show all planned development, private and public. Consider these types of development:
By using map layers that show future land use, you can develop a 14(c)(3) proposal. It should identify three types of land: right-of-way, publicly used land, and expansion land. Specific requirements for these lands are:
Make sure the 14(c)(3) proposal does not include 14(c)(1) or 14(c)(2) claims or other private land.
Ideally, the corporation and the municipality agree to a jointly planned 14(c)(3) reconveyance. When the municipality or state in trust and the village corporation work together on the reconveyance, each will benefit from shared information on plans and capabilities.
Each party in the process can influence the final decision. The corporation does not proceed until it is satisfied with the 14(c)(3) proposal. The municipality or state in trust can influence the agreement because the law requires that any conveyance of less than 1,280 acres be agreed to in writing by the municipality or state in trust. Furthermore, any claimant not satisfied with the proposed conveyance can file suit within one year from the date the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) accepts the map of boundaries. Obviously, the process works best if the municipality or state in trust and corporation agree. This avoids delay in transfer of 14(c) land.
A 14(c)(3) agreement, which describes the land and the terms of the contract, should be in writing. The law requires any agreement for less than 1,280 acres to be in writing. A written agreement preserves the negotiated results until the lands are deeded, which reduces the likelihood of confusion for new board members, council members, or staff. Once the parties have agreed on the lands to be conveyed, the land is not deeded until it is surveyed. The agreement allows land to be used between the time of the agreement and when the land is deeded.
The map of boundaries is an important piece of the process. It is essentially a picture of the 14(c)(3) proposal. It is prepared by the village corporation and submitted to BLM. BLM requires the village corporation to sign a statement that all conflicts concerning the property lines shown on the map have been resolved.
BLM publishes a notice in the newspaper when the village corporation files a map of boundaries. If 14(c) claimants are not satisfied, Section 902(b) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) allows them up to one year from the date specified in the notice to file a legal action. BLM’s responsibility is to survey the 14(c) lands from the instructions given on the map. BLM does not intercede for or against the 14(c) claimants. It is very important that the municipality or state in trust examine the map of boundaries to be sure that the 14(c)(3) claim is accurately shown.
Section 902(b) of ANILCA says: “(b) Decisions made by a Village Corporation to reconvey land under section 14(c) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act shall not be subject to judicial review unless such action is initiated before a court of competent jurisdiction within one year after the date of the filing of the map of boundaries as provided for in regulations promulgated by the Secretary.”
When BLM signs the map of boundaries, it becomes a plan of survey. The map is usually signed after the one-year period expires and no conflicts have been recorded in the courts. For more information, read the BLM policy on maps of boundaries. A copy can be obtained from BLM or DCCED. This policy is also in the Alaska Native Foundation (ANF) Handbook Village Land Reconveyance Planning.
After the survey has been done and approved by BLM, the village corporation can issue deeds. The issuance of deeds completes the 14(c) process. The deeds should be recorded at the State Recorder’s Office.
Why should the village corporation make conveyances under Section 14(c)?
When should 14(c) conveyances be done?
ANCSA did not set a time frame for doing 14(c), however, information will be easier to obtain while most of the people who lived in the community in 1971 are still around. Some section 14(c) subsections have a vesting date of December 18, 1971. Establishing and describing the situation that existed in 1971 is more difficult if witnesses have moved or died.
Who makes 14(c) decisions?
ANCSA Section 14(c) places major responsibility on the village corporation for completing the conveyances. The village corporation needs to examine the situation in the order presented below and decide whether conveyances are needed for the following:
Who receives 14(c)(3) lands?
If there is an incorporated municipality, the municipality receives title to the land. If the community is unincorporated, the state holds the title in trust for a future municipality. The Municipal Land Trustee transfers the land to the municipality when it incorporates. If the community surrounding the village is unincorporated, and if the community and the Municipal Land Trustee agree, a borough can receive 14(c)(3) lands.
What does “state in trust” mean? Who is the trustee?
In an incorporated village (no municipal government), ANCSA requires that 14(c)(3) land must be transferred to the state. The state holds the land in trust until a municipality that can receive title is established. After incorporation, the state transfers all trust land to the new municipality.
According to state law, the responsibility for accepting and administering municipal trust land rests with the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED). The DCCED Division of Community and Regional Affairs staff performs the functions of the Municipal Lands Trustee Program. The phrases “state in trust” and “Municipal Land Trustee” mean essentially the same thing.
How does the state in trust make its decisions?
Provisions in the Alaska Administrative Code (3 AAC 190) guide the operation of the Municipal Land Trustee Program. Basically, the program provides for consultations with local residents to identify ANCSA 14(c)(3) land. The consultations are conducted through village meetings or discussions in which a representative group speaks for the village. The representative group is called the “appropriate village entity” (AVE). The Municipal Land Trustee must receive approval from the AVE before making land decisions.
How much acreage is the municipality entitled to?
ANCSA originally required the conveyance of 1,280 acres to a municipality under Subsection 14(c)(3). The 1981 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) changed that requirement to be less than 1,280 acres if the Village Corporation and the Municipal Corporation or the state in trust can agree in writing to a lesser amount.
DCCED encourages corporations and villages to focus on what they will need for future facilities and land use, rather than on a set amount of acreage.
Is land needed for new housing conveyed under 14(c)(3)?
If the village corporation will be developing land for houses, the corporation does not need to convey land to the municipality or the state in trust for housing. In some communities, however, the municipality may want to make public land available at less than market value or transfer free land to a housing authority for a public housing project. In these instances, land needed for housing is eligible for a 14(c)(3) conveyance.
Does a federal townsite alter the 14(c)(3) transfer?
A community with a federal townsite may find that many of its community land needs are met by land received from a federal townsite conveyance. A village corporation in a townsite community does not have a lesser obligation; however, the 14(c)(3) process may show that many of the community needs are already met. Similar to the state’s Municipal Land Trustee concept, federal townsites created under federal law are under the oversight of the federal townsite trustee. The federal townsite trustee for Alaska is the Bureau of Land Management.
How are Native allotments handled under 14(c)?
Native allotments take precedence over a village corporation’s land selections and any 14(c) claim. Many Native allotment claims are not surveyed and the boundaries are unknown. Any entity working on 14(c) needs to determine early in the process and the best extent possible the location of Native allotment claims.
Do 14(c) land conveyances require payment for land?
The following payment requirements pertain to subsections of 14(c):
The position of the state in trust for unincorporated villages is that payment is not required for land received through 14(c)(3) from the village corporation.
Can reverter clauses or other restrictions be used in 14(c) conveyance documents?
A reverter clause is a condition in the deed that requires title to “revert” to the previous owner (in this instance, the village corporation) if the recipient fails to do something required by the deed or does something not allowed by the deed. ANCSA is silent on the subject; however, most people believe reverter clauses can be put into the deed only if the municipality or state in trust agrees. Most reverter clauses require the municipality to use the land only for public purposes or the title reverts to the corporation. The state in trust is prohibited by regulation from accepting reverter clauses or conditions attached by the village corporation to 14(c)(3) land.
How can the municipality get permission to use land before a 14(c)(3) agreement is reached?
Sometimes a municipality needs land before the corporation is ready to complete the agreement. If the municipality needs land for a project, the corporation can give it permission to use the land by issuing a deed or an interim lease.
Alaska Society of Professional Land Surveyors Standards of Practice Manual
Village Land Reconveyance Planning: A Handbook on ANCSA, Alaska Native Foundation
Public Law 96-487 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)
42 United States Code (USA) 1602 ANCSA definitions
43 USC ANCSA
43 USC 1613 ANCSA Section 14 (c), conveyance of lands
Homestead Act of 1862
Organic Act of May 17, 1884
Native Allotment Act of 1906
3AAC 190 Municipal trust land
3AAC 190.990(5) Municipal trust land regulations, definitions
AS 29.35.090 Municipal property
AS 44.33.755 Land conveyed in trust