Under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the village corporations received title to the surface estate in and around the village, subject to valid existing rights, as identified in Section 11 of the Act, as amended. Section 14(c)(3) provides that the village corporations convey (or give) to a municipal corporations (city), or the state in trust, lands identified for present and future community needs. The 14(c)3 provision is defined as a responsibility of the village corporations, but because 10 of 11 region villages merged with NANA in 1976 (see Merger Story) this obligation falls to NANA Regional Corporation.
The NANA Lands department works with the region’s city governments and the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to work through the 14(c)3 process, which gives land to local cities. Most often, this is land already in use by the community for existing infrastructure such as roads, landfills or sewage lagoons. The Comprehensive Community Plans developed by the communities with the Northwest Arctic Borough are helpful tools in this process.
The 14(c)3 process has been completed with several cities in the NANA region, namely Deering, Kobuk, Shungnak and Noorvik, and the process is underway with the City of Selawik. It is a cooperative effort, with several steps to be completed by each of the participating parties. All must agree on the Map of Boundaries, which is a map that defines the land to be conveyed from NANA to the city.
The time to finish this process varies, but generally has a timeframe of about five years. That includes a required one year period the BLM must allow for members of the public to file any challenges. Time to conveyance completion can also be affected by the BLM’s survey schedule around the state. Because the process takes some time, NANA and the city typically use easements and leases in order to ensure continued use of public facilities.
To finalize the process, all parties must agree. This includes meetings and approval by the NANA Regional Corporation board of directors. When final deeds are issued to the municipal government, the process is complete.
Noatak is the only unincorporated community in the region and its lands are in state trust until a municipal government is formed or another agreement is reached with the state.