Newtok’s Land Exchange and Relocation

When Newtok voted to relocate, the community obtained title to a new village site within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge through a land-exchange with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Newtok began the land exchange process during the early stages of relocation planning; it took eight years and an Act of Congress to complete. Newtok Native Corporation, the community’s village corporation under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), took an active leadership role in the land transfer with support from the community.

The process started in November 1996, when the Newtok Native Corporation passed a resolution authorizing the negotiation of a land exchange with the USFWS; negotiations began immediately. By December 1997, the USFWS Regional Director submitted an Intent to Exchange Agreement for the land exchange. Negotiations continued for several years, gaining momentum when the Corporation hired a federal lobbyist. The Corporation secured the support of the Alaska Congressional Delegation and USFWS Washington D.C. staff.

With the assistance of legal counsel, Newtok Native Corporation negotiated the terms of the land transfer and drafted federal legislation. The Corporation assisted Congressman Young and Senators Stevens and Murkowski in obtaining the votes for enactment of the land exchange law. United States Public Law 108-129 was signed into law in November 2003.

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