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Another Victory for Alaska’s Statehood Defense

Jul 8, 2022

Governor Mike Dunleavy celebrates another victory for Alaska’s Statehood Defense initiative as the Federal Government is ending their claim to approximately 91 miles of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Fortymile River.

“This is a significant moment for Alaska,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “The Supreme Court has already declared that navigable waters in the State of Alaska belong to Alaskans, and we believe that we should retain control of our waterways. Our commitment to our residents is that we will continue to fight for Alaskans to manage ourselves and our resources.”

Under federal law, the State of Alaska received title to all submerged lands underneath navigable waters statewide at the date of statehood except in rare instances. Ownership of these submerged lands also conveys the authority to manage and control the waters flowing over them. Since statehood, federal authorities have resisted state claims of ownership, management, and control – and have in numerous instances placed clouds on state title that require federal litigation to remove. Along with numerous other Alaska rivers and lakes, the Middle and North Forks of the Fortymile River are examples of wrongful determinations by federal authorities that have required Alaska to go through the court system to redress unlawful federal overreach and unfounded claims of ownership. This victory adds yet another chapter in state wins that include the Stikine River, Knik River, and Mosquito Fork River, and further builds upon the remarkable unanimous United States Supreme Court opinions in the case brought by John Sturgeon.

“The people of Alaska have owned thousands of miles of navigable waterways since statehood, and that ownership remains contested,” said Akis Gialopsos, Acting DNR Commissioner. “The agreement of the federal government to state ownership of these two forks of the Fortymile River is an encouraging change from BLM, and signals the success of Governor Dunleavy’s initiative asserting the state’s rights to these lands that were awarded by the United States Constitution and affirmed by the United States Supreme Court.”

More information:
·        Unlocking Alaska Press Conference (April 26, 2022 recording)
·        Governor Dunleavy Demands Federal Recognition of State-Owned Lands (April 26, 2022 press release)
·        Governor Mike Dunleavy: Unlocking Alaska (March 29, 2021)
·        State Land Press Briefing (March 26, 2021)