Ahtna, Incorporated is disappointed in the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision on the Brenwick-Craig Road case. On reconsideration, the court reversed its prior ruling that the public may only use the right of way, claimed under an obscure 1866 law known as Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477), for ingress and egress. However, the court declined to elaborate which other uses may be allowed and referred the question of permitted uses back to the Superior Court. The Court also rejected Ahtna’s aboriginal title defenses to these pre-Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) right-of-way claims, despite the Ahtna peoples’ 11,000-year history of using and occupying the lands.
We are still in the process of reviewing the Court’s decision. All private landowners in Alaska should be concerned with the implications of this decision when it comes to their property rights.
Brenwick-Craig Road, also referred to as Klutina Lake Road, is a narrow dirt path that follows the bluff of the Klutina River from Copper Center on the Richardson Highway to Klutina Lake, a distance of about 25 miles. This controversy started in 2007 after the State cleared the entire width of a portion of the right of way, encroaching on Ahtna’s lands and destroying fee stations and signs.
At no time during the 15-year dispute has the public been denied access to Klutina River, Klutina Lake, and nearby State land that is accessed over Ahtna’s property. Ahtna supports responsible use of its homelands and appreciates permit holders’ respect of the lands and their cultural and spiritual importance. Any activity on Brenwick-Craig Road’s adjoining private lands owned by Ahtna requires a land use permit. Permits are available at www.ahtna.com/permits for overnight camping and day use activities such as parking, fishing, and boat launching. An Ahtna Region land app is available for download that clearly shows property boundaries and public and private land ownership in the area to help visitors plan accordingly.
For thousands of years, the Ahtna people have been managing the land and natural resources across 26 million acres, an area about the size of the state of Ohio. After the passage of ANCSA, Ahtna, Incorporated was left with 1.55 million acres of land from an entitlement of 1.77 million acres – less than seven percent of our traditional homeland. We will continue to fight to protect our rights to every acre of land left in our entitlement.