In a small and virtual signing ceremony July 30th, 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) signed a patent transferring just over 2,000 acres at Point Spencer to Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC).
The lands conveyed are part of the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act of February 8, 2016, which authorizes the conveyance at Point Spencer to BSNC and the State of Alaska, with the Coast Guard retaining portions of the site. After a comprehensive environmental site assessment, two tracts were deemed appropriate for conveyance with institutional controls in place for protection of human health, as provided by the legislation.
“The patent is the culmination of seven years of collaboration between the BLM, the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Alaska and BSNC,” said BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett. “There were many factors involved in getting to this point and it took a lot of negotiation, cooperation, coordination and commitment by the parties to get this done.”
Originally developed as a long-range navigation site for the U.S. military during World War II, the lands were selected by BSNC and the State.
“The small isthmus of Point Spencer was used by our forbearers for hundreds of years as a gathering place to celebrate and trade with whaling vessels” said Gail Schubert, President and CEO of BSNC. “We hope this small stretch of land that has served for hundreds of years as a barrier and protector of the natural deep-water port, known as Port Clarence, will once again be used to serve our country as a vanguard of the safety and security of Alaska, America and the American people.”
The site was decommissioned in 2009, and negotiations began in 2013 between the parties and facilitated by the BLM.
“The Coast Guard was fortunate to be able use this land from 1961 to 2010 as a base of operations to support various life-saving and navigational missions, and we are delighted to help in the process to convey it back to the people of the Bering Strait region,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Bell, commander, Coast Guard 17th District.
According to the legislation, the lands at Point Spencer are of national interest for the Coast Guard to more permanently conduct its duties in the Arctic and to allow for public and private sector facility and infrastructure development that would be beneficial to the United States.