Ahtna, state agree to 100-foot right-of-way

State will appeal restricted use of the road to entrance and exit

Ahtna Inc. has reached an agreement with the state of Alaska that there is a 100-foot right-of-way along the length of Brenwick-Craig Road west of Copper Center starting at the New Richardson Highway and extending to the end of the road at Klutina Lake.

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said that settlement of the long-standing dispute recognizes the state’s right-of-way and protects the public’s access to Klutina River and Klutina Lake, and also allows both parties to appeal the rulings they disagree with.

“For the state, this means we will have the Alaska Supreme Court determine what the scope of use is – namely can the public camp, launch boats, and park within the right-of-way?” Clarkson said.

“Ahtna has no official comment on the settlement, but as far as public use of Ahtna lands, a permit is required,” said Shannon Blue, corporate communications director for the Alaska Native regional corporation.

“Ahtna lands are privately owned and managed and patrolled to protect property rights and prevent trespass,” she said. “Camping or stopping, unless an emergency, is not permitted within any right-of-way on Athna lands. This includes the right-of-way along the Brenwick-Craig road.”

The settlement includes the 100-foot right-of-way established under federal Revised Statute 2477 along the road from Copper Center to Klutina Lake, for 50 feet on each side of the center-line of the road, plus 100-foot rights-of-way at the airstrip and boys; camp to ensure public access to the Klutina River.

The state’s claim for a right-of-way along the north shore of the lake was dismissed without prejudice, preserving the state’s claim to this right-of-way, a matter that can be decided in the future, Clarkson’s office said. Appeals rights of both parties were preserved, and it was agreed that each side will bear its own costs and fees.

The dispute began in 2008 when Ahtna sued the state alleging trespass. The state asserted the existence of a state-owned Revised Statute 2477 right-of-way over which the public may travel, camp, park and launch boats from within the right-of-way. Revised Statute 2477 is the old mining law that established public rights-of-way by public use or a state’s acceptance of the right-of-way over certain federal or former federal lands.

Clarkson’s office said the state will appeal Alaska Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi’s ruling restricting use of the road only to entering and exiting, and that the state believes overnight camping and parking are also lawful public uses. Unless and until the appeal is resolved in favor of the state, Ahtna’s land use policy requires a land use permit for activities on Ahtna lands, including camping or parking, except in an emergency, they said. Whether Ahtna’s claim of aboriginal title prevented creation of an R.S. 2477 right-of-way may also be subject to appeal.