What is the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust?

LandTrust_TempLogoThe Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust is dedicated to the preservation and protection of the environment, resources, and culture of a major portion of southwest Alaska. Established in 2000 out of concern about the rate at which landowners were selling lands in southwest Alaska, the Trust is incorporated in Alaska as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

What is BBHLT’s primary concern?

This region is peppered with inholdings, most created by the Alaska Native Allotment Act of 1906. Under that act individual Alaska Natives could select as much as 160 acres of land as long as they could prove use and occupancy of that land. The 1906 act was extinguished in 1971 with the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, but not before thousands of applications had been filed. The vast majority of these applications were approved by Congress with the passage of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Now twenty years later, allottees are finally receiving title to their allotments, and unfortunately many are looking to sell. Unfortunately, an original 160 acre allotment can be apportioned into as many as four parcels, creating four inholdings instead of just one. There are interested buyers looking for the right location in this region to build a cottage, a lodge, a hunting or fishing camp, or in some cases develop recreational subdivisions. Potentially, more than 500 Native allotment parcels comprising some 77,000 acres could be available within the region served by the Trust, many of these are located along world-class, sport fishing streams, in subsistence hunting and fishing areas, and in scenic or biologically important habitat.

What geographic area does BBHLT encompass?

The region of interest to the BBHLT is vast, stretching over 250 miles from the headwaters of the Mulchatna River at the base of the Alaska Range in the east, Bristol Bay in the south, to the edge of the Bering Sea in the west. Within this 7 million-acre region are the major watersheds of the Nushagak, Wood, Snake, Togiak, Goodnews and Kanektok Rivers. Included also are the 1.6 million-acre Wood-Tikchik State Park (the nation’s largest state park), and the 4.8 million-acre Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. Interspersed throughout this area are approximately 1.4 million acres of land owned by Alaska Native corporations or individuals.


What is BBHLT’s strategy?

Uncontrolled development of river- and lake-front parcels that affect salmon habitat can be a threat to wild salmon themselves. Adverse economic conditions resulting from many years of depressed salmon prices are now forcing many Native families to place their allotments on the market, increasing the likelihood of inappropriate development and activities that may threaten wild salmon. The Land Trust provides a conservation alternative by which willing sellers can obtain fair market value for their property while ensuring the land is not developed inappropriately. In order to provide a viable alternative, the Trust depends upon funding from donations and grants to purchase parcels outright or conservation easements. Land acquired through the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust will be conserved forever.

How can you help?

Like all private land-conservation organizations, the Land Trust depends upon the generosity of donors, individuals, businesses, and foundations, for its operating budget as well as land and easement acquisition and stewardship program.

Private Land OwnersMake a Donation


What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is the legal glue that binds a property owner’s good intentions to the land in perpetuity. Donors of conservation easements retain title to their property. They grant conservation easements to protect their land from inappropriate development. A conservation easement runs with the title to the property regardless of changes in future ownership.

Granting an easement can yield tax savings. Think of land ownership as holding a bundle of rights that may include the right to subdivide, construct buildings, harvest timber or restrict access. A landowner may sell or donate the whole bundle of rights or just one or two of those rights.

To give away certain rights for the purpose of conservation, while retaining others, a property owner grants a deed of conservation easement to a land trust like the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust. The donation of an easement may qualify as a charitable contribution. As such, it may reduce income, estate and gift taxes.

A conservation easement is only one method of protecting land. If you are a landowner and want to learn more, please contact us.

Why wild salmon?

Under Water SalmonSouthwest Alaska’s economy–both commercial and subsistence–is based almost exclusively on the five Pacific salmon species that return every year to spawn and die, including the world’s largest runs of sockeye or red salmon. These species are all wild. Their stocks are not diluted by hatchery or farmed fish found elsewhere. The region’s ecosystem is built upon the nutrients that wild salmon bring back from the sea. Wild salmon are the foundation of the subsistence tradition that has sustained the local Native population for thousands of years. Commercial fishing for wild salmon has been the mainstay of our economy for more than a century, and wild salmon feed the trout, grayling and char that make southwest Alaska the world’s finest freshwater sports fishery.