US Senate is close to saving a St. Mary’s man cabin

by Ben Matheson on December 31, 2013

A St. Mary’s man is one step closer to saving his cabin. William Alstrom’s small cabin is located on the Andreafsky Wilderness in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, about 31 miles northewest of St. Mary’s. According to the BLM, that’s illegal and the government said the cabin needed to go.

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The struggle over the small cabin has found its way to the US Senate, where an exception to save the cabin recently passed out of the energy committee with a push by Senator Lisa Murkowski.

“Basically it’s the government’s failure, it’s the government’s mistake and they’ve acknowledged that. But basically the only solution they had was to tell this Alaskan family from St Mary’s that you’re going to either have to demolish the cabin or you’re going to have to move it,” said Murkowski.

The agency didn’t know about the wilderness that when they granted the allotment in 2008. They came back in 2011 to say that the plot was cancelled. By that time, Alstrom had built a small subsistence cabin and appealed the decision. Alstrom got in contact with Murkowski last month and began working for a legislative solution. She drafted an amendment, which passed the committee. Murkowski thanked the lawmakers for being willing to make an exception for Alstrom.

“Very small deal, but for one family, they know the government is actually working with them rather than acknowledging they made a mistake and saying well, sorry there’s not much we can do. I just appreciate the willingness of colleagues at these smaller issues we deal with,” said Murkowski.

Alstrom served in the air force in Vietnam. He applied for the allotment as Alaska Native veterans’ allotment. He said he does not want to comment until the issue is finalized. The amendment was attached to the Green Mountain Lookout Act, originally introduced by Washington State senators for a similar exemption. The bill heads to the full Senate floor for consideration.

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