It has been 30 years since the EVOS, which devastated the Chugach region and communities. After the spill, the EVOS Trustee Council chose not to spend Exxon “damage reparations funds” to help Chugach villages and residents recover from the spill. Instead, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire surface estate lands from most of the Chugach Region’s Village Corporations – who were in dire economic straits because of the spill – placing those purchased lands into state or federal ownership.
Unfortunately, as a result of EVOS purchases in the name of “habitat protection” to mitigate the oil spill, 243,000 acres of Chugach subsurface estate, now lies under federal or state surface estate. This makes development of Chugach’s subsurface rights in those areas extremely difficult and controversial. and as we start to pursue development opportunities on our lands, the split estate with Federal land ownership and conservation easements creates conflicts. It requires a longer and more extensive permitting process and becomes more expensive because of the EVOS management requirements and covenants.
That’s also why passage of the Chugach Lands Study Act (part of the Conservation, Management and Recreation Act) is such a significant milestone for the corporation, as it opens the door to a potential land exchange opportunity for Chugach.