The Struggle Over National Interest Lands 19721980

Soon after the passage of the Settlement Act, the Interior Department began hearing from State officials, Native leaders, environmentalists, and representatives from different agencies (e.g., the National Park and Forest Services, Fish and Wildlife, US Geological Survey, Bureau of Mines, Bureau of Indian Affairs) about the withdrawal and classification of public lands in Alaska. In March 1972, the Secretary of Interior Rogers C.B. Morton made a preliminary recommendation to Congress for the withdrawal of 127,100,000 acres. Secretary Morton's legislative proposals satisfied no one. It was clear there were sharp disagreements over what federal agencies would have responsibility for administering the settlement (see Buck, 1977). Environmental organizations wanted to protect the natural and recreational values of the land and therefore preferred national park and wildlife preserve designations. These areas would then be administered by the protective authority of the National Park and the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Fearing that the Interior Department was giving away too much, an alliance was formed—the Emergency Wildlife and Wilderness Coalition for Alaska (The Alaska Coalition)—to build public support for their legislation (Williss, 1980).

The state and other proponents of development favored a "multiple-use" approach, one that permitted timber harvesting, mining, and oil and gas exploration. Here the dominion of the Bureau of Land Management and the National Forest Service would be more appropriate. Alaska senator Ted Stevens and congressman Don Young submitted the Alaska National Public Land Conservation Act that called for multiple-use designations, transportation corridors to mineral-rich resource areas, and joint state-federal management of national interest lands.

The elections in 1976 significantly changed the balance of forces surrounding the lands controversy in Alaska. The new president Jimmy Carter was committed to passing a lands bill with strong conservation provisions. In the Congress, Morris Udall took over as chair of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and John Seiberling headed the subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands. In January

1977, Udall and 75 cosponsors submitted the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (H.R. 39) that set aside 115,300,000 acres primarily for national parks (64,100,000) and wildlife refuges (46,400,000). After years of contentious debates, public hearings, jurisdictional battles, and lengthy markup sessions, the ANILCA passed the House of Representatives in May


The opposition to H.R. 39 in the Senate was intense. Representatives of the AFN were concerned about land rights, restrictions on economic development, and subsistence. Resource and recreational groups, chambers of commerce, and the state railed against federal protectionism and the extensive withdrawal of lands for parks and refuges. All were part of the Citizens for Management of Alaska Lands (CMAL), which had been formed in opposition to Udall-friendlier legislation. Henry Jackson (D-WA), the chair of The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, reported a bill more sympathetic to Alaskan interests in October. The Carter administration and the sponsors of H.R. 39 strongly opposed the Senate version, which they felt weakened the federal protection of Alaska lands. With little time left to find agreement between the House and the Senate, Congress adjourned without passing a national lands bill for Alaska.

In November, Alaska officials, in supposed violation of an agreement with the Secretary of Interior Andrus, selected 41 million acres of land, including 9.5 million acres in proposed conservation areas. Fearing that commercial interests would begin exploring possible park and wilderness lands, Andrus used his emergency powers to withdraw over 110 million acres from state selection and development. Then President Carter, using the Antiquities Act, established 17 national monuments in Alaska that totaled over 56 million acres. The administration felt these actions were necessary to safeguard federal conservation areas until Congress passed an Alaska lands act. Alaska's congressional delegation and coalition supporters were infuriated over this unilateral, what some called dictatorial, action by the administration.

In the next legislative session, debates continued over federal restrictions, transportation corridors, gun control, and the use and classification of Alaska lands. In May, the Udall-Anderson bill (H.R. 39) passed again by a 6 to 1 margin. Then in August, the Senate finally approved their version of ANILCA. In negotiations over the differences between the two chambers, House leaders had hoped to strengthen the Senate bill through checking resource development and expanding wilderness areas. However, faced with intransigence of key senators, the election of a more pro-development president, and a new Republican Senate, Udall, John Anderson, John Sieberling, and others called for an acceptance of the legislation endorsed by the Senate. The ANILCA was signed into law by President Carter on December 2, 1980.

The authors of ANILCA felt they had provided "sufficient protection for the national interest in the scenic, natural, cultural, and environmental values on public lands in Alaska, and at the same time provide(d)

adequate opportunity for satisfaction of the economic and social needs of the State of Alaska and its people." In reality, neither side was happy with the result. Environmentalists wanted more wilderness lands restrictions. On the other hand, state representatives felt that Alaska's valuable resources were "locked up" in a conservation regime that stymied private and local initiative. These perspectives aside, the act does preserve more lands than any other act of Congress in the history of the United States. Over 53 million acres were added to the National Wildlife Refuges, 25 rivers were brought into the Wild and Scenic Rivers system, and Wilderness lands increased by 56,400,000 acres. Ten new parks were created and three existing parks were enlarged (for a total of 43,600,000 acres). When the land transfers from the public domain are completed, the federal government will own approximately 60% (222 million acres) of Alaska's 374 million acres, the state will have title to 28% (104 million acres), and the remainder will be privately owned by Alaska Native corporations (12% or 44 million acres) and individuals (see the summary in Hull and Leask, 2000).

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