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Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (1980)

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (1980)


Commonly known as the Alaska Lands Act, The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) law protected 104 million acres (42 million ha), or 28%, of the state's 375 million acres (152 million ha) of land. The law added 44 million acres (18 million ha) to the national park system, 55 million acres (22.3 million ha) to the fish and wildlife refuge system, 3 million acres (1.2 million ha) to the national forest system, and made 26 additions to the national wild and scenic rivers system. The law also designated 56.7 million acres (23 million ha) of land as wilderness , with the stipulation that 70 million acres (28.4 million ha) of additional land be reviewed for possible wilderness designation.

The genesis of this act can be traced to 1959, when Alaska became the forty-ninth state. As part of the statehood act, Alaska could choose 104 million acres (42.1 million ha) of federal land to be transferred to the state. This selection process was halted in 1966 to clarify land claims made by Alaskan indigenous peoples . In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA) was passed to satisfy the native land claims and allow the state selection process to continue. This act stipulated that the Secretary of the Interior could withdraw 80 million acres (32.4 million ha) of land for protection as national parks and monuments, fish and wildlife refuges, and national forests, and that these lands would not be available for state or native selection. Congress would have to approve these designations by 1978. If Congress failed to act, the state and the natives could select any lands not already protected. These lands were referred to as national interest or d-2 lands.

Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton recommended 83 million acres (33.6 million ha) for protection in 1973, but this did not satisfy environmentalists. The ensuing conflict over how much and which lands should be protected, and how these lands should be protected, was intense. The environmental community formed the Alaska Coalition, which by 1980 included over 1,500 national, regional, and local organizations with a total membership of 10 million people. Meanwhile, the state of Alaska and developmentoriented interests launched a fierce and well-financed campaign to reduce the area of protected land.

In 1978, the House passed a bill protecting 124 million acres (50.2 million ha). The Senate passed a bill protecting far less land, and House-Senate negotiations over a compromise broke down in October. Thus, Congress would not act before the December 1978 deadline. In response, the executive branch acted. Department of the Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus withdrew 110 million acres (44.6 million ha) from state selection and mineral entry. President Jimmy Carter then designated 56 million acres (22.7 million ha) of these lands as national monuments under the authority of the Antiquities Act. Forty million additional acres (16.2 million ha) were withdrawn as fish and wildlife refuges, and 11 million acres (4.5 million ha) of existing national forests were withdrawn from state selection and mineral entry. Carter indicated that he would rescind these actions once Congress had acted.

In 1979, the House passed a bill protecting 127 million acres (51.4 million ha). The Senate passed a bill designating 104 million acres (42.1 million ha) as national interest lands in 1980. Environmentalists and the House were unwilling to reduce the amount of land to be protected. In November, however, Ronald Reagan was elected President, and the environmentalists and the House decided to accept the Senate bill rather than face the potential for much less land under a President who would side with development interests. President Carter signed ANILCA into law on December 2, 1980.

ANILCA also mandated that the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) conduct biological and petroleum assessments of the coastal plain section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge , 19.8 million acres (8 million ha) known as area 1002. While the USGS did determine a significant quantity of oil reserves in the area, they also reported that petroleum development would adversely impact many native species , including caribou (Rangifer tarandus ), snow geese (Chen caerulescens ), and muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus ). In 2001, the Bush administration unveiled a new energy policy that would open up this area to oil and natural gas exploration. In June 2002, a House version of the energy bill (H.R.4) that favors opening ANWR to drilling and a Senate version (S.517) that does not were headed into conference to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

[Christopher McGrory Klyza and Paula Anne Ford-Martin ]


RESOURCES

BOOKS


Lentfer, Hank and C. Servid, eds. Arctic Refuge: A Circle of Testimony. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2001.

OTHER

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. 16 USC 3101-3223; Public Law 96-487. [June 2002]. <http://www.access.gpo.gov/uscode/title16/chapter51_.html>.

Douglas, D. C., et al., eds. Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain Terrestrial Wildlife Research Summaries. Biological Science Report USGS/BRD/BSR-2002-0001. [June 2002]. <http://www.absc.usgs.gov/1002>.

ORGANIZATIONS

The Alaska Coalition, 419 6th St, #328 , Juneau, AK USA 99801 (907) 586-6667, Fax: (907) 463-3312, Email: [email protected], <http://www.alaskacoalition.org>

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