Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act

views updated

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act


By: United States Congress

Date: December 2, 1980

Source: U.S. Congress. "Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act." December 2, 1980. Available online at: 〈〉 (accessed January 6, 2006).

About the Author: The Congress of the United States was established by Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. It is the legislative arm of the U.S. Federal Government.


The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA) was enacted by the Congress headed by President Jimmy Carter (born October 1, 1924), in December 1980. The act intends to protect and conserve the vast wilderness and refuge system of the state of Alaska, also traditionally known as North America's last frontier. It represents a delicate balance between conservation and development efforts in Alaska. The state of Alaska is gifted with immensely valuable scenic, natural, geographical and geological resources. It is home to many exotic and threatened species of wildlife, as well as pristine and scenic surroundings, rivers, mountains, and vast areas of wilderness. ANILCA designates to protect the natural wilderness of Alaska from commercial exploitation. It attempts to strike a balance between the preservation of vast Alaskan wealth and the development of its public lands for the ultimate good of the present and future generations.




SEC. 101(a) In order to preserve for the benefit, use, education and inspiration of present and future generations certain lands and waters in the State of Alaska that contain nationally significant natural, scenic, historic, archeological, geological, scientific, wilderness, cultural, recreational, and wildlife values, and units described in the following titles are hereby established.

(b) It is the intent of Congress in this Act to preserve unrivaled scenic and geological values associated with natural landscapes; to provide for the maintenance of sound populations of, and habitat for, wildlife species of inestimable value to the citizens of Alaska and the Nation, including those species dependent on vast relatively undeveloped areas; to preserve in their natural state extensive unaltered arctic tundra, boreal forest, and coastal rainforest ecosystems, to protect the resources related to subsistence needs; to protect and preserve historic and archeological sites, rivers, and lands, and to preserve wilderness resource values and related recreational opportunities including but not limited to hiking, canoeing fishing, and sport hunting, within large arctic and subarctic wildlands and on freeflowing rivers; and to maintain opportunities for scientific research and undisturbed ecosystems.

(c) It is further the intent and purpose of this Act consistent with management of fish and wildlife in accordance with recognized scientific principles and the purposes for which each conservation system unit is established, designated, or expanded by or pursuant to this Act, to provide the opportunity for rural residents engaged in a subsistence way of life to continue to do so.

(d) This Act provides sufficient protection for the national interest in the scenic, natural, cultural and environmental values on the public lands in Alaska, and at the same time provides adequate opportunity for satisfaction of the economic and social needs of the State of Alaska and its people; accordingly, the designation and disposition of the public lands in Alaska pursuant to this Act are found to represent a proper balance between the reservation of national conservation system units and those public lands necessary and appropriate for more intensive use and disposition, and thus Congress believes that the need for future legislation designating new conservation system units, new national conservation areas, or new national recreation areas, has been obviated thereby….


ANILCA is a significant and complex legislation because it takes the history of Alaska, native interests, and political rights into perspective. The act attains greater significance in the background of previous acts like The Treaty of Cession (1867), the Organic Act (1884), and the Statehood Act (1957).

The traditional view in the United States is that these acts deliberately avoided addressing native issues and interests in Alaska. Before 1958, the lands in Alaska were federal property. However, under the Statehood Act, Alaska was given an opportunity to select nearly 144 million acres of land to manage as a revenue base. Within eight years of its existence as a state, Alaska identified nearly 24 million acres (9.7 million hectares) for this purpose.

It soon became evident that Alaskan natives had a traditional interest in the land. A land freeze was declared to prevent more land from being identified. However, once oil was discovered in Alaska in 1968, the Alaskan Native Claims Resettlement Act was enacted in 1971 to push for a land settlement with the native Alaskans.

This act resulted in the resettlement of Native American families in Alaska. The natives were granted nearly 40 million acres (16.2 million hectares) in return, and also nearly $100 million as financial support.

Subsequently, ANILCA was enacted in 1980 to strike a balance between many conflicting interests, like the need for conservation of public lands in Alaska, traditional needs like hunting and fishing, and developmental needs as well. ANILCA also attempted to resolve some of the long-standing issues pertaining to land use by native Alaskans, use of lands for traditional activity, and classification of the region into parklands, native corporations, and wilderness areas.

The passing of the act is considered to be an enormous attempt at land conservation in the history of the United States. Soon after, nearly 100 million acres (40 million hectares) of land was brought under conservation. It also doubled the area of the country's refuge system, and increased the areas earmarked as wilderness nearly threefold.

As of the early 2000s, the balance begins to tip in favor of development and commercial exploitation, as various constituents of this act are being threatened. A number of provisions of ANILCA are under litigation. Key issues like the use of motorized transport in wilderness areas, snowmobiles, and hunting have cropped up owing to newer interpretations of various provisions in the act.

According to environmental groups, issues regarding vested interests and inappropriate access to parks, native corporations, and wilderness areas by commercial tourism operators have cropped up. The use of newer technology that bypasses some important statutory provisions, growing population, and growing interest in the Alaskan region are subverting its original spirit.


Web sites

McNabb, Steven. "Native Claims in Alaska: A Twenty-Year Review." 〈〉 (accessed January 6, 2006).

National Parks Conservation Association. "The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act." 〈〉 (accessed January 6, 2006).

National Public Lands News. "Public Land History." 〈〉 (accessed January 6, 2006).

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services. "Alaska Region." 〈〉 (accessed January 6, 2006).

About this article

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act

Updated About content Print Article