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Governor Signs Historic University Lands Bill


July 25, 2005

Alaska Governor Frank H. Murkowski signed into law legislation to transfer 250,000 acres of state land to the University of Alaska, a measure that will improve the financial and academic standing of the state's higher education system and ultimately put more lands in private hands.

"With this transfer, the University of Alaska will more than double the land it owns and manages for income-producing and educational purposes. This will provide a financially secure and academically strong state university system," Murkowski said at a ceremony at the University of Alaska Fairbanks today.

"I appreciate the hard work of the Alaska Legislature, the Department of Natural Resources, and the University to help move closer to fulfilling the promise of our land grant institution," said the governor. 

House Bill 130 improves upon legislation passed in 2000, which established a land transfer process that was complicated and time consuming and did not identify specific land tracts to be transferred.

"Transferring these specific parcels implements the intent of the legislature's effort in 2000. It is faster and less expensive than that process and provides the University with more valuable land for research and income potential," said Murkowski. 

The bill directs the Department of Natural Resources to transfer 64 parcels to the University of Alaska over the next three years. Roughly one-third of the acreage is land to strengthen the University's educational mission, the balance of the acreage is investment parcels, including a 90,000-acre tract being explored for oil and gas in the Nenana Basin. 

Originally a proposal for 260,000 acres, the bill underwent many changes in response to public concerns about isolated tracts. In the legislative process, six parcels from Southeast Alaska and one in Kodiak were eliminated. The final bill delayed transfer of eleven other parcels in Southeast to accommodate potential boroughs, ensured that native allotments are protected, ensured that municipalities do not receive fewer acres as a result of the bill, codified a public notice requirement for the University, added language to protect public access, and made changes to protect timber harvest in the University Research Forest. 

Alaska was still a territory in 1915 when the United States Congress set aside 12,000 acres of federal land near Fairbanks for a land-grant college. An additional 100,000 acres was granted to the University of Alaska statewide as part of the Alaska's land entitlement at Statehood. In the 1980's, another 70,000 acres was transferred from DNR to reconstitute the land base as a result of litigation. 
"We appreciate the commitment, cooperation and support from Governor Murkowski, DNR and the Legislature in making this bill a reality and we look forward to becoming a true land grant university," said University President Mark Hamilton.



Office of the Governor


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