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A Primer on Alaska Lands

James D. Linxwiler, Joseph J. Perkins, 61st Annual Institute Proceedings (2015)

Alaska’s lands have captured the imagination of the United States for 150 years. Alaska is huge—it consists of 375 million acres, about one-fifth the size of the rest of the United States.
Alaska’s lands offer unprecedented riches: vast oil and gas resources that fuel Alaska’s economy, some of the largest mines in the world, rich wildlife resources that support a billion-dollar fishing industry and allow Alaska’s Native communities to maintain a way of life based on subsistence hunting and fishing, and of course, unparalleled natural beauty.
But Alaska’s lands are different for another reason too. For unique historical reasons, Alaska has generated its own extensive body of federal and state public land law, oil and gas law, mining law, and Native law. Each of these primary areas of natural resources law is significantly different in Alaska from what lower 48 practitioners are familiar with. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introductory user’s guide to this body of public land law and the resulting mosaic of federal, state, and Native lands. In the most simplified terms, Alaska’s current land ownership is the result of three unique but interrelated federal public land laws that reflect the strong demands of three different constituencies upon Alaska’s 375 million acres of land. The first constituency was the advocates for statehood, primarily non-Native se