April 17, 2009

UA officials pleased new land bill introduced

New legislation for a land grant to the University of Alaska that would comply with a recent Alaska Supreme Court ruling has been introduced in the final days of the 26th Legislature. University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton said the bill, introduced by Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, is a good first step.

"We don't expect this legislation to be considered these last two days of the session, but we're hopeful it will get some attention next year," Hamilton said. "The bill would allow the university to keep some of our highest priority lands received under the old law, but in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling. It's a good first step."

House Bill 234 was introduced April 16.

The Alaska Supreme Court on March 13 invalidated legislation passed in 2005 and signed into law by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. The law intended to make good on a promise to the university for roughly a quarter million acres of land that, for a variety of reasons, was never transferred following statehood.

The supreme court ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and Tongass Conservation Society two years after the bill became law. The state Department of Natural Resources had already conveyed 58 percent of the parcels to the university, at great expense and staff time by both DNR and university.

The UA Board of Regents has been particularly concerned about the court ruling. Board Chair Cynthia Henry said, "I'm pleased, along with other members of the board, to see our legislators keep this issue on the table for discussion. We look forward to serious consideration next year."

For more information, call Kate Ripley at 907/450-8102.



Kate Ripley
Director, SW Public Affairs
University of Alaska
PO Box 755340
206 Butrovich Building
Fairbanks, AK 99775
(907) 450-8102 - office
(907) 388-3506 - cell