Present and Anticipated Status

Not since the early land grants which encouraged development of the continental United States has there been such a massive redistribution of land ownership. Land transfers have never before occurred in such a short period of time nor affected only one state's political jurisdiction.

When ANCSA was passed in 1971, state land selections, including those tentatively approved, accounted for only about seven percent of Alaska's land area. Land in private ownership was less than one-half of one percent, while federal title still covered more than 90 percent. A decade from now all land transfers under the Statehood Act and ANCSA will be accomplished and the picture will be remarkably different. For example, ownership by Native individuals and organizations is expected to increase the private sector by at least 11 percent. Other increases in private lands have not been estimated, but presumably some state lands will be made available for private acquisition.

Existing federal reserves now equal 25 percent of all land in Alaska, and ANCSA's Section 17 (d)(2) designations will increase this amount substantially. The Secretary of Interior, in compliance with ANCSA, made the required withdrawal in March 1972 and subsequently recommended to Congress that 83.47 million acres of Alaska lands be placed in the four traditional systems—National Park, Forest, Wildlife Refuge, and Wild and Scenic Rivers. Change in the reserves would not necessarily be limited to additions. ANCSA, besides withdrawing lands to be studied for inclusion in the reserves, directed the Joint Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission for Alaska to evaluate present reserve lands to determine and recommend their best future uses.

Alaska encompasses more than 375 million acres, almost 10 million acres of which is water or ice. Of the land area nearly 97 percent is still owned by the Federal Government. The state contains 11 percent of all national forest land, 31 percent of all national park land, and over 70 percent of all lands reserved for national wildlife ranges and refuges. Figure 214 lists the acreage of these and other federally administered lands as they existed on June 30, 1971, the most recent date for which comparable information is available. The only major alteration in agency acreage is in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Of more than four million acres administered in 1971, BIA now manages just over 154 thousand acres.

Five Native groups elected to take title to reservation land rather than participate in ANCSA:



Tetlin Native Reservation


St. Lawrence Island Reindeer Station


Klukwan Native Reservation


Elim (Norton Bay Native Reservation)


Venetie (Chandalar Native Reservation)





Nineteen smaller reservations covering approximately 317,740 acres were abolished by ANCSA, and the lands are now available for Native selection under its provisions.

Land transfer from federal to state ownership involves by far the greatest change. When the "freeze" order of 1969 was issued, the status of Alaska's land selection program was:

Total acres selected


Acres tentatively approved


Acres patented



After the passage of ANCSA, the State, in January 1972, applied for most of its remaining entitlement—77 million acres. When boundaries were established for (d)(2) withdrawal areas in March of that year, many of them were in conflict with the State's selections. The State subsequently withdrew its application for 36 million of the overlapping acres, leaving over 37 million acres yet to be selected to complete the statehood entitlement of 104.45 million acres. Figure 215 shows the record from statehood through 1975 of state applications, tentative approvals, and patents. The State assumes management of lands when selection is tentatively approved.

The Submerged Lands Act of 1953 provided that the State was also entitled to lands underlying inland navigable lakes and streams in unreserved public lands when navigability is determined. Also, tidelands were added to state ownership out to the territorial sea. This not only increased the amount of land, it added to the total acres within state boundaries.

Tentative approval of state selections is proceeding, as are patents for lands which are surveyed. As the State receives tentative approvals and patents from the Federal Government, it classifies lands for retention or disposal. Since 1959 the Alaska Division of Lands has classified over 10 million acres of land, All but 270,000 acres of this remains under the State's resource management program or is leased for grazing, mineral extraction, or other purposes.

Under Alaska law, boroughs are entitled to select 10 percent of the vacant, unreserved, unappropriated state lands within their boundaries.


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