How do public lands become private and why does it matter?

Written by Katie Rooks

February 29, 2024

We all benefit from public lands — what happens if they become private lands?

Companion bills HB 282 and SB 199 would allow Alaska Departments of Education & Early Development and Transportation to lease or sell state land directly to private parties (instead of the current government-to-government model), which could allow for commercial development with unclear public process, among other questionable impacts.

Luckily we can take part in the public process now and let the Legislature know this is a bad bill.

Public Comment Opportunity

SB 199 in Senate Resources:
3:30 p.m., Friday, March 1

Testify by Phone

To testify by phone, you can call the Juneau number below or find your local Legislative Information Office number here.

Testify in person

Butrovich 205
Alaska State Capitol,
120 4th St,
Juneau, AK 99801

Talking Points

Companion bills HB 282 and SB 199 give Alaska Departments of Education & Early Development and Transportation new authority to directly sell or lease land to anyone.

  • There is no longer a government-to-government restriction on lease/sale of public land.
  • Public land transactions would no longer automatically be routed through the Department of Natural Resources, the appropriate agency.
  • The State of Alaska would have broad authority to identify land “appropriate” for commercial development with no restrictions, no thresholds on size and few other parameters.
  • Such disposal of public lands may not comply with constitutional requirements around interests in public lands.
  • The door is opened for other methods of sale besides auctions or sealed bidding, threatening a transparent, equitable public process
  • Potential lease terms would be extended from 20 to 30 years, thereby lowering monthly payments to the State of Alaska.
  • The door is opened for lessees to purchase the land.
  • The door is opened for the Commissioner to reclassify land that isn’t available for disposal – potentially erasing important classifications for Public Recreation, Settlement, Wildlife Habitat, or any other classification that supposedly designates that land for certain purpose/s. For a complete list of Alaska public land classifications see: Section 11 AAC 55.040.
  • The door is opened for anyone to put together a proposal to lease public land – the only constraint seems to be a 20-acre cap.
  • The scope is broadened regarding what can be done on agricultural land, eliminating requirements that other uses be incidental; this opens doors for development on land designated for agricultural purposes that has nothing to do with agriculture.

If you’re as worried as I am, I hope you’ll speak up during these public testimony opportunities. 

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