Five Key Laws
There are many laws that shape the governing and management of Alaska’s commons. Through this website, other publications (including a pending curriculum on Alaska’s common land), and classes, the Institute intends to help students and practitioners managing Alaska’s common property to better understand how that common property is governed.
The compilation of laws listed on this site is not intended to represent the entire body of legislation affecting Alaska’s natural resources. It begins with the main federal acts which guided and molded the development of management regimes for development of minerals, oil and gas, land, fisheries, and other resources on public lands, and includes a number of other key laws which have also effects Alaska’s commons.
Alaska, America’s 49th State, is the largest state in the Union. Its vast real estate is owned, respectively, by the federal government, the State Government and municipalities, and regional and village native corporations. From the time that the territory was acquired from Russia in 1867, five key pieces of legislation have divided Alaska’s real estate and offshore territory, and established management regimes for those areas.
The Institute of the North has conducted research into the legislative history and application of these five key laws. Our ANILCA Seminar is an example of this, and we continue to work toward providing understanding and education of other laws, regulations, and issues that affect Alaska’s common lands.
The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA)
This act put Alaska’s oil, gas, coal and certain other subsurface minerals in perpetual government or common ownership. This concept was extended to Alaska’s 103-million acre land entitlement when Alaska became a state but was expanded to require the State to retain title to all subsurface resources, including hard rock minerals, sand and gravel.
The Alaska Statehood Act of 1959
This act established a Compact between Alaska and the federal government, granting Alaska 103 million acres and 90 percent of the revenues from resource development on federal lands. Alaska is a constitutional democracy therefore all Alaskans ultimately own state lands and subsurface resources, including oil and gas. This ownership implies both rights and obligations.
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA)
This act set up and capitalized Alaska’s Native corporations and authorized selection of 44 million acres. Section 7(i) requires that seventy percent of the revenues received by each regional corporation from timber resources and its subsurface estate shall be divided annually among all twelve regional corporations.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA)
In 1980, after nine years of debate and struggle, Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, setting aside 106 million acres of federal lands in “conservation system units.” This sweeping statute enlarged the federal acreage dedicated to conservation purposes in Alaska to 131 million acres, constituting 70 percent of all national park lands in America and 85 percent of wildlife refuge acreage. The designated Wilderness accounted for 56 percent of all lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Fulfilling land designation requirements set forth in ANCSA, this act was met with mixed reactions among stakeholders. The Institute of the North’s ANILCA Seminar was created, in part, to assist all stakeholder in better understanding this pervasive and controversial law so it can be implemented fully and fairly.
Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Managment Act of 1976 (MFCMA)
This act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in the U.S. The law is named after Warren G. Magnuson, former U.S. Senator from Washington state, and Ted Stevens, the former Senator from Alaska. The MFCMA was enacted to promote the US fishing industry’s optimal exploitation of coastal fisheries by “consolidating control over territorial waters” and establishing eight regional councils to manage fish stocks.The most recent version, authorized in 2007, includes seven purposes:
- Acting to conserve fishery resources
- Supporting enforcement of international fishing agreements
- Promoting fishing in line with conservation principles
- Providing for the implementation of fishery management plans (FMPs) which achieve optimal yield
- Establishing Regional Fishery Management Councils to steward fishery resources through the preparation, monitoring, and revising of plans which (A) enable stake holders to participate in the administration of fisheries and (B) consider social and economics needs of states.
- Developing underutilized fisheries
- Protecting essential fish habitats
The following laws have also had significant effects on the management and governance of Alaska’s commons. More information about each act can be found by clicking on the links below each heading.
THE FEDERAL LAND POLICY AND MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1976 (FLPMA)
THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ORGANIC ACT OF 1916
THE SUBMERGED LANDS ACT OF 1953
Also see the Submerged Lands Act of 1998 (below)
THE ALASKA CONSTITUTION, 1956
THE WILDERNESS ACT OF 1964
THE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS ACT OF 1968
THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 1997
THE ALASKA SUBMERGED LANDS ACT OF 1988