ANWR transfer priority
If BLM agrees, land conveyance to state could go through quickly
“BLM Alaska understands it is a priority to Governor Dunleavy to see the state obtain title to its remaining entitlement, and BLM stands ready to convey lands at the state’s request.”- Ted Murphy, BLM
With the state of Alaska still owed 5 million acres by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management under the 1959 Alaska Statehood Act, the recent conveyance of 39,995 acres in the Goodnews Bay area casts hope on the state’s efforts to secure 19,322 acres in disputed acreage along the boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
According to state officials, the disputed eastern North Slope acreage arose from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service depicting ANWR’s western boundary as the Staines River, despite legal descriptions that identified the Canning River farther west as the boundary (see map).
While the state of Alaska includes the disputed acreage in its areawide lease sales, leaseholders are warned that parts of their leases are in a disputed area.
State still owed 5 million acres“The land conveyance in Goodnews Bay was accomplished through a collaborative effort between the state and the BLM. A process was identified where BLM could lift a Public Land Order previously complicating the state’s ability to receive title. The lifting of the PLO allowed … BLM … to convey those lands to the state,” Marty Parsons, deputy director of the state Division of Mining, Land & Water and the man who has been spearheading the state’s effort to obtain the remaining 5 million federal acres, told Petroleum News Jan. 2.
“The state continues to work with the BLM to find additional high priority areas where PLOs should be lifted and the state receive more of its remaining land entitlement,” he said.
The wedge of uplands between the Canning and Staines rivers continues to be listed as a high priority area by the state: “The difference is that no PLO needs to be lifted before the state could receive title,” Parsons said, meaning the conveyance could go through more quickly.
BLM agrees with ParsonIn a Dec. 21, BLM press release following the Goodnews Bay land transfer, Ted Murphy, acting BLM Alaska state director, was quoted as saying, “This conveyance is just one of many we anticipate in the near future. BLM Alaska understands it is a priority to Governor Dunleavy to see the state obtain title to its remaining entitlement, and BLM stands ready to convey lands at the state’s request.”
This conveyance, BLM explained, is a result of a full revocation of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act-related withdrawals known as “d-1s” (referring to Section 17(d)(1) in ANCSA). Over the past four years, BLM has been working on a statewide strategy to initiate large-acreage d-1 revocation recommendations for the secretary of Interior. Part of that strategy included working with the state of Alaska to identify areas important to the state and currently unavailable due to a d-1 withdrawal and that could be made available once the withdrawal is revoked.
“This conveyance was a direct result of the collaboration between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (Division of Mining, Land & Water is part of DNR) and the BLM Alaska,” explained BLM Alaska Deputy State Director for Lands and Cadastral Survey Erika Reed in the Dec. 21 press release. “Through the 17(d)(1) Public Land Order Revocation Strategy Working Group, Alaska DNR staff identified the Goodnews Bay area as a priority for conveyance.”
The state of Alaska has roughly 5 million acres of a 104 million-acre entitlement remaining and has previously identified other d-1 withdrawals and lands in the trans-Alaska pipeline corridor as priorities.
There are approximately 50 million acres of BLM managed public lands in Alaska encumbered by d-1 withdrawals, approximately the land area of Utah.