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Critics try to slow university lands bill

Posted: Tuesday, February 08, 2000

JUNEAU -- Critics say a bill to grant the University of Alaska 250,000 acres of state land will harm rural Alaska and promote reckless development, but the measure may move to its final House committee of referral as early as Wednesday.

The Resources Committee took testimony on the bill Monday and Co-Chairwoman Bev Masek, R-Willow, said afterward she intended to move the bill at the next committee meeting.

Most who spoke criticized the bill, including Susan Schrader of Alaska Conservation Voters, who said the university should not be focusing on land management.

''We feel the university's first attention needs to be directed toward education, where it has its expertise,'' Schrader said.

Rep. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, filed the bill last session to boost the university's 112,000-acre endowment, the nation's second smallest among land grant universities, ahead of only Delaware. The measure cleared the Senate last year.

Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed similar legislation in 1995 and 1996 and has indicated he will do so again if the bill reaches his desk.

Proponents say the bill will add to the university's revenue, make it less dependent on the state's general fund and promote development in Alaska's undeveloped areas.

But Dave Lacey of Fairbanks said land disposal in rural Alaska will hurt rural residents by bringing on more competition for subsistence resources. He said the measure will promote rapid exploitation of resources, not value-added industry. Lacey also said the land selection process is cumbersome, expensive and drawn out.

Bob Loeffler, director of the Division of Mining, Land and Water in the Department of Natural Resources, said the university will select the best lands available in unorganized areas, removing incentive from unorganized areas to incorporate.

He said developing the land would be expensive and take away money the university needs for its operating budget.

He also said the university would be likely to choose land near potential developments, such as mining prospects, which could actually complicate their development.

''The more landowners, the more difficult it is,'' he said.

That prompted a fist-pounding response from Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, who asked Loeffler if he had concocted his criticism to back up a predisposed, politically motivated position.

If the university took steps to develop land in unorganized areas, Whitaker said, it might actually act as a catalyst for incorporation. He also said he found it amazing that Loeffler would object to the university investing in itself.

Cliff Eames of the Alaska Center for the Environment objected to handing over land to the university for making money. He said the measure would remove university spending from the scrutiny of the annual budget process in the Legislature. He also said the bill would remove land from land use planning.

''A disposal like this would nullify much of that work,'' he said.

Wendy Redman, UA vice president of university relations, said the governor retains veto power over any selections within current municipalities or expected ones.

''There is a high level of administration control over what lands are available to us,'' Redman said.

Redman said additional land would not be a cure-all for the university.

''It could provide a small and significant annual stream of money,'' Redman said.

BYLINE1:By DAN JOLING

BYLINE2:Associated Press Writer

JUNEAU -- Critics say a bill to grant the University of Alaska 250,000 acres of state land will harm rural Alaska and promote reckless development, but the measure may move to its final House committee of referral as early as Wednesday.

The Resources Committee took testimony on the bill Monday and Co-Chairwoman Bev Masek, R-Willow, said afterward she intended to move the bill at the next committee meeting.

Most who spoke criticized the bill, including Susan Schrader of Alaska Conservation Voters, who said the university should not be focusing on land management.

''We feel the university's first attention needs to be directed toward education, where it has its expertise,'' Schrader said.

Rep. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, filed the bill last session to boost the university's 112,000-acre endowment, the nation's second smallest among land grant universities, ahead of only Delaware. The measure cleared the Senate last year.

Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed similar legislation in 1995 and 1996 and has indicated he will do so again if the bill reaches his desk.

Proponents say the bill will add to the university's revenue, make it less dependent on the state's general fund and promote development in Alaska's undeveloped areas.

But Dave Lacey of Fairbanks said land disposal in rural Alaska will hurt rural residents by bringing on more competition for subsistence resources. He said the measure will promote rapid exploitation of resources, not value-added industry. Lacey also said the land selection process is cumbersome, expensive and drawn out.

Bob Loeffler, director of the Division of Mining, Land and Water in the Department of Natural Resources, said the university will select the best lands available in unorganized areas, removing incentive from unorganized areas to incorporate.

He said developing the land would be expensive and take away money the university needs for its operating budget.

He also said the university would be likely to choose land near potential developments, such as mining prospects, which could actually complicate their development.

''The more landowners, the more difficult it is,'' he said.

That prompted a fist-pounding response from Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, who asked Loeffler if he had concocted his criticism to back up a predisposed, politically motivated position.

If the university took steps to develop land in unorganized areas, Whitaker said, it might actually act as a catalyst for incorporation. He also said he found it amazing that Loeffler would object to the university investing in itself.

Cliff Eames of the Alaska Center for the Environment objected to handing over land to the university for making money. He said the measure would remove university spending from the scrutiny of the annual budget process in the Legislature. He also said the bill would remove land from land use planning.

''A disposal like this would nullify much of that work,'' he said.

Wendy Redman, UA vice president of university relations, said the governor retains veto power over any selections within current municipalities or expected ones.

''There is a high level of administration control over what lands are available to us,'' Redman said.

Redman said additional land would not be a cure-all for the university.

''It could provide a small and significant annual stream of money,'' Redman said.

HEAD:Critics try to slow university lands bill

BYLINE1:By DAN JOLING

BYLINE2:Associated Press Writer

JUNEAU -- Critics say a bill to grant the University of Alaska 250,000 acres of state land will harm rural Alaska and promote reckless development, but the measure may move to its final House committee of referral as early as Wednesday.

The Resources Committee took testimony on the bill Monday and Co-Chairwoman Bev Masek, R-Willow, said afterward she intended to move the bill at the next committee meeting.

Most who spoke criticized the bill, including Susan Schrader of Alaska Conservation Voters, who said the university should not be focusing on land management.

''We feel the university's first attention needs to be directed toward education, where it has its expertise,'' Schrader said.

Rep. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, filed the bill last session to boost the university's 112,000-acre endowment, the nation's second smallest among land grant universities, ahead of only Delaware. The measure cleared the Senate last year.

Gov. Tony Knowles vetoed similar legislation in 1995 and 1996 and has indicated he will do so again if the bill reaches his desk.

Proponents say the bill will add to the university's revenue, make it less dependent on the state's general fund and promote development in Alaska's undeveloped areas.

But Dave Lacey of Fairbanks said land disposal in rural Alaska will hurt rural residents by bringing on more competition for subsistence resources. He said the measure will promote rapid exploitation of resources, not value-added industry. Lacey also said the land selection process is cumbersome, expensive and drawn out.

Bob Loeffler, director of the Division of Mining, Land and Water in the Department of Natural Resources, said the university will select the best lands available in unorganized areas, removing incentive from unorganized areas to incorporate.

He said developing the land would be expensive and take away money the university needs for its operating budget.

He also said the university would be likely to choose land near potential developments, such as mining prospects, which could actually complicate their development.

''The more landowners, the more difficult it is,'' he said.

That prompted a fist-pounding response from Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, who asked Loeffler if he had concocted his criticism to back up a predisposed, politically motivated position.

If the university took steps to develop land in unorganized areas, Whitaker said, it might actually act as a catalyst for incorporation. He also said he found it amazing that Loeffler would object to the university investing in itself.

Cliff Eames of the Alaska Center for the Environment objected to handing over land to the university for making money. He said the measure would remove university spending from the scrutiny of the annual budget process in the Legislature. He also said the bill would remove land from land use planning.

''A disposal like this would nullify much of that work,'' he said.

Wendy Redman, UA vice president of university relations, said the governor retains veto power over any selections within current municipalities or expected ones.

''There is a high level of administration control over what lands are available to us,'' Redman said.

Redman said additional land would not be a cure-all for the university.

''It could provide a small and significant annual stream of money,'' Redman said.



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