JUNEAU (AP) -- A proposal to give the University of Alaska 250,000 acres of state land was changed Wednesday to exclude state parks, game refuges and critical habitat areas.
Senate Bill 7 had passed Tuesday, but Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, offered the change before a reconsideration vote in hopes of winning over some of the bill's opponents.
The measure by Sen. Robin Taylor, R-Wrangell, is intended to give the university an endowment of moneymaking land. But many environmentalists oppose the bill, saying it could lead to irresponsible development of state resources.
''Certain legislatively designated areas are clearly off limits,'' Davies said.
The bill passed 26-10 on Wednesday, adding one yes vote compared to Tuesday.
However, opponents said the change did not address all their concerns that the measure is simply a way to force the state to make land available for development.
''The university needs money, not land,'' said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau. ''This is just sort of a subterfuge.''
Gov. Tony Knowles has vetoed similar bills twice before, and has indicated he would do the same to the current measure. However, the bill passed with enough votes in the House and Senate to override a veto.
The Senate must vote on House changes to the bill before it can be transmitted to Knowles.
The university's 112,000 acres is the second smallest endowment among land grant universities. Only Delaware's, with 90,000 acres, has less.
Killing the bill is a major goal of Alaska Conservation Voters, representing 40 environmental groups in Alaska, which fears the university will choose acreage with the highest potential for making money.
The groups maintains the bill will allow the university to select parcels as small as 40 acres and ''cherry pick'' land close to urban areas that has the most potential for development.
However, the bill has safeguards against such practices. Municipalities could veto any university selections that fall within their boundaries, and the Department of Natural Resources commissioner can block any selection.
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