Murkowski wants BLM tract in city's hands

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sen. Frank Murkowski said the U.S. Department of the Interior acted inappropriately in extending its hold on the 730-acre Campbell Tract here by up to 20 years.

The Alaska Republican said Thursday he was prepared to introduce legislation that would put a stop to it and transfer the property to the city.

Anchorage Mayor George Wuerch said he probably would take Murkowski up on his offer and that their two staffs will work out the details. The city wants the entire tract but would be willing to lease back some of the land, Wuerch said.

''We're looking for the future when local citizens should have local authority over local lands,'' Wuerch said.

The tract is a chunk of mostly wild land that has been in federal hands since long before statehood.

The Bureau of Land Management's agreement for managing the land was to expire in 2002, and the Wuerch administration had argued recently that the agency doesn't use much of the land and that it should be locally held.

The federal property includes administrative offices, the Campbell Creek Science Center, a warehouse, communications tower, dirt airstrip and about 20 miles of trails.

An Interior Department undersecretary signed papers Tuesday extending the federal land withdrawal another 20 years.

Murkowski, who is traveling in Alaska this week, said the action was rushed, and scolded the Clinton administration for moving on it before a new president takes office in January.

A deal could have been worked out that was ''amenable to both parties,'' Murkowski said.

BLM officials acknowledged that they wanted to move quickly.

A new administration, Democrat or Republican, would have a tough time making a decision on the property when experienced appointees are leaving and new ones are awaiting confirmation, a BLM official said Thursday.

''We were afraid that our package would end up languishing on someone's desk,'' Linda Rundell, the BLM's associate state director in Alaska, told the Anchorage Daily News.

Wuerch said the city wants to use the land for recreational purposes and might support adding portions of the tract into Far North Bicentennial Park.

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