The University of Alaska has begun using a new federal law to take over unused land, and its first pick is spooky.
According to a public notice posted Wednesday, the University has requested to take over about 100,000 acres near Spooky Valley, west of the Dalton Highway in the Ray Mountains of Interior Alaska. It’s a stretch of land about the size of the city of Philadelphia.
The land was previously selected for transfer to the state from the federal government, and the state is preparing to relinquish that request in order to have the Bureau of Land Management transfer the property directly to the university, part of a long-running plan to fulfill the University of Alaska’s federal land grant.
“We’re definitely celebrating, because it’s a big deal, but it’s only one step in the process,” said Jonathon Taylor, the University of Alaska’s director of public affairs.
A clause in the $1.7 trillion federal omnibus budget law signed last year calls for the university to receive 360,000 acres of federal land before 2027.
The university is identifying its preferred options in chunks of about 100,000 acres apiece, and the Spooky Valley property is its first selection.
“We’ve been really grateful for support from the governor, and obviously the congressional delegation, Sen. Murkowski, but also DNR, to work through this process and work through the public process so that we can hit that date,” Taylor said.
It isn’t yet clear what the land will be used for. The university is planning a carbon sequestration program that preserves land from development in exchange for compensation payments. It also leases land for mining, logging and construction.
“These lands were selected for potential conveyance because we think that they are a good fit for this really large portfolio of potential use,” Taylor said.
When the university does have a plan for using the land, that will be subject to a separate public notice and public discussion process, he said.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the university is not yet operating a carbon sequestration program and to correct the wording of a quote from Taylor, that the lands were selected for potential conveyance.
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