Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Inc., v. Alaska, Department of Natural ResourcesAnnotate this Case
The State of Alaska selected the land at issue in this appeal in 1989 under an Alaska Statehood Act provision allowing State selections of federal lands for community centers and recreational areas. In the 1990s, in order to settle litigation about the State’s management of lands granted to Alaska under the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act (Mental Health Act), the State agreed to create a mental health trust. There were extensive negotiations over which lands would be included in this trust. In the course of these negotiations, the State agreed that the parcel selected under the Statehood Act would not be conveyed to the mental health trust, but rather would be classified and managed by the State as wildlife habitat. For years after this settlement, the State managed the parcel as wildlife habitat. In 2009 the State and the federal government executed an agreement finalizing the Mental Health Act selections. One of the terms of the agreement was that the parcel selected under the Statehood Act would be converted to a Mental Health Act selection. The parcel was conveyed by the federal government to the State, and the State subsequently conveyed the parcel to the mental health trust. A lawsuit was filed against the State to invalidate the transfer of the parcel to the mental health trust, based primarily on the arguments that the transaction violated contractual and statutory terms of the earlier mental health trust settlement and violated the constitutional public notice requirement for disposing of an interest in State land. The superior court ruled for the State, and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court determined the State violated the public notice clause of the Alaska Constitution by disposing of an interest in state land without providing the public prior notice. Further, the Court held the State's exchange of interests in the parcel was inconsistent with House Bill 201 (1994). The matter was therefore affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court remanded for the superior court to "fashion a remedy" consistent withe the Supreme Court's opinion.