Alaska was still part of Russia when the land grant system of universities was created in the United States. But that hasn't stopped the University of Alaska System from feeling frustrated that the largest state in the union has given its land grant university the second smallest grant of land in the country.
That frustration ended this week, when both houses of the Legislature in Alaska approved a proposal from Gov. Frank H. Murkowski to give the university system 250,000 acres of land. Currently, the university has 183,000 acres.
Proposals to provide a large land grant to the university system have been made, debated and defeated many times in the last decade. Kate Ripley, director of public affairs for the system, said that one third of the new land would be devoted to education and research. A large part of that land will be a 50,000-acre research forest.
The remaining two thirds will be used to generate investment income through development. And there is a chance that the development could be quite lucrative to the university, as this land includes a large area viewed as likely to have significant oil and gas resources.
Ripley said that it was hard to predict how much revenue the land would provide. Within 20 years, the university expects the land holdings to have generated somewhere between $100 million (assuming little energy revenue) to $1 billion (if oil revenues take off).