The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday ordered the University of Alaska System to return to direct state ownership 250,000 acres of land provided by state laws in 2000 and 2005. The land transfers were designed to boost the university's endowment, but were challenged by environmental groups. While the challenge survived a lower court's review, the Supreme Court found that the laws giving the university the land violated the Alaska Constitution's ban on "dedicated funds," portions of the state budget that must be spent on certain areas, because the acts specified that any land sales would be used to support the university endowment. The decision said that the university was "an important state institution" that would benefit from a larger endowment, but that the constitutional prohibition could not be ignored.
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