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Kenai Peninsula Borough v. Alaska

Citation: 10 ELR 20456
No. Nos. 77-3265, 78-1443, 612 F.2d 1210/(9th Cir., 02/05/1980)

The court holds that the 1964 amendments to the Wildlife Refuge Revenue Sharing Act, 16 U.S.C. § 715s, which governs the distribution of revenue from federal leases on public lands within the National Wildlife Refuge System, apply only to acquired, not to reserved, refuge lands. The Mineral Leasing Act, 30 U.S.C. § 191, as amended, therefore governs dispersion of income from the Kenai Moose Range, which consists of land that was withdrawn from the public domain. Under the terms of the latter Act, the State of Alaska receives 90 percent and the federal Department of the Treasury 10 percent of net leasing revenues. By contrast, the Wildlife Act would channel 25 percent to local governments and 75 percent to the federal wildlife Refuge Fund.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough and federal defendants argued that the 1964 amendments adding "minerals" to the list of revenue sources encompassed in the Wildlife Act should be construed literally as applying to all lands in the National Wildlife Refuge System, thus placing the Wildlife Act in direct conflict with the Mineral Leasing Act, which would otherwise control distribution of revenues from leases on federal lands. They contended that the Wildlife Act should govern since it is the more specific and recent of the two statutes. the court finds that the legislative history of the 1964 amendments offers no direct indication of congressional awareness of the statutory conflict. In the absence of sufficient evidence to sustain an implied repeal of the Mineral Leasing Act, the court seeks to harmonize the two statutes by construing the term "minerals" as used in the Wildlife Refuge Revenue Sharing Act to apply only to acquired refuge areas. This interpretation is consistent with the purpose of the amendment, which is the facilitation of land acquisition through provision of financial incentives to local authorities. It also sidesteps potential conflicts with the Alaska Statehood Act and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and is consistent with the Department of the Interior's construction of the statute between 1964 and 1975.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (10 pp. $1.50, ELR Order No. 1215).

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant Kenai Peninsula Borough
Charles K. Cranston
Gallagher, Cranston & Snow
310 K St., Suite 500, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-1994

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee State of Alaska
Sanford Sagalkin, G. Thomas Koester, Ass't Attorneys General
Department of Law, Pouch K, Kuneau AK 99811
(907) 465-3600

Counsel for Defendant-Appellant United States
Nancy B. Firestone, Land and Natural Resources Division; Elinor Hadley Stillman, Office of the Solicitor General
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2757

Tang, J.