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Alaska v. United States

ELR Citation: 35 ELR 20112
Nos. Nos. 128, (U.S., 06/06/2005)

The Court overruled Alaska's exceptions to a Special Master's report recommending that summary judgment be granted in favor of the United States in a dispute concerning title to two areas of submerged lands. The first area underlies waters in the Alexander Archipelago that are more than three nautical miles from the coast of the mainland or any individual island. Alaska failed to demonstrate that these waters were historic inland waters or, in the alternative, that they qualified as inland waters under the juridical bay theory. The second area in dispute consists of submerged lands beneath the inland waters of Glacier Bay. The United States properly rebutted the presumption that title to these submerged lands passed to Alaska at statehood. Under §6(e) of the Alaska Statehood Act, the United States expressed its intent to retain ownership over all federal refuges and reservations set aside for the protection of wildlife. This expression of intent encompassed Glacier Bay National Monument, which was set aside "for the protection of wildlife." Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Rehnquist, C.J., and Thomas, J., joined.