Planning and Land Management

Who's Planning Alaska

Approximately 65% of Alaska is owned and managed by the U.S. federal government as public lands, including a multitude of national forests, national parks, and national wildlife refuges. Of the remaining land area, the State of Alaska owns 24.5%; another 10% is owned by 13 regional and dozens of local Native corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (1971). Various private interests own the remaining land, totaling less than one percent. Due to the various managers of Alaska’s land and coastline, this website's intent is to help users figure out who's planning Alaska.

State Agencies

Alaska Department of Natural Resources: Division of Mining, Land, and Water

The Division of Mining, Land and Water manages all state-owned land except for trust property and units of the Alaska State Park system. Area Plans are general plans establishing goals, policies, and guidelines, and Management Plans are more detailed and specific.

The Land Use Planning page provides an overview and features a “Land Planning Index” with links to area plans, management plans, and easement atlases.

Special Use Lands are general domain state lands with special restrictions.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources: Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation

Alaska’s state park system encompasses 123 sites including state parks, state marine parks, state recreation sites, state recreation areas, state historical parks, state historical sites, state trails, and wilderness parks.  Sites range from the 1.6 million acre Wood-Tikchik State Park, the largest in the country and the only state park in western Alaska, to Totem Bight State Historical Park near Ketchikan, the site of 14 restored or duplicated totem poles.

Management plans for a number of parks are available.  The link “Plans in Print” provides a list of additional plans available for purchase in hard copy.

The Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation has a partial directory of state park sites.  It also has information and updates on their Ten-Year Strategic Plan.   

The Office of History and Archaeology fulfills state responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act and works to preserve sites that reflect Alaska’s heritage.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game: Division of Wildlife Conservation

The Division of Wildlife Conservation administers Alaska’s state refuges, state critical habitat areas, state sanctuaries, and state bison range.  Links to site-specific management plans are currently available for Trading Bay, Susitna Flats, Anchorage Coastal, Palmer Hay Flats, Minto Flats, Yakataga, and McNeil River State Refuges, Tugidak Island, Anchor River/Fritz Creek, and Kachemak Bay State Critical Habitat Areas, and Delta Junction Bison Range.

The Wildlife Resource Planning page includes links to individual species and area plans.

University of Alaska (UA)

The University of Alaska owns and manages approximately 183,000 acres of land for investment and educational purposes. The UA Land Management page includes public notices of land available for sale.

Federal Agencies

U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The Bureau of Land Management’s primary responsibility is to manage public lands.  BLM’s responsibilities in Alaska include management of more than 85 million acres of land, as well as providing interagency wild-land fire management and overseeing the Joint Pipeline Office (a partnership with the state and other federal agencies with oversight responsibility of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline).

Included in the National Landscape Conservation System are the Steese National Conservation Area, White Mountains National Recreation Area, Central Arctic Management Area, Iditarod National Historic Trail, and six Wild and Scenic Rivers – Beaver Creek, Birch Creek, Delta, Fortymile, Gulkana, and Unalakleet.

The Land Use Planning page has links to Resource Management Plans, National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (NPR-A) Plans, and Planning Tools.  Included is a link to BLM’s Land Use Planning Handbook.  The Glennallen Field Office has links to the management plans for the Delta and Gulkana National Wild Rivers.

The Alaska BLM Directory has links to offices around the state, plus national links. Additional resources are available at BLM's National Land Use Planning Web Site.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Alaska District

The Alaska District is the element of the US Army Corps of Engineers that is responsible for all assigned programs in the geographical region of the State of Alaska. The Alaska District utilizes many Corps programs and authorities to perform a wide variety of civil works activities, including:

  • Planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of rivers and harbor projects with the purposes of navigation, flood damage reduction, ecosystem restoration, hurricane and storm damage reduction, recreation, and hydropower
  • Floodplain management services
  • Planning assistance to states, communities, and tribes
  • Interagency coordination and involvement in many national water resource program

The District also administers the requirements of the wetlands and waterways regulatory program pursuant to 33 CFR, Regulatory Program for Corps of Engineers, parts 320-331.

The Civil Works Branch studies potential water resource projects in Alaska. These studies analyze and solve water resource issues of concern to the local communities and may involve navigational improvements, flood control, or ecosystem restoration.  They also track flood hazard data for over 300 Alaskan communities on floodplains or the sea coast.

U.S. Department of the Interior: Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the National Wildlife Refuge system, which in Alaska comprises over 70 million acres in 16 wildlife refuges.  The agency’s primary focus is on the conservation of natural resources.  The Refuge Planning Overview page provides links to the Comprehensive Conservation Planning Process, references to legal authority, and other planning information.

The Refuge Plans page has a link for each refuge in Alaska, which leads to information about the purpose and plan status for that site.

The Project Planning page provides planning information organized by the four field offices in Alaska.

The Alaska National Wetlands Inventory is a project to develop maps and detailed information on wetlands.

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service (FS)

The Forest Service manages public lands in national forests and grasslands, and is also a forestry research organization.  National forests are managed for multiple uses, including recreation and sustainable harvest of natural resources.

There are two national forests in Alaska – the Tongass, the largest in the U.S. at roughly 17 million acres, and the Chugach, the second largest at 5.3 million acres.  The Tongass National Forest also includes the Admiralty and Misty Fiords National Monuments.

Land and Resource Management Plans are available for Chugach National Forest and Tongass National Forest.

Planning is supported by Ecosystem Management Coordination.  Their site includes information on National Forest Management Act Planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

U.S. Department of the Interior: National Park Service (NPS)

The Alaska Region of the National Park Service includes 19 sites, ranging from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, the nation’s largest national park at more than 13 million acres, to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway.

The National Park Service undertakes planning to fulfill its mission to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.” The Planning, Environment & Public Comment page provides a list of links to planning documents currently open for comment, and the “Parks” tab can be used to search for planning documents by national park.

There is a directory of National Park Service units in Alaska.  Within each park’s website, click on “Management” for information on the park’s plans and management activities. 

There is also an online book, “Do Things Right the First Time”:  Administrative History, The National Park Service and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980

Planning by Local Governments

Title 29 of the Alaska Statutes requires that home rule, first and second class boroughs, unified municipalities, and first class and home rule cities outside of boroughs provide planning, platting, and land use regulation. For information on local governments, visit the Research & Analysis Section or visit the Plans Library.