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Alaska Supreme Court Finds Area Land Use Plans Are Not Regulations


January 25, 2012, Anchorage, Alaska – On January 20, 2012, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s current process for adopting area land use plans. This ruling was a significant win for DNR and impacts the management of state lands.

Area land use plans guide management of state-owned lands. The plaintiffs, including six tribal councils, sued the state over the area plan for Bristol Bay. Among other assertions, the plaintiffs argued that the term “regulation” included the Bristol Bay Area Plan (and by extension all other area plans). DNR has adopted the numerous area plans in Alaska through a process that differs from the process required to adopt regulations. Had the Alaska Supreme Court held that area plans are regulations, DNR would have had to readopt all area plans. Instead, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with DNR that area plans are not regulations.

“The case is a win overall for DNR and the state’s land use planning process remains intact, even though the Alaska Supreme Court did not dismiss the case entirely,” Acting Attorney General Rick Svobodny said.

The remainder of the case has been remanded to Alaska’s Superior Court to sort out the rest of the issues in line with the Supreme Court's opinion.

A copy of the court’s opinion is available at: http://www.courts.alaska.gov/ops/sp-6638.pdf

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