Roscoe Bell Interview
Doug Schoenberg This is an interview with Roscoe Bell on the subject of state line selections between the Statehood 1976. And the interview is taking place on August-- is today August 18? Is that right?
Roscoe Bell That's right. [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg I think August 19, 1981.
Roscoe Bell One thing. Hold on and then let me open up the other telephone. I just got a room where I can have a little privacy.
Doug Schoenberg OK, fine. A little background view about what I'm up to. I think the two major points of motivation for my being hired to do this project is first of all that of course the state's land selection process is of great historical interest. And also because I think there is some hope that I might turn up information about why various parcels of land were selected. That isn't current knowledge for the people who work for the department at the moment and have the responsibility of managing those lines.
Roscoe Bell Yes. that's fine
Doug Schoenberg Now you first were-- started as Director of the Division of Lands. Do you remember the approximate date?
Roscoe Bell Yeah, it was in June of 50-
Doug Schoenberg '59
Roscoe Bell 9.
Doug Schoenberg Yeah.
Roscoe Bell Late June, just about.
Doug Schoenberg Had any selections begun yet under the States general entitlement?
Roscoe Bell The first of July was when we took responsibility for the management of state land. That is, Statehood Act became effective in July.
Doug Schoenberg I see.
Roscoe Bell So we started in after that.
Doug Schoenberg Now, I've interviewed several people who worked for the Division of Land at that time. And I've gotten the impression that at least the earliest selections were determined kind of by drawing a line on a map around the populated areas where it was thought that land was needed for expansion and other various forms of development. And that lands were excluded that were above a certain altitude and that a decision was made to select all the other lands. Is that accurate?
Roscoe Bell Well, that's isn't entirely-- we had other criteria that we were trying to follow. And I would ask here, have you talked to Sal De Leonard?
Doug Schoenberg Yes. Yes, I had a very interesting conversation with him.
Roscoe Bell He was our first land selection officer. And this was a general criteria that we used, first, to get around the populated and more or less settled areas such as Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska Susitna Valley and the Fairbanks area. We went around in those populated areas and selected land that looked like from a cursory examination from the knowledge of the people who were working. And Sal was quite knowledgeable as well as other members of our staff, to get land that would be valuable for and related to population related activities, including economic development but also recreation and public usage. Some of our first selections, however, in Southeast were made around Sitka, where there was a land scarcity, a scarcity of land available for the population growth in that area associated with the pulp mill and other economic activities added on. And in Southeast Alaska, [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Yeah. Most of the selections in the Southeast, I believe, would have been made under National Forest Community grant entitlement, wouldn't they?
Roscoe Bell Yes. Most of them, but not all. There were some BLM lands in those areas. And we moved just like BLM lands that were available.
In those communities And that is around Skagway and Haines, Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, and so on, all around in those areas where there were BLM lands outside of national forests.
Doug Schoenberg I see. Now, when you said that the earliest selections were made around the populated areas such as Mat-Su, Fairbanks, and Kenai, once a determination had been made that those were the general areas within which selections were going to be made, how was it determined which lands within those areas would be selected?
Roscoe Bell Well, just one other point about criteria for selection. We did select some critical wildlife areas, too, where wildlife problems or wildlife containment had been a problem, such as the McNeil River area where all the pictures are taken with the bears. We made that selection fairly early because it was not in-- it was still in public domain status and would be available for settlement or whatnot, exploitation.
We made that selection and some other selections of critical wildlife areas anticipating that there might be pressure on them and that we wanted to get them into state ownership where they could be classified for their highest best use which would be wild usage. Ultimately those lands were turned over to the Department of Fish and Game for administration. Well, that was just a few of those areas that Sal De Leonard has been familiar with and hence quite an interest in seeing a selection made.
Well, then, to proceed then with your question. Within the areas of where we had rather extensive selection, we simply moved to meet the criteria for selected areas. It would be at least a quarter of a township in size. That is to say That was the criteria that was established by the state selection-- the law statehood act But we, rather than confining it to that kind of an area, we would select in half township blocks is the way we went so we'd meet the criteria for acreage.
Doug Schoenberg That was a point of contention for quite a while between the state and the BLM, wasn't it?
Roscoe Bell That's right. We made those selections in that pattern largely because we wanted to be sure that BLM in survey would establish the basic pattern of the land surveys while they were processing our selections. And we didn't want to select all of ours in one chunk and have BLM simply draw a line around the outside. We wanted to get the survey in the process. So it was a deliberate attempt to get the land surveyed with a basic grid of surveys at the same time as we were making selections.
Doug Schoenberg Now, I realize it's a long time ago, but I was wondering how much you remember about the evolution of that disagreement between the state and the BLM as to how much surveying the state was entitled to.
Roscoe Bell Well, I followed it pretty closely. I was in there because it was basically my decision that we'd move in that pattern. And we made that decision fairly early. I don't recall just how early, but fairly early because the state of Alaska didn't have any dough at that time. We were without money. We had to figure out how could we follow all of our activities that such a way that would get the most for the money. And this was, we knew that the survey job was an expensive job and one that would take a long time. And the BLM was equipped to do it. We had a very limited staff. So, we made this decision.
I expect within the-- I would guess within the first six months of our selection program, we made this decision. And we followed that right through.
Doug Schoenberg You made the decision to try to get the BLM to do as much surveying as possible?
Roscoe Bell That's right. And by our selection pattern, by filing in half township blocks, why, we-- that was the way they had to survey the exterior boundaries of those. Some modifications were made in that selection pattern, but we had selection one right against the other all up the Matanuska-Susitna valley. So it made it possible for them to go in and plan a survey program in such a way as to do the job in a pattern that would give us a very valuable survey grid. We got that ...we.
It was a bone of contention with director Karl Landstrom, director of the BLM at that time. And we had to-- which I knew Carl well because he had worked under me in Portland. And we'd known each other for many years.
Doug Schoenberg Now he was the state BLM director?
Roscoe Bell No. He was the national director. We didn't have any argument with the state people. It was the state BLM staff were all exceedingly cooperative with us. The whole movement was a great asset to the state of Alaska, the attitude of the BLM people. But nationally, the director Karl Landstrom took kind of a hard nosed stand on it until Senator Gruening kind of straightened him out, I think. And so then the argument subsided and we worked on it cooperatively. But, that was--
So we moved on that pattern, I would say, within the first six months, certainly within the first year. But I think it was in the first six months because we went and proceeded-- as soon as we started, we went right ahead in filing these selections. And I would think it was in the first three months. And Sal might be able to enlighten you on that, Sal De Leonard. But I think that was an early decision that we filed all our selections on that pattern except in areas like where the land pattern just didn't get permitted.
Doug Schoenberg I see. Now, but the disagreement with BLM over how much surveying they were going to do did continue for quite a well. I guess it wasn't until the summer of 1963 that Phil Hollsworth met with some BLM folks in that railroaded car, the Caribou Creek railroad car, and had a conference that tried to straighten out that among other problems, I believe.
Roscoe Bell Yeah. That Caribou Creek conference that Phil and I and some others were with the assistant secretary of interior or undersecretary Carver, John Carver.
Doug Schoenberg Oh, so you were present at that meeting?
Roscoe Bell Oh, yes. I was there. We worked on that and we all went through that together. And that finally resolved that. And some other issues, which I would have to review the minutes of that Caribou Creek conference. I think probably in the files is some report on the Caribou Creek conference. I know it was covered in our land binds.
Doug Schoenberg Yes. Yes. I found references in those places to it.
Roscoe Bell And so, that was a very satisfactory conference. I'd known John Carver before. And, of course, I've seen him since that time too. And John was very cooperative . He said, well, we really need another one of these conferences like this to tackle the native claims issue. He left the department before that time. And the selection problems precipitated then after that.
Now one other major selection that was made was in the Minto area. And the Minto area--
Doug Schoenberg There were native protests there, I guess.
Roscoe Bell --was West of Fairbanks was an area that was selected largely because it was a popular wildlife, game, recreational area that was used by people from Fairbanks but otherwise there was interest in it. Of course, the village of Minto was an Indian village. And the Indians trapped and hunted there too.
But it was, as far as the records were concerned, it was open public domain. And being open public domain, there were people that were filing under those federal land laws on choice recreation spots that ultimately could have taken all the key spots in the area. And we said, well, we'll select this area even though we probably will get some conflicts with these natives on it. Because we knew that it was native-used area. But we went ahead. And this was on Sal's recommendation that we selected the area. So he lays it out and we select it.
Doug Schoenberg But it was Sal's recommendation to you, and you made the decision to make those selections?
Roscoe Bell Yes. To make the selections. We went ahead and made them. And Sal, then, after filing the selections, there was quite a lot of protest developed from the natives, Minto Village. Jo Lawler was our land man working out of Fairbanks. And Jo knew the natives down there very well. And she said, well, why don't we go out and talk with them. And I said, OK. And so we flew out and had a session with the village council.
I said, no. We recognize that there may be some claims here. But if you have claims and the state just top filed here, and it'll precipitate the problem. I recommend that you maintain-- keep your claims alive. And we will keep our state filings in effect and not withdraw it because it will serve to precipitate a decision on what your rights are.
Well, following that, this was fine. And I said to Jo, they said, well, now the state filing an order that we have our trap lines here. And I said, well, can you put those trap lines on a map? Oh, yes. We can do that. So I told Jo to go out next week and sit down with the people and draw up a map of the Minto area, the land we've selected there, and show where the native trap lines are, routs.
And they did a nice job of it. Made a beautiful map. And we had it in our Fairbanks office, it may still be there. I took a picture of it. I wanted it for my slide selection but my pictures didn't turn out well. And so I don't have a copy of that. But then subsequently Senator Bartlett was in Juneau, and he met with the governor, Governor Egan and with the natives from Minto area, myself. We met and then I believe Joe Lawler came down to that day. I'm sure he did. And we met and talked about this. And the natives presented this map that showed the claims that they had because they were using the area, this beautiful map. And so Lawler had worked with them.
And the governor was quite impressed. He said, they've certainly got that laid out well. I said, well, they ought to. We gave them all the help we could. But this was the basis for their claim. And they had previously filed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs a little map showing the area they claimed. And it had never been processed, never been made a matter of record with the BLM. So in effect, the land was still open even though they had claimed it as a native claims area. Well, this is a part of the conflicts that developed and ultimately were resolved in the Native Claims Act.
But we had good working relations with the people from Minto and trying to resolve it. And our philosophy and filing was not to beat them out of land, but rather to precipitate decisions that would establish what the rights were and so that the land selection process could move along. And I think that's an important thing, though.
At the same time, or during that period, I'm not sure when, we decided that we wanted to be very sure that every native group had an opportunity to know where we were selecting land. You'll notice in the early files of the land lines, they published every selection that we made. And we made it a point to circulate the land lines to every native village, chairman of the village counsel, to the postmaster, to the headmaster of the school, to the priest in that area, as well as the postmaster. We put them on our mailing list so that it be a channel for communication even though they hadn't asked us. Anyone else who wanted to be on the land line manifest could get on. So that every one of our selections were made public information throughout the state.
And any claim to the contrary is phoney because-- and I know at the time, the North Slope group filed protests under selected claims were made that we had made those selections without notifying anybody. But I went back to check the records. And there were copies of land lines going to Barrow at the time we made those selected. So they had an opportunity to know about it. Whether anybody paid attention or not, of course you can't tell. But anyway, that's a bit of history in that connection.
All right now. I'm talking and you want to ask questions.
Doug Schoenberg Yeah, well, actually you're answering a lot of my questions. You're doing very well at it, Now after-- I came, of course, on the Land Lines reference to the various things that transpired with the Minto natives. I gather that the native protests continued to snowball for the next several years. I mean, you, in fact, succeeded in precipitating the problem and bring it to a head. But it took a while for it to happen.
Roscoe Bell Yes. It did. But we went and selected what we thought was in the interest of the state to select. And we did make a study of-- Tom Marshall did this work-- made a study of geologically possible areas, whether it was a possibility of land having oil and gas potential. Backing up just a little, in 1953 when I went to Alaska for BLM the first time, one of my jobs there was as a business analyst to study Alaska's public land potential and what was necessary to get this potential developed.
And that was back in those days, '53. The first resource I made a study of was the oil and gas potential. I based it on maps that were available at the time. And there is a blue dittoed report, which never published, but I put out about 100 copies of this report in the dittoed folder that I sent out for review. Because I was persona non grata with BLM at that time. And I knew that they wouldn't publish it. So I put it out in that form.
Doug Schoenberg Despite the fact that you were working for BLM.
Roscoe Bell I was working with BLM too.
Doug Schoenberg But they-- you still weren't very popular with them.
Roscoe Bell No. See, what happened was that I was regional director here in Portland for the Pacific Northwest region when the Eisenhower administration came in. And Woosley was selected as one of the director of BLM, replaced Clark. And I had been Associate Director of Northeast Coordinates. Woosley was Idahoan. And one of the prices of his appointment, I'm sure, one of the conditions was to get me out of the Northwest. And so they conspired to give me a chance to relocate to Alaska with out prejudice
Doug Schoenberg Could I-- excuse me. Could I encourage you to speak just a little bit louder? I'm having a little trouble hearing you.
Roscoe Bell OK. Fine. I'll do that. But anyway, this was all related to my connections with Western Phosphates and the controversy between Idaho power company and the government that dates back to my studies when I was at Bonneville Park administration of Western Boston. And so this is part of the background.
But so, when I went up there, I knew it wouldn't be published. So I did send out a number of copies for review. And if you'll go to the Loussac Library, you'll find copies of this report.
Doug Schoenberg What was the title of it?
Roscoe Bell Oh, it was-- I think Factors Affecting Public Land Resource Utilization in Alaska. It's in a brown folder. Dittoed manuscript with rather high quality maps. And [INAUDIBLE] under my authorship. Date is '54, 1954. The university library has them at Fairbanks. It's there if you don't find it at the Loussac Library. We made it a point to be sure that the libraries got copies to review also.
But anyway, then following this, when we came to selecting land, I had this background. But I asked Tom Marshall, who was a geologist, a qualified geologist, to make a study of all the information that was available and advise as to areas where we should select land for their oil and gas potential. And you probably have talked to Tom Marshall.
Doug Schoenberg Yes, I have. Although sometimes it's hard to tie down Tom Marshall to give you a straight story on anything. His mind jumps around to a lot of things.
Roscoe Bell That's right. And, of course, this kind of a discussion about land lines is jumping around too.
Doug Schoenberg I think your remarks are totally pertinent.
Roscoe Bell OK. Well now, Tom did make the study and pointed out areas where we should select on the North Slope and Prudhoe Bay selection [INAUDIBLE]. We had planned to select some four and a half million acres up there. And it was just before the election campaign was on. And I had talked with the representative of the governor's office. I had said, well, when we file a selection for four and a half million acres on the North Slope, there's going to be a lot of people that think it's going to criticize the governor for making such an absurd selection. This doesn't sound realistic. But that's what the attitude was at that time. It was just a real danger that he'd take some political slack while he was running for election.
Doug Schoenberg No, actually, I've come across old memos that made it clear that it was a risky political move to make this selection.
Roscoe Bell Yes. OK. Then you know that. Well, we went up. I had the selections of Fairbanks with me. I was going to file. And I interviewed Mike Dalton, who was with the woman who was a reporter for the Fairbanks paper, the News-Miner Fairbanks News-Miner. And told her about it, and explained-- gave her the whole story on why we're selecting it. And then I just hesitate to file those selections without checking with the governor again. And when I checked it again, why, we reduced the size of the selection somewhat. We had gotten down to, as I remember, it was a million and some odd acres that we selected.
Doug Schoenberg Yeah. It was about one and a third million acres. I can't remember at the moment exactly when Governor Egan would have been running for re-election. Do you know when that would have been?
Roscoe Bell He was elected '59. So it would have been four years later, '63 I guess.
Doug Schoenberg I see. Well, I think his first term, though, was considered an incomplete term. I can't remember exactly.
Roscoe Bell '58, see he was elected in '58. So it'd be '62 then he would [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg OK. That begins to make a lot of sense as far as some of the old memos that I've come across. Because it seems that I came across your cover letter that you wrote in August of '62 to go with those Prudhoe Bay selections. But then those selections weren't filed. And the Prudhoe Bay or the North Slope selection wasn't actually made until January of '64. And your recollection is that it wasn't filed at that time because it was right before the election?
Roscoe Bell That's the reason we delayed. And so I kicked it back to Holdsworth for review again with the governor. And of course, with the campaign on and the election, so on and so forth it didn't get done until after some reconsideration. But, our purpose in selection-- if you haven't come across this-- our thought in land selection there of mineral land. There's a lot more to this. But, of mineral lands, for the mineral values was that we could expedite development. Because under state law, then-- and I'll come back to this later-- we could offer it competitively. And if a company pays hard cash for a lease then they'll proceed to develop.
Doug Schoenberg OK, now when you're talking about mineral lands, you're only speaking about oil and gas. Because I believe you weren't selecting hard rock minerals at that time.
Roscoe Bell No. There was no point in selecting hard rock because there was no money in it. I mean, financial, no financial point. There's other points.
Doug Schoenberg But selecting the lands with oil and gas potential and leasing them through a state program you felt would encourage quicker development by the oil companies.
Roscoe Bell Yeah. Because they could, if they set out to acquire a tract of land, they could do it in one sale. And they'd get a big enough block so they would justify the investments necessary in that remote area. Now the other aspect of it is if we didn't lease it competitively or it couldn't be leased competitively under federal administration because the only thing leased competitively were known geologic structures. And this was the known oil and gas geologic structure. It was known to be possibly. But not known-- it wouldn't meet the federal criteria.
So it was offered non-competitively which a lot of that land had been open for non-competitive leasing. It was open non-competitively then it could go into the hands of 100 or 1,000 different people. And it would take an oil company lease man, land man months or even years of running down the hundreds of owners to get together a block of land that would justify the investment into an exploratory well. So the delays were-- the potential for delays were just tremendous. So we wanted then to get the land under state ownership so we could offer it competitively.
Now, there's another aspect of this. Is that clear?
Doug Schoenberg Yes. Yes, it is.
Roscoe Bell All right. Now, there's another aspects of this that, very important and that is that our original state laws and regulations provided for non-competitive leasing, much as federal government had. And I disliked that system because when I worked with BLM, I'd seen all the abuses that went along with that non-competitive system and the monkey business that went on. So I wanted to get away from it. But politically, the public sentiment wouldn't support a system providing for competitive leasing of wildcat land.
Well, when we decided these are selections up on the North Slope, then there was the problem of survey of the coast line to determine the boundaries between upland and offshore.
Doug Schoenberg Which was already in state possession.
Roscoe Bell And the offshore lands could be leased competitively. But the onshore lands under original law could not. So I said, well, rather than hassle about living leases and drawing lines between competitive and non-competitive, let's go to the legislature and ask for and change the law that gives the commissioner of natural resources the authority to or the discretion to declare State interest land as available to competitive leasing. And using that really as that survey argument. The impossibility of survey and that coast line moves dozens around, but it'll be ice flow every time ice flows out.
Rather than having that hassle to go through, let's get that settled. And we used that as an excuse to give the commissioner a great deal more authority. And Irene Ryan, who was in the legislature, Irene lives in Anchorage.
Doug Schoenberg Yes. I've met her.
Roscoe Bell Irene Ryan was the chairman of the Senate committee on resources. And she got the point and moved right ahead to see that that got to the legislature. So that would give Holdsworth then the authority to declare those lands competitively. And those changes were responsible then for getting Prudhoe Bay exploration as early as it came. So those were big steps and brainstorms which we had. I know it was early days but were really quite important brainstorms to the department.
Doug Schoenberg You know, it's really incredible talking to you about this because I've interviewed, really, quite a few people who worked for the department at that time. And nobody has been able to make it as clear to me as you have. Your memory is really incredible.
Roscoe Bell I've been-- thanks very much. But I lived closely enough to it and it was as much a part of me because I came with background that gave me some vision on this. These things just couldn't avoid it, as a matter of fact. So we had that in mind. Do you have other questions about the selection?
Doug Schoenberg Yes, I do, if it's OK, if I haven't used up too much of your time.
Roscoe Bell No. It's all right. [INAUDIBLE] this is a pleasure.
Doug Schoenberg It's really a pleasure for me too. In December of 1966, the native problem and the large native selections had reached a point that, I believe, Secretary Udall decided to stop all the conveyance of lands to the state.
Roscoe Bell Yeah. He closed it up.
Doug Schoenberg Now, how did that come about? Did he issue some kind of a secretarial order or something? Or was that just a policy passed down to the local office?
Roscoe Bell No. I think it was a matter of, I believe, a secretarial order. It just has to be-- that would have to be checked with BLM. But I believe there was a secretarial order on that. And you might talk with Joan Hagans. Do you know Joan?
Doug Schoenberg No. Joan Hagans.
Roscoe Bell Joan Hagans worked-- she worked for BLM. She was a minerals officer there with BLM. So she would be aware of that. But, Joan then transferred to the outer continental shelf leasing office. And that's were I think she is now. But she may not be. Charlie Hagans is an attorney in Anchorage. And Charlie is her ex-husband. I believe they're an ex. Anyway, she would know for sure.
But Joan would know of-- in this interview, if you could talk with her and she'd be able to give you quite a lot of background there.
Doug Schoenberg So when that halt in federal conveyances to the state happened, this must have been something that you were expecting to happen eventually. I mean, it was part of the process of bringing it to a head.
Roscoe Bell Well, not necessarily. I didn't think it was necessary to freeze everything. But he froze everything. There's just no more conveyances until the native claims settlement came about. And so we didn't agree with that decision, of course. It held up everything.
But we had by that time had received tentative approval. Tentative approval was tantamount to a patent for purposes of leasing and management. And so we had received tentative approval on enough acreage that we could proceed with a lot of state activity on it. Of course, we didn't really care too much when we got patented for most purposes. Because until we got patented, the federal highway matching formula--
Doug Schoenberg Yes. You didn't lose the funds if you didn't have patent to those lands.
Roscoe Bell Yeah. We didn't have-- until we got patents, the formula was favorable to the state for matching funds for highway construction. That was another angle. So we didn't care too much when we got patent, as long as we had tentative approval.
Doug Schoenberg So in December '66 when Udall stopped conveyances, there were still TAs being issued?
Roscoe Bell No. I think not. But what we had already received a TA on enough so that we were good-- a good slug of land to manage. So it wasn't the crippling thing that it would have been if it had been a few years earlier.
Doug Schoenberg Do you have any other recollections of specific incidents where you may have met with native leaders or anything having to do with that snowballing of the native protests to state land selections?
Roscoe Bell Well, we didn't have too much-- oh, I would say this. When we talked with the natives at Minto-- and this was expressed in other meetings that I attended or other comments that I read in the Tundra Times and others-- natives were not too much concerned about the mineral rights. That wasn't any problem with them. They wanted the service land to use as their ancestors had used. This was the way they wanted it then. Nobody ever thought about mineral rights at that stage. Not at all. Just never occurred to us.
And so we could be-- talking could be liberal in our thinking about what we might grant to the natives. And I suggested on the basis of Canadian experience that the states pass a law that would provide for filing on trap lines, for natives to establish their trap lines and to file claims on them, and to it establish rights to those trap lines.
And a bill was drafted by Grant Pierce who formerly was the park ranger there at McKinley Park which later member of the legislature-- to provide for that. And we had conferences on it in Juneau, Commissioner Holdsworth's office. And the commissioner of Fish and Game-- I don't recall who was commissioner at that time. But one of the men there said, well, that gets into the natives running the fish and game business. And so they vetoed the idea. And there was never any support for it. I did write--one of my Land Lines letters mentioned native trap lines or something or the other. And I got in hot water with the legislature because they thought I was lobbying for this legislation. But I just told people if they were interested to contact their legislator.
But the legislators took a dim view of this. Because the legislature was in session at the time.
Doug Schoenberg Oh, that doesn't like lobbying to me.
Roscoe Bell Well, I really wasn't. I just wanted-- I said, OK, if you're interested. And I didn't know how much interest was. We did get some fan mail on this Land Lines letter. People made inquiry.
[INAUDIBLE] This reminds me of [INAUDIBLE] Fairbanks. I went to the university and the archives. [INAUDIBLE] And at this stage, [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg [INAUDIBLE] I can't believe you are telling me this. I wish I had known about this.
Roscoe Bell [INAUDIBLE] and talk to Paul McCarthy, I believe he is still an archivist there
Doug Schoenberg [INAUDIBLE] he doesn't remember things with the same specificity that you do.
Roscoe Bell Well, this ...was probably January or February.
Doug Schoenberg Now, at that time was Ed [INAUDIBLE] was employed by the state?
Roscoe Bell Yes. Now, Ed was special assistant to Gov. Hickel... ...rather generous allotments of land. [INAUDIBLE] So that was my suggestion, but that didn't get very far. Ok, next.
Doug Schoenberg Yes. In reviewing my notes that I made [INAUDIBLE] before I called you to see if there were any questions that we hadn't covered yet. In reviewing the the reports of the actual land lines and the annual report, the first, well, in 1959 [INAUDIBLE] organizing. But the first two years in '60 and '61 the state had very large lands selections something like 10 million acres. And then a cutback began. And the acreage total after that was considerably smaller. Now, this was-- I'm under the impression that this was because most of the land in the most desirable areas, the most populated areas, had already been selected. And that there was concern about using highway signs and then paying fire protection on lands that didn't have an innate value. Is that correct?
Roscoe Bell Yes. And it was [INAUDIBLE] of what the state [INAUDIBLE] land for. And it was a real concern that we collect a lot of land and [INAUDIBLE] And so we [INAUDIBLE] established better. And we had a little more time. We were a little more deliberate. [INAUDIBLE] we used to get a lot of land [INAUDIBLE] and then after that [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg You made mention earlier in the conversation to having made some early selections for habitat purposes. Do you remember anything else besides the McNeil River area?
Roscoe Bell [INAUDIBLE] Those are two of the tones that I recall. [INAUDIBLE] But then later, we did make a big one in the Wood Rivers, [INAUDIBLE] Lake--
Doug Schoenberg I was just going to ask you about that.
Roscoe Bell Yeah. We made that selection. It was precipitated by some discussions, Ted Smith was our Parks man but Ted was having [INAUDIBLE] take a look [INAUDIBLE] areas [INAUDIBLE] Nobody there knows enough about what's in that area. [INAUDIBLE] That was the intent or the thought [INAUDIBLE] And we had another [INAUDIBLE] when [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg That was under Eisenhower.
Roscoe Bell [INAUDIBLE] talked about the arctic wildlife [INAUDIBLE] protect it from federal [INAUDIBLE] wildlife [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg I came across reference to the idea that it was considered [INAUDIBLE] selections but [INAUDIBLE] just beat you to it. That's all there was to it.
Roscoe Bell Well, OK.
Doug Schoenberg I see.
Roscoe Bell Is that [INAUDIBLE] last, dying gasp of a lame duck secretary.
Doug Schoenberg Yeah, I think it was in December of '61, just before the end of the Eisenhower administration. Well, I think we've pretty much covered everything I wanted to. Aha. I had one other question.
In 1962, the BLM instituted a blanket selection policy for all state selections. Do you remember any of the circumstances that surrounded that?
Roscoe Bell No. I can't comment on it [INAUDIBLE] I think they found that [INAUDIBLE] I don't think we went along with that. [INAUDIBLE] policy but I don't think we went along with it. [INAUDIBLE] That was about the time the [INAUDIBLE] When was Caribou Creek conference?
Doug Schoenberg That was in December of '63. And this blanket selection policy was the summer before that. So it was about a year earlier than that.
Roscoe Bell Well, I think that was one of the things we hassled out at that time. And I don't think [INAUDIBLE] But I don't have any precise recollections of how that affected our operations.
Doug Schoenberg Was there any consideration while you were still with the division of land to begin selecting hard rock mineral land?
Roscoe Bell Very little. The reason was that we couldn't see any real value to the state to have a [INAUDIBLE] as long as public domain [INAUDIBLE] the only thing you would have would be a deduction tax, which is very low. So there was no revenue in it for the state and no particular advantage. The State, our drafting of State regulations on mining, on hard rock, providing for mining leases. And the mining leases, we got [INAUDIBLE] regulation [INAUDIBLE]
And the whole idea of mining leases was unacceptable generally speaking, by the mining industry.
Doug Schoenberg Because they wanted to patent?
Roscoe Bell They wanted to patent. But the arguments were [INAUDIBLE] part of the old die-hards and old time mining philosophy. Nobody wanted to touch this. [INAUDIBLE]
But we did provide for land [INAUDIBLE] to be classified for lease and holdings. So we set up the framework And I think the framework probably still stands. [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg I'm sorry. I didn't hear the last thing you said.
Roscoe Bell I said, we wanted to get the foundations laid so that if this activity ever opened up again, we'd have a legal framework to operate under. For the mining leases and I don't know what's happened on that. So that's another deal for you to explore.
Doug Schoenberg I think we've pretty much covered all the areas that I wanted. Do you have any other things that you think would be useful to [INAUDIBLE] report on state land selection policy.
Roscoe Bell We're clear that [INAUDIBLE] limited in timber lands. I haven't noticed that. as well as [INAUDIBLE] to allow us to [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Well, there's a general attitude from the things that I've seen written on the subject that [INAUDIBLE] and best use was interpreted solely in economic terms. That seems to be the attitude.
Roscoe Bell Well, that isn't true. Again, Herb Lang [INAUDIBLE] and Herb was pretty much [INAUDIBLE]. Herb was our land [INAUDIBLE]. He was pretty much-- he and [INAUDIBLE] were both pretty strong on real estate. They were real estate [INAUDIBLE]. But [INAUDIBLE] really an artist [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Who was that last person?
Roscoe Bell [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Yeah. I've come across his name but I don't think he's in the state anymore.
Roscoe Bell [INAUDIBLE] eye to eye. [INAUDIBLE] was very conscious of those values. And [INAUDIBLE], for example, [INAUDIBLE] and Copper River [INAUDIBLE] for wildlife and wildlife use. [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Did you say that that was some kind of joint agreement with the federal agency?
Roscoe Bell Well, with the Forest Service and the [INAUDIBLE] So we were very conscious of those things although there was lots happening on [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg I've really run out of questions. Unless you have something else to say, I guess--
Roscoe Bell I've tried to fill in the chinks as I'd think of something as we were talking. [INAUDIBLE] I'm happy to see this happening. [INAUDIBLE] the other way and drop from people's memories. And [INAUDIBLE] but I'm glad that you're doing it.
Doug Schoenberg Well, I wish I had more time to spend on it. Several people have responded, when I interviewed them, in a similar way, saying that they were glad that somebody was working to record some of this stuff.
Before I forget, I mentioned to a friend of mine a couple of days ago that I was going to be interviewing you on the phone. And he asked me to convey his regards. That's Vic Fisher.
Roscoe Bell Oh, yes. Where did you see Vic? Is he in Anchorage?
Doug Schoenberg Yes. He's our state senator now.
Roscoe Bell Oh, he is. Well, when you see him again give him my very cordial greetings.
Doug Schoenberg I will.
Roscoe Bell Now, another person you might talk with is-- have you met Tina [INAUDIBLE]? We used to [INAUDIBLE] BLM [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg As a matter of fact, I called Tina today to ask him for an interview. And his response was that he was-- he just instead of doing research like mine, he felt the state should just sell all the land.
Roscoe Bell Well, that's not [INAUDIBLE] But we did have excellent cooperation. [INAUDIBLE] One thing he said, which [INAUDIBLE] when you lease land, sell land don't go through the mistake that BLM did of having [INAUDIBLE] developments before they get titled. Because you mentioned [INAUDIBLE] didn't have good title to lands. Couldn't borrow money. [INAUDIBLE] Herb would be interesting for you to talk with him. [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Yes. Yeah. I did have a conversation with him, actually.
Roscoe Bell Herb was very strong [INAUDIBLE] sold land on contract [INAUDIBLE] secured title [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg When you mentioned giving people good title to the land, it reminded me of another thing that I wanted to ask you about, which was the impact that the '64 Civil Rights Act had on conveyance of lands to the state. You may recall that there were those requirements to include a provision into the conveyance to the state protecting civil rights.
Roscoe Bell I don't... it didn't have any impact. [INAUDIBLE] civil rights [INAUDIBLE] that the federal law required. [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg [INAUDIBLE] at least on some of the categories of the state's entitlement, the state did protest the civil rights provision in the Act that was conveyed to the state.
Roscoe Bell I don't recall what the basis of the protest was. [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg OK. Well, I've run out of questions now. I really-- it's been a pleasure talking to you. I've really enjoyed this interview. Thank you very much.
Roscoe Bell Well, you're certainly welcome Doug. And feel free to [INAUDIBLE] and the Land Lines [INAUDIBLE]
Doug Schoenberg Yes, as a matter of fact, here in the building that I work in, the public information officer has followed the annual reports and Land Lines from the period in which you were with the division of lands, and bound in volumes. And they've been a great help to my project.
Roscoe Bell Oh, very good
Doug Schoenberg OK. Thanks a lot.
Roscoe Bell You're welcome. Good luck.
Doug Schoenberg Thank you. Goodbye.
Roscoe Bell Bye now.
Page last updated 05/03/2019