Feds launch new satellite technology to map remote corners of Alaska

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) New satellite technology is promising to revolutionize how the government maps Alaska’s vast untouched wilderness.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, the feds are switching over to utilize satellite mapping technology to mark, define and establish boundaries of property ownership. In a press release, the new survey technique is called Direct Point Position Survey (DPPS) and is described as “a more advanced form of the technology that drives many smartphone applications.”

BLM officials said the implications of DPPS could dramatically speed up the decades long process of transferring federally managed lands to the state of Alaska.

The transfer of land from federal ownership to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is mandated by The Alaska Statehood Act of 1959. When Alaska became a state, it was promised control over 100 million acres of land, but before federal patents could be handed over to the state government, the feds said the land must first be surveyed.

For decades, teams of BLM workers have flown to the remote corners of the state, digging holes and cutting through bush and frozen tundra to place physical markers in the ground.

So far, 60 percent of the land promised to Alaska has been handed over.

With the new DPPS technology, the BLM predicts the last 40 percent of land needing to be surveyed could be completed in half the time of traditional methods, estimating a savings of $60 million of taxpayer money.

Alaska DNR officials were quick to condemn the announcement.

"We are disappointed that the BLM has chosen to unilaterally deploy this technology before it is ready," said DNR commissioner Andrew Mack in a press release.

DNR officials argued, the satellite-based surveying technology is not fully tested and could pose technical problems. According to the commissioner, the decision “reneges on promises made in the Alaska Statehood Act” because the BLM is “abandoning proven methods.”

Mack said he vows to fight the deployment of the new survey method using Alaska's congressional delegation.

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