Excerpt from Hearings Before the Committee on the Public Lands: March 3, 1908, on H. R. 18198 to Provide for the Sale of Coal Deposits in the District of Alaska, and for Other Purposes
The committee this day met, Hon. Frank W. Mondell in the chair.
The Chairman. We have before us this morning a bill introduced by Mr. Cale, relating to coal lands in Alaska (H. R. 18198), and although there is not a quorum present I think we may proceed at this time, owing to the fact that Judge Ballinger, very much to our regret and very greatly to our loss, leaves the position of Commissioner of the General Land Office in a couple of days, and as he has given a very great deal of attention to the question of coal lands I thought the committee would like to hear from him before he goes out, on that general subject. I think it is important that we in the near future take this matter up as regards both the coal lands of Alaska and the coal lands of the balance of the public domain and decide, first, whether there shall be a change of law and, second, if there should, what form it should take, and while I am not prepared at this time, of course, to pass on that very large subject, while the Commissioner, can be before us it occurred to me that you would all be very glad to have his views both on this bill, which is confined to Alaska by its terms, and on the general subject.
We will proceed with the hearing on the bill (H. R. 18198) introduced by Mr. Cale, to provide for the sale of coal deposits in the district of Alaska, and for other purposes, and we will be very glad to hear from you, Mr. Commissioner, in regard to this bill and the general subject, if you care to discuss it.
Statement Of Mr. R. A. Ballinger, Commissioner General Land Office.
Mr. Ballinger. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, the coal-land act of March 3, 1873, is practically the only law we have to-day authorizing the disposition of coal lands. This law has, in my judgment, for many years ceased to be the kind of an act that is needed by the Government for the disposition of unappropriated coal lands. Since this law was enacted there have been only about 500,000 acres of lands taken under the act of 1873 and millions of acres have passed into private ownership under other methods. I am speaking now of the public-land States, and not in reference to Alaska. The public-land States have still a large area of lignite coals unappropriated, and an area, as I recall it, approximately, like 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 acres of very high-grade coals unappropriated.
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