In 1867 Secretary of State William H. Seward paid Russia 7.2 million dollars for a huge region derided as "Seward's Icebox." Today this land of overwhelming beauty, abundant resources, and few people is a battleground between conservationists and energy and mining interests. More than a third of the mineral-rich state is forested; a quarter is set aside as parks, refuges, and wilderness. Fisheries teem with salmon, halibut, and shellfish. Alaska natives, who number some 100,000, administer 13 regional corporations established under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.