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Originally from Holt, Minnesota, Oliver Backlund came to Alaska in 1949 to work for the Public Roads Administration (PRA), a federal agency that constructed roads and bridges, did work in national parks and forests, and later became the Bureau of Public Roads. Oliver served in the Navy during World War II and was discharged in 1946. He studied forestry at the University of Minnesota for one year and then moved to Alaska. He worked for the PRA from February 1949 to 1951, and was hired by the Bureau of Public Roads in Fairbanks in 1957. In 1959, the Bureau of Public Roads was renamed the Alaska Department of Highways and Oliver worked for them until he retired in 1981. He was a Surveyor and Location Engineer for the State of Alaska, and was a registered land surveyor and certified photogrammetrist. Throughout his career, Oliver worked on many Alaska road and highway projects, including surveying along Turnagain Arm near Girdwood for the Seward Highway, designing the road's extension to Cooper Landing, surveying the route for Chena Hot Springs Road, development of the Hickel Highway winter ice road, and surveying for the Richardson Highway, the Parks Highway, and local roads around Fairbanks.