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NPS in Alaska Before 1972

current topic ANCSA

Response to ANCSA, 1971-1973


NPS in Alaska, 1973-1980





The National Park Service and the
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980: Administrative History

Chapter Two:
The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
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C. Origins of the National Interest Lands Provision (17(d)(2))

The question of the disposition of the public lands in Alaska was not simply a two-sided one that involved the claims of the Natives and the state. A third element complicating any settlement of those issues was the question of the national interest—how and to what extent should the needs of Americans everywhere be addressed?

As indicated previously, individuals and organizations outside the government had worked with staffs of federal agencies in an effort to secure preservation of areas of national, or international significance in Alaska. These efforts were sporadic in nature and did not represent any comprehensive approach to preservation of Alaska's lands.

In 1963 the governing council of the Wilderness Society held their annual meeting at Camp Denali, near the border of Mount McKinley National Park. The very location of their meeting signaled a new concern for the future of Alaska's wildlands. A consensus developed during the meeting

that the Wilderness Society, through the staff, urge state and federal authorities to include in their long-range planning for the state of Alaska as a whole, provision for the establishment of wilderness areas. [25]

Although this call by the Wilderness Society did not lead to an immediate demand for preservation of Alaska lands by conservationists in the "lower '48," by the end of the decade they had taken a more active interest in Alaska. In the state, an informal group of conservationists, many of whom were employed by state and federal agencies, worked to identify significant areas, and developed detailed data on those areas. [26] Following a 1967 trip to Alaska, Sierra Club President Dr. Edgar Wayburn hired an Alaska representative and made saving Alaska wildlands a priority goal of that organization. [27]

Particularly after the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay, it seemed clear that time was running out if Alaska lands were to be preserved. [28] A growing number of people had become convinced, by the end of the decade, that the vehicle for preserving lands in Alaska, and perhaps the last that would ever be available, was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement bill then working its way through Congress. [29]

It would become somewhat fashionable, later, to charge that the inclusion of the national interest lands provision in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was a hasty, last-minute affair, written by "outsiders" who did not understand Alaska. Actually, however, it seems apparent that the idea that any settlement of the lands claims of Alaska Natives must also take into account the national interest originated with Joseph Fitzgerald, the far-seeing chairman of the Federal Field Committee for Development Planning in Alaska. [30] As early as 1965-66, Fitzgerald had concluded that economic development could not occur in Alaska until the Native land claims were settled, and that a significant factor in any settlement would be a major involvement of the state and federal governments in the establishment of a "park complex" in Alaska. [31]

Fitzgerald approached the Alaska Wilderness Council, asking them to identify areas worthy of preservation. [32] It was, moreover, a member of Fitzgerald's staff—David Hickock—who was actually responsible for inclusion of the first "National Interest Lands" provision in any bill. Hickock, who was natural resources specialist on the Fitzgerald's committee staff, had been borrowed by the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs committee to work on a settlement bill. At his suggestion, a simple provision was added to S. 1830:

The Secretary [of the Interior] is directed to review all public lands in Alaska and within three years recommend to Congress areas appropriate for inclusion in the National Park System and National Wildlife Refuge System. [33]

On July 15, 1970, the Senate passed S. 1830 by a seventy-six to eight majority. That version of a settlement act included provision similar to that drafted by David Hickock. The Secretary of the Interior was directed to conduct

. . . detailed studies and investigations of all unreserved public lands in Alaska, and of Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4 and the Rampart Power Site Withdrawal, which are suitable for inclusion as recreation, wilderness or wildlife management areas within the National Park System and the National Wildlife Refuge System, and shall advise the Congress within three years of the date of passage of this Act of the location, size and values of such areas, and shall simultaneously with notification in the Congress withdraw these areas from any appropriation under the public land laws, including application of the mining and mineral leasing laws, until such time as the Congress acts upon the Secretary's recommendations, but not to exceed the five year period during which all unreserved public lands are hereby withdrawn from appropriation.

(b) Upon the application of any applicant qualified to make entry, selection or location, under the public land laws, on lands not classified for entry under subsection (a) hereof, the Secretary shall examine the lands described in the application and if he classifies them as suitable to the purpose described in the application and opens them to entry, said applicant shall be entitled to enter, select or locate, such lands. [34]

Although the Senate passed its version of the bill, the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs was unable to reach agreement on a bill. Congress adjourned without completing action on the bill. [35]

Chapter Two continues . . .


Last Modified: Tues, Jan 9 2001 10:08 am PDT

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