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NPS in Alaska Before 1972


current topic 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 Three:
Response to ANCSA, 1971-1973
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C. Preparation of Legislative Recommendations

In preparation for the March and September withdrawals, the Park Service had concentrated its efforts on refining proposed withdrawal areas without determination of resource uses or future management. Even as the process of determining the September withdrawals was underway the Service had begun to shift its focus to more detailed studies of the areas. Before December 18, 1973—the date mandated for submission of legislative recommendations—decisions on final boundaries would have to be made. Conceptual master plans that would delineate management proposals for the proposed areas, environmental impact statements, and detailed legislative support data for each area—information required for any piece of legislation—would have to be completed. [76] In addition the Park Service would prepare individual bills for the areas should those be necessary. [77] Because congressional committees traditionally required the key witnesses be intimately familiar with the areas, intensive on-the-ground inspection of each area, which had not been possible in the early phases, would be undertaken. [78]

At the same time, the Service would continue to expand and improve the relationships with the Native community. [79] In that regard, too, the Service would have to address the question of dual withdrawals—lands withdrawn both as d-2 land and for Native corporations. Efforts to resolve the dual withdrawals, which included lands in Lake Clark, Aniakchak, Chukchi-Imuruk, and Gates of the Arctic, would continue into the post-ANILCA period. [80]

No effort had been made, additionally, to resolve the question of overlapping interest areas in preparing for the September withdrawals. Decisions regarding management of such areas as the Upper Yukon, Copper River, Chukchi-Imuruk, and Noatak, all areas in which both the NPS and BSF&W had expressed an interest, would have to be made before the legislation went forward to Congress. [81] As well, the overlapping interests between Interior Department agencies and Forest Service, which amounted to 31,000,000 acres, would have to be addressed.

By April 1973 the Bureau of Land Management had complicated the process when it introduced its own proposal for management of large areas. The Bureau's "fifth system" concept was a "multiple use planning effort with emphasis on Chitina Valley, Iliamna, White Mountains, Fortymile and Noatak Planning Units." [82]

All agencies involved would have to deal with a variety of complicated policy issues in preparing legislative recommendations—subsistence uses, areas of ecological concern, coastal and navigable waters, mining and mineral leasing, and wilderness. [83] The Park Service and BSF&W, as indicated, had cooperated in their Alaska efforts from the beginning. In early January 1973 the two agencies had begun to work out overlaps at the Alaska level. [84]

By early January, Assistant Secretary Reed had decided that these questions would be best dealt with by some central group that would coordinate the efforts of the several Interior Department agencies involved. [85] At the same time, such an organization it was believed, would overcome any opposition to the Alaska effort within the individual agencies, and would resolve any conflicts between agencies to present a solid front to the rest of the department.

On February 15, 1973, Secretary Reed announced the formation of an Alaska Planning Group, made up of representatives from the NPS, BSF&W, and BOR. The group would be chaired by Theodor Swem, who would also serve as representative of the National Park Service. [86]

The Alaska Planning Group would coordinate the efforts of Interior Department agencies in implementation of ANCSA. The APG was responsible for the completion of all requirements necessary for submission of legislative proposals, and all required support documentation for proposed additions to the four systems that must be submitted by December 18, 1973. It would work directly with the Department's Alaska Task Force, a committee made up of deputy assistant secretaries, assistant secretary of agriculture, and chaired by Ken Brown, departmental legislative counsel. This Alaska Task Force was had overall responsibility for coordinating the Interior Department's effort in implementing ANCSA. [87]

Work on conceptual master plans and environmental impact statements and continued boundary refinements began as soon as the Park Service's Alaska Task Force completed the recommendations to Secretary Morton for the September 1972 d-2 withdrawals. In the shortened 1972 field season NPS study teams fanned out across Alaska to collect the detailed information necessary for preparation of those documents. Often made in conjunction with people from other federal agencies, state, Joint Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission, and members of conservation organizations, these inspection trips served, as well, to obtain the "I've been there" experience traditionally required of key witnesses by congressional committees. [88]

As the study teams undertook more detailed analysis of the study areas they realized, that despite the previous studies, the level of available knowledge was often inadequate for their purposes. By way of example, ATF planners recognized from the very beginning that subsistence would be significant question throughout the process. Yet, no hard data on the extent or location of that activity existed. Equally important, one of the charges made in opposition to withdrawal of such large areas was that it would "lock-up" substantial mineral wealth. Yet neither the Service nor those who opposed their efforts possessed adequate documentation to support their arguments.

In 1972 the Task Force had contracted for an assessment of the areas included in the July recommendations and for an annotated bibliography of relevant topics. [89] In 1973, the Service initiated a broad research program that would result in a long list of original studies when it contracted for a botany study of Gates of the Arctic, and multi-disciplinary studies at Noatak and Chukchi-Imuruk. [90] On January 18, 1973, Al Henson submitted a revised financial plan that included $450,000 for research. [91]

Over the next several years the variety of research reports produced by or for the Park Service would give park planners as well as future managers an intimate knowledge of the Alaskan areas. The program, which was probably unique in the Service's history, produced a number of ground-breaking studies and resulted in a significant contribution to knowledge about Alaska. By 1978 some 176 studies had been completed, and another 61 were underway. The Service estimated that by that date 400 man-years of research (including pre-ANCSA NPS studies) had been accomplished. [92]

As the process of preparing master plans and environmental impact statements went on, moreover, Alaska Task Force study teams became increasingly aware that many of the concepts that guided NPS planners elsewhere were not relevant when planning in Alaska. Limited time, a concern that the Service would be accused of attempting to close too much land, and an inadequate data base limited their options, however. As a result, management proposals for the proposed Alaskan parklands represented a sometimes curious mixture of creative management concepts and 'state of the art' park planning with its emphasis on visitor use and development.

At Gates of the Arctic, for example, NPS planners proposed a two-unit National Wilderness Park. In the middle, located on Native lands would be a 2,100,000-acre Nunamiut-Koyukuk National Wildlands, to be managed cooperatively by the Park Service and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, which had selected the land. A permit-reservation system, upon which the whole concept of a wilderness park was predicated, would control the number of people allowed in the area. The Noatak would be a jointly managed (NPS and BSF&W) National Ecological Reserve, set aside to protect "in perpetuity two major arctic valley ecosystems, now virtually unaffected by civilization, for their scientific and educational values." A most creative concept forwarded was a proposed Noatak Conservancy—a board of eminent scientists, educators, local residents, and conservationists—who would advise on all management decisions, policies, and programs, and review all environmental impact statements for area projects. [93]

Elsewhere, task force planners sometimes emphasized visitor use on a scale that today seems inappropriate for the place. At Yukon-Charley National Rivers, which was to be managed as a recreation area, the planners proposed a visitor complex at Woodchopper/Coal Creek that included a ranger station, visitor accommodations, air and boat charters, canoe rental facilities, horse trips, interpretive and research facilities. Other visitor facilities would be located, as well, on the Charley, Kandik, and Nation rivers, and at Johnson's Gorge. At the proposed Aniakchak Caldera National Monument, an isolated area on the Alaskan Peninsula, the Service recommended a development site at Meshik Lake and two "other development sites" within the crater itself. [94]

Although hampered by a lack of knowledge in some areas as well as an unrealistic deadline imposed by ANCSA, Alaska Task Force planners nonetheless completed the major portion of the required documents as scheduled. By early January the first of the "Description of Environment" sections of the proposed environmental impact statements were out for review and on January 26 study packages for Gates of the Arctic and Mount McKinley were scheduled for completion. By May 15 the last of the study packages—Lake Clark and Kenai Fjords—had been submitted for review. [95]

The Alaska Task Force was, additionally, well on the way to completion of the environmental impact statements for each of its proposals as required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. However, questions regarding the format and substance of those documents, as well as those being prepared by other agencies, existed. [96] Past difficulties that all agencies had experienced, as well as the need for consistency in policy statements and graphics, led to the decision that a single set of documents would be prepared in Washington under the immediate supervision of the Alaska Planning Group. Accordingly, in late summer 1973 the APG established a multi-agency task force, coordinated by Bill Reffalt, a biologist assigned to the BSF&W's ANCSA staff, to prepare the necessary documents. The task force, which included representatives of five agencies and at times involved as many as sixty writers, typists, graphic specialists, and consultants. By December 18, 1973, the task force had completed draft environmental impact statements for each of the twenty-eight areas included in Secretary Morton's legislative proposals. Final statements revised to reflect comments by a wide variety of agencies, organizations, and individuals, would be completed in December 1974. [97]

Chapter Three continues . . .


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

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