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NPS in Alaska Before 1972


Response to ANCSA, 1971-1973

current topic ANILCA

NPS in Alaska, 1973-1980





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

Chapter Four:
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act: A Legislative History
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C. Cook Inlet and the Proposed Lake Clark National Park

Despite the obvious importance of collecting information which would assist in future congressional deliberations on the Alaska lands, the lack of legislative progress proved frustrating. By late 1975, prompted by recent developments in the long-simmering Cook Inlet situation, Theodor Swem and Curtis E. Bohlen decided that one way of moving the larger Alaska bill might be to attempt to secure passage of a bill that provided for establishment of one or more areas. If Congress could be convinced to act at all, they hoped, it might be stimulated to take action on the larger package. [12]

In many ways the Cook Inlet episode is a microcosm of the larger struggle over Alaska's lands, involving, as it did, conflicting claims over the land, differences in interpretation of the law (ANCSA), lawsuits, and the negotiated resolution of extraordinarily complex issues. The question at Cook Inlet revolved around the meaning of "lands of character similar" (deficiency lands), which were to be withdrawn for regional and village selection when lands in the immediate vicinity were inadequate. In the Cook Inlet region, patterns of previous state selections and federal withdrawals prevented full entitlement. [13]

Secretary Morton had withdrawn a total of 209 townships (approximately 4,815,360 acres) to meet deficiency requirements in the region, some 1,100,000 of which were in the proposed Lake Clark National Park. [14] The Natives did not quarrel over the amount of land. Rather, they argued that only 691,000 acres of the withdrawal land fulfilled the requirements of "character similar," and "proximity," the rest being "mountainous or glacial." [15] To resolve the differences, Cook Inlet Regional Corporation brought suit on March 21, 1973. [16]

If the Cook Inlet Regional Corporation was successful in its suit, NPS planners believed, it could result in deletion of a considerable portion of the Service's Lake Clark proposal, an amount that would bring the viability of that area into question. Interior Department attorneys suggested, moreover, that the suit threatened the September 2, 1972 agreement between the state of Alaska and Secretary Morton, something that could give the state land in the Wrangell-Saint Elias, Gates of the Arctic, and Mount McKinley proposals. [17] Although the corporation lost its case in the District Court, it appealed the decision, an action that Interior Department attorneys believed would, regardless of the outcome, prevent Congressional consideration of the areas involved for at least two to four years. At the same time, Senator Henry Jackson and Representative Lloyd Meeds promised to seek congressional relief for the Natives. [18]

In April 1975 a Department of the Interior team, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Bohlen, with A. Durand Jones of Ted Swem's staff representing the NPS, and Bill Reffalt representing the FWS, began negotiations with the Natives and the state in an effort to reach an out-of-court settlement. By December, the negotiators had hammered out a three-way land exchange. Incorporated in Public Law 94-204 (January 2, 1976), the Cook Inlet land settlement gave the Natives land in several areas, including Beluga Coalfields and selected parcels in Kenai National Moose Range, the right to develop a mineral project in the proposed Lake Clark National Park, and first right to concession operations there. The state received lands in the Talkeetna Mountains, in a d-2 area west of Lake Iliamna, and the Campbell airstrip tract. [19]

The agreement served to "purify" the Park Service's Lake Clark proposal, removing some inholdings and freeing 750,000 acres on the southside for possible inclusion in the park. By doing so, it effectively "nailed down" Lake Clark as a park unit. Afterwards there would be little controversy there. Of equal importance, the Cook Inlet Native Corporation agreed to publicly support the creation of a national park area at Lake Clark. In a broader context, it bolstered the Natives confidence in the Park Service's intentions in Alaska, something that would be of increasing importance as time passed. [20]

In light of the Cook Inlet land settlement, the Park Service reevaluated its earlier proposals for the area. As it did so, Alaska Task Force planners postulated one solution to the thorny problem of sport hunting—the adoption of the newly created "preserve" parkland category. The concept of a "preserve"—an area set aside to protect certain resources while allowing activities such as hunting, fishing, or extraction of minerals and fuels as long as those activities did not threaten the natural values, was not new. As early as 1958, more than fifteen years before the establishment of the first national preserve, the Park Service had proposed a list of preserves—areas to be preserved in their natural state, [21] and in 1969 Richard Gordon, an Alaska conservationist, had recommended establishing the first NPS preserve at Gates of the Arctic. In 1974, staff members of the Senate Interior Committee suggested using in Alaska the national preserve category which had been first used at Big Thicket, Texas and Big Cypress, Florida the year before. [22]

The Park Service's Alaska task force planners were aware of that suggestion when they received directions in early January 1976 to study alternative management approaches to the Lake Clark area. [23] After considering a number of possibilities, the group recommended a combination Lake Clark National Park of 1,800,000 acres, with a 1,800,000-acre national preserve encircling the western portion of the "core park." Neither hunting, subsistence uses, motorized transportation, nor new mineral entry would be allowed in the core park. Greater management flexibility allowed by use of the "preserve" category would, at the same time, permit hunting, subsistence, and snow machines in some areas, and mining in the Johnson River area and in the Kontrashibuna River watershed. [24]

Not all agreed with the decision—a vote of the Alaska planners was almost evenly split. John Kauffmann expressed concern over mining. He felt, too, that the preserve concept had been misconstrued, that it had been taken to mean an area "not quite suitable for national park designation," rather than an area that should be preserved for its natural values. Bryan Harry, Alaska area director, approved the preserve recommendation, but wrote that he believed that existing subsistence uses should continue within the core park area. [25]

The Washington office accepted the recommendations, but with some modifications, and Theodor Swem and Deputy Assistant Secretary Bohlen obtained a commitment from Representative Goodloe Byron to introduce a bill regarding Lake Clark. [26] Originally the Service proposed a somewhat broader bill to establish Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Aniakchak Caldera National Monument and Preserve, Harding Icefield-Kenai Fjords National Monument, and Aniakchak Wild River. [27]

Nothing came of the Service's proposal, and when Congressman Byron introduced a Lake Clark bill (H.R. 15256) on August 26, 1976, it addressed only a Lake Clark National Park, and did not mention preserve. Nevertheless, the preserve did provide one answer to the difficult problem of sport hunting in NPS areas in Alaska. The concept of using a preserve category in Alaska would be available when Congress began to address the question of Alaska national interest lands the following year. [28]

Chapter Four continues with...
The Proposals Take Shape


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

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