online book
cover to Admin History





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
NPS logo

G. The National Monument Interlude

What followed was one of the most intriguing, if misunderstood, events in the entire legislative process of the Alaska National interest lands. As early as October 9 staff of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, acting on Representative Udall's orders, had begun to prepare a series of minor amendments which could serve as the basis for discussion between the two houses. [116] On October 11 Senator Jackson called a meeting, attended by himself, Senators Stevens and Durkin, and Representatives Udall and Seiberling, to determine whether any hope for reaching a compromise existed. [117] The group agreed to make an effort to develop a compromise bill, something that certainly seemed possible when Senator Gravel wrote Senator Stevens to indicate that he would now support a compromise proposal. [118]

For two tension-packed days the "ad hoc" conferees met. On the 13th, Secretary Andrus, who had returned from vacation, was included as a full partner in the negotiations. [119] By late afternoon on that day it seemed possible to nearly everyone that success was once again within reach. The group had reached tentative agreement on most major issues, and had directed the staff to put down in legislative language what they believed had been decided, and to indicate what areas of difference remained. [120] At that point, Senator Gravel, who had not taken part in the proceedings, spoke up for the first time, listing demands for a Susitna hydropower project, a clause prohibiting future use of the Antiquities Act or wilderness withdrawals in Alaska, $800,000,000 for access and recreational facilities, and seven mandated transportation corridors across park and refuge lands:

NPR-A and adjacent state and Native lands across Gates of the Arctic and/or Noatak;

Interior (notably Ambler River copper district from Kotzebue across Kobuk and/or Selawik);

Ambler River across Gates of the Arctic "boot";

Ambler River District and interior across Seward Peninsula and Selawik and Koyukuk refuges;

Interior from Yukon-Kuskokim across the Yukon Delta Refuge;

Bristol Bay region from the Pacific Ocean across Becharof; and across the Stikine River Valley from Southeast Alaska to Canada. [121]

The other conferees thought Senator Gravel's demands to be so unreasonable as to bring the discussions to a close had he not assured Senator Jackson that they were negotiable. Senator Jackson instructed the staff to develop options for Senator Gravel's demands that night. The next morning, after an all-night session, the staffs of the two houses, assisted by representatives of the Interior Department, had completed a draft bill along with maps incorporating agreements reached in the previous two days. The draft bill contained much of what had been included in H.R. 39 as -reported by the Senate Energy Committee. Known as the "ad hoc" compromise, the staff draft written on the night of October 13, provided for the addition of over 95,000,000 acres to the five national systems, and just over 51,000,000 acres of wilderness. Nearly half (21,576,000 acres) of the 44,592,000 acres alloted to the National Park System received lesser protection as national preserves, with an additional 2,505,000 acres designated as national recreation areas. The staff draft provided for national recreation areas in the Noatak and Wrangell-Saint Elias, but had dropped that designation in Gates of the Arctic in favor of a national preserve. The draft did provide, however, that the Kobuk River area (or "boot") in Gates of the Arctic, would be managed as a national recreation area for purposes of transportation. [122]

The "ad hoc" conferees met Saturday morning to resume negotiations. No one had time to review the entire draft, although arguments regarding specifics did take place. No vote was taken, and evidence seems clear that the conferees did not reach agreement over the entire package. [123] Henry Jackson and Morris Udall did make a cursory review and concluded that, following additional discussion of points raised by Udall, the draft might be ready for consideration by both houses. At that point, Senator Gravel, who if nothing else certainly had a flair for the dramatic, brought the discussions to an end by announcing that the compromise access provision which permitted but did not mandate transportation corridors was unsatisfactory. Without mandated access, he said, he could not allow the bill to be brought before the Senate in the few hours left before adjournment. With any hope for a compromise gone, the conferees agreed to present a hurriedly-drawn provision extending the d-2 protection for another year. The House passed the resolution, but when it came before the Senate early Sunday morning (5:30 A.M.) as a rider to the Oregon Omnibus Wilderness Bill Senator Gravel killed that too with the threat of a filibuster. [124]

Senator Gravel blamed Morris Udall, John Seiberling, and the conservationists for forcing him to act as he did. He had killed the bill and d-2 extension-provision only after it became clear, he said, that they considered the bill only the "first step in a continuing effort for more reservations in Alaska." "They don't want just this," he said, "they want all of Alaska." [125]

Nevertheless, he had cast himself as the villain, and most everyone was more than willing to blame him for the demise of H.R. 39. The truth is, however, he unknowingly did others a favor. As negotiations progressed during the "ad hoc" conference, supporters of a stronger bill grew more and more apprehensive. Secretary Andrus was certainly concerned when it became apparent that the negotiations were going below what he considered his "bottom line," although he indicated that he would not be the one "to pull the plug." House staff hoped, as well, that Representatives Udall and Seiberling would "pull up their tents and silently steal away." The Alaska Coalition had played no direct role in the negotiations, but had watched with growing dismay the developments, and had given Morris Udall a list of their demands which he indicated he would present on Saturday morning—demands which would have undoubtedly been difficult for Senators Stevens and Gravel to accept. Whether or not Representative Udall or someone else would have killed the bill, or whether they would have felt compelled to accept the compromise at that point is, of course, impossible to determine. It may well have been that in the intensity of the time the process of passing a bill became more important to the participants than the substance of the bill itself. Whatever the case, Mike Gravel killed it. But, said Chuck Clusen, chairman of the Alaska Coalition, "we were not unhappy." [126]

Killing the staff "ad hoc" draft was one thing. Refusing to accept an extension of the d-2 protection was something else. Ironically, by doing that, Senator Gravel actually may have guaranteed passage of an Alaska Lands bill, or at least set in motion a chain of events that would be a major step in that direction.

For whatever reason he acted, Senator Gravel ignored Cecil B. Andrus' oft-stated determination to use whatever administrative means available to protect the 17(d)(2) lands in the face of Congressional inaction before December 18, 1978. [127] All 17(d)(2) lands, it will be recalled had been withdrawn simultaneously under Section 17(d)(1) of ANCSA, and would remain under that protection indefinitely. Nagging questions existed, however, as to whether this fully precluded the entry and location of minerals, or state selection of lands contemplated in the proposed legislation. The Park Service had taken the first steps to secure additional protection in the event legislation did not pass as early as July 2, 1978, when it began to draft national monument proclamations for proposed NPS areas delineated in Secretary Andrus' September 15, 1977 recommendations regarding H. R. 39. [128] Throughout the summer, and into the fall, both Interior and Agriculture Departments, at the request of the White House, conducted a through-going analysis of the effect that expiration of the 17(d)(2) provision would have on the proposed lands, and a review of the administrative options available to extend additional protection until enactment of the necessary legislation. [129]

As part of its on-going review process, the Interior Department assembled a special forty-two-member task force to prepare a supplement to the twenty-eight environmental impact statements prepared in 1974 to accompany Secretary Morton's legislative recommendation. [130] The group began its work, which involved an evaluation of environmental impacts on areas whose boundaries were a composite of maximum boundaries in the House-passed bill of May 19, 1978, the bill reported by the Senate Energy Committee, and Secretary Andrus's recommendations of September 15, 1977. The department released the draft for comment on October 25, shortly after Congress failed to act on the bill. On November 28, 1978, following a twenty-five day review period, the Department issued a final report. [131]

The Interior Department's analysis indicated that several existing authorities, or a combination of them, were available for use by the executive branch to provide additional protection for the national Interest lands. The President could establish national monuments under the Antiquities Act, a course recommended by the National Park Service. [132] The Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) provided the Secretary of the Interior with emergency authority to segregate and withdraw public lands from mineral entry, mineral leasing, and state selection for as long as two years (Section 204(e)). Finally, Section 22 (e) of ANCSA gave the Secretary of the Interior authority to withdraw public lands in Alaska to replace acreage selected by Native villages from existing refuges. [133]

There is no doubt that the Carter administration intended to take steps to protect the national interest lands should Congress fail to act before expiration of the d-2 provision, and that it enjoyed considerable support in that decision. [134] On July 18, and again on November 9, 1978, the National Park Service recommended that, in so far as proposed national parks were concerned, the areas be designated national monuments under authority of the Antiquities Act. [135] There is some evidence to suggest, however, that the administration did not intend to go that far, but rather would have segregated all areas under Section 204(e) of FLPMA, and designated a small number of monuments by way of illustration. [136]

The state of Alaska, ironically, forced the administration's hand, and determined in part the direction the Carter Administration would take. On November 14, 1978, in violation of what Secretary Andrus regarded as an oral agreement to restrict any state selections to lands outside the proposed conservation areas, state officials filed for selection of some 41,000,000 acres of land. Included were over 9,500,000 acres within proposed conservation areas (3,970,000 in national park areas and over 5,000,000 in proposed refuges). [137] Two days later, citing the need to protect the "integrity of Alaska lands," Secretary Andrus withdrew 110,750,000 acres of land under Section 204(e) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. [138]

On December 1, 1978, President Jimmy Carter, in the most sweeping application of the Antiquities Act in history, designated seventeen national monuments in Alaska that totaled approximately 56,000,000 acres. Two areas—Becharof (1,200,000 acres) and Yukon Flats (10,600,000 acres)—would be managed by the FWS, while the Forest Service would manage Misty Fjords (2,200,000 acres) and Admiralty Island(1,100,000 acres). The 41,000,000 acres to be managed by the NPS would nearly triple the size of the National Park System:

Bering Land Bridge2,600,000
Cape Krusenstern560,000
Denali (enlargement)3,890,000
Gates of the Arctic8,220,000
Glacier Bay (enlargement)550,000
Katmai (enlargement)1,370,000
Kenai Fjords570,000
Kobuk Valley1,710,000
Lake Clark2,500,000
Wrangell-St. Elias10,950,000
Yukon-Charley1,690,000 [139]

On November 17, additionally, Agriculture Secretary Bergland requested that Secretary Andrus withdraw all potential wilderness and wilderness study areas in Southeast Alaska (11,000,000 acres) under section 204(l) of FLPMA, an action that automatically segregated those lands from operation of the public land laws. Secretary Andrus directed Interior Department agencies, additionally, to prepare support material for possible application of a section 204(c) withdrawal on all lands withdrawn under section 204(e), but not included in the monument proclamations. The latter included some 40,000,000 acres in wildlife refuges and 4,000,000 in potential park areas (lower Noatak Valley, northeast corner of the Wrangell-Saint Elias, west portion of Lake Clark, and eastern portion of Aniakchak). Thus, the Carter administration had used its authority to protect virtually every acre of land under consideration by Congress. [140]

President Carter emphasized that his action had been made necessary by Congress failure to act before expiration of 17(d)(2), and was taken in anticipation that Congress would do so in the near future. That disclaimer, however, did not prevent a firestorm of protest in Alaska. State officials had already gone to court in an unsuccessful effort to prevent the Carter administration from exercising its withdrawal authorities. Senator Stevens had included an amendment in the Senate's Interior Department appropriation bill forbidding use of appropriated funds from implementing section 603 of FLPMA. He introduced, and later withdrew, an amendment that would have prevented use of the Antiquities Act to withdraw the d-2 lands. He and Senator Gravel would offer legislation to that effect the following year. [141]

Some Alaskans, the editors of the Anchorage Daily News, for example, took a more moderate stance and sought to remind Alaskans of the role that Senator Gravel had played in the whole affair. State legislators, on the other hand, debated, and finally rejected a plan to fund legal assistance for people charged with violating regulations in the new monuments. Citizens in Fairbanks burned President Carter in effigy and people living near Denali National Monument endeavored to engage in civil disobedience in the "Great Denali Trespass." [142] The city council of Eagle, a small village on the Yukon River near Yukon-Charley Rivers National Monument, passed a resolution stating:

We do not intend to obey the directives and regulations of the National Park Service. The city council of the City of Eagle Alaska does not advocate violence, but we can be no more responsible for the actions of an individual citizen than we can be for any animal when it is cornered. The policy of the Eagle City Council shall be to offer no aid or assistance to the National Park Service or its employees while your current regulations are in effect. [143]

In preparation for a January 1979 visit by John Cook, the newly appointed director of the NPS's Alaska Area Office, Eagle residents plastered the village with signs warning:

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE EMPLOYEES and anyone else advocating a dictatorship (including those locally who support National Park Service activities under the Antiquities Act) ARE NOT WELCOME HERE! [144]

Interior department officials anticipated, all along, a strong reaction in Alaska to the national monument designations and other withdrawals. [145] A particular problem proved to be a lack of information, or, in some cases, misinformation about national monuments, their boundaries, and the uses allowed. [146] Interior Department officials recognized the urgency of this situation, and began preparing management regulations for the new monuments almost immediately after the President acted. [147] By June 28, 1979, following extensive review within the Department, as well as outside, the Interior Department published proposed regulations for the national monuments. These proposed regulations attempted to reconcile conditions in Alaska with policies that guided managers in the "Lower 48," permitting traditional subsistence activities (but not sport hunting), the use of aircraft, and carrying of firearms in the national monuments. [148]

Chapter Four continues with...
Legislative Progress, 1979-1980


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

ParkNet Home