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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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I. Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980

Although those who had been involved in the struggle for so many years sighed in relief that it was finally over, few were really happy with the way things turned out. Both Ted Stevens and Don Young decried the amount of land set aside in the conservation systems and the resources "locked up" there. Conservationists, who had come so close in August, were sorely disappointed with the failure to include a considerable portion of the proposed wilderness areas of Southeast (West Chichagof, Duncan Canal, Karta, Rocky Flats, and Yakatak Forelands), deletion of significant wildlife habitat in the Copper River Delta and National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (proposed Teshekpuk-Utukok National Wildlife Refuge); the removal of 149,000 acres of wilderness in Misty Fjords National Monument to allow U.S. Borax to go forward with mining there; the $40,000,000 annual subsidy and guarantees of an annual cut for timber interests in Tongass National Forest; and mandated oil and gas exploration on the sensitive coastal plain of the Arctic Wildlife Range. Everyone recognized all along that accommodations must be made. Yet the departures from wilderness policy—the lack of statutory protection from mechanized access in wilderness areas, for example—disturbed a good many people. The proposed national recreation areas at Gates of the Arctic, Wrangell-Saint Elias, and Noatak had been dropped, but many believed that the balance between parks, monuments and preserves had shifted too far in the direction of the latter, which provided less protection. The law mandated a transportation corridor across the "boot" at Gates of the Arctic from the haul road to Ambler mining district. Provisions protecting customary uses on conservation lands—access, cabins, subsistence—all seemed to hold the promise of future difficulties for managers from all agencies who were given too few, unclear, or contradictory directions for dealing with them. [187]

Partially as a result of the extended legislative process, and partially as a result of the failure to hold a conference to iron out differences between versions of the bill and perfect language, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act is flawed in a number of ways. It is a complex, often vague, and sometimes contradictory act. There was (and there is today), however, too often a tendency to dwell on the problems of ANILCA and overlook what had been accomplished. The act was a milestone in the history of conservation in America. Never before, and surely never again, would lands be preserved on so vast a scale.

The bill provided for the protection of critical wildlife habitat through the addition of 53,720,000 acres to the National Wildlife Refuge system (nine new areas and six additions to seventeen existing ones). Segments of twenty-five free-flowing rivers were added to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, with portions of twelve others designated for study as potential additions. The Forest Service would manage two national monuments—Admiralty Island and Misty Fjords, as well as additions to Chugach and Tongass national forests. More than two million acres were taken out of proposed Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge to be managed by BLM as multiple use areas (Steese National Conservation Area and White Mountains National Recreation Area). Although falling short of expectations, some 56,400,000 acres were added to the National Wilderness Preservation System. [188] ANILCA extended, finally, National Park System protection to ten new areas and additions to three existing ones that totalled 43,600,000 acres of land. As described by Representative Morris Udall, the Alaska parks would

offer the full range of nature and history in Alaska, mighty land forms and entire ecosystems of naturally occurring geologic and geomorphic processes, intricate water forms and spectacular shorelines, majestic peaks and gentle valleys, diverse plant communities and equally diverse fish and wildlife:

Aniakchak National Monument138,000
Aniakchak National Preserve376,000
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve2,457,000
Cape Krustenstern National Monument560,000
Gates of the Arctic National Park7,052,000
Gates of the Arctic National Preserve900,000
Kenai Fjords National Park570,000
Kobuk Valley National Park1,710,000
Lake Clark National Park2,439,000
Lake Clark National Preserve1,214,000
Noatak National Preserve6,460,000
Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park8,147,000
Wrangell-Saint Elias National Preserve4,171,000
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve1,713,000
Glacier Bay National Park additions523,000
Glacier Bay National Preserve57,000
Katmai National Park additions1,037,000
Katmai National Preserve308,000
Denali (Mount McKinley) National Park additions2,426,000
Denali National Preserve1,330,000 [189]

In an interesting sidelight, virtually all the new lands included in the National Park System under ANILCA, had been identified as parklands, or "Areas of Ecological Concern" in 1973.

Congressman Clausen of California said that the passage of ANILCA "will end uncertainty regarding land status which plagued Alaska for the last 9 years." [190] Actually the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was as much a beginning as it was an end. Representative Don Young, seconded by Senator Stevens, indicated that he would be back to attempt to open up more land to additional uses the next session of Congress. [191] Similarly, both Representatives Seiberling and Udall promised to work to amend the act to include the stronger provisions that had been in the bill that passed the House of Representatives in May 1979.

Ginny Wood, a thirty-year resident of Alaska, and one of its leading conservationists, testified before the House subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands that "Ironically, I know that after a D-2 bill is passed I will then be fighting to protect the D-2 lands from other development and other management by the very agencies instructed to protect them - The National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service." [192] While not all might agree with her assessment of the management approaches of the several federal agencies, and while she did not recognize the role of the Department of the Interior in decision-making in Alaska, she was correct in the emphasis she placed on future management of the conservation areas. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act extended systems protection to vast amounts of land. Complex as the 186-page act may be, however, the manner in which responsible federal agencies implemented it would determine in large part the future of the Alaska national interest lands.

End of Chapter Four


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

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