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NPS in Alaska Before 1972


Response to ANCSA, 1971-1973


current topic NPS in Alaska, 1973-1980





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

Chapter Five:
The National Park Service in Alaska, 1973-1980
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B. NPS Activities in Alaska, 1975-1978

Al Henson originally hoped that the keymen would be in Alaska in time for a full summer's work in the field in 1975. Although some did arrive earlier, most did not report for duty until the end of the field season, and spent the remainder of the summer and early fall becoming familiar with the Service's proposals, the resources and problems of the areas, and beginning to develop relationships with the local residents and officials. [27]

The new keymen were a diverse group, both in training and approach to new area planning. Gerald Wright, for example, was an ecologist with a strong background in systems analysis. Wright preferred to apply what he termed a strictly scientific approach to information-gathering in the Wrangell-Saint Elias proposal, using models to create "visitor use," and other zones for the area, and leaving the community relations aspect largely to two particularly capable seasonals, Richard Gordon and Ben Shaine. By tallying game statistics for virtually every drainage in the Wrangell-Saint Elias proposal, Wright was able to compile a body of data that could be used when Congress tried to identify appropriate hunting and non-hunting areas. [28]

Others, Bill Brown and John Kauffmann, for example, took a more intuitive approach, and sought to physically immerse themselves in their respective field areas to experience more fully the areas and appreciate the nature of the place, something they believed necessary for proper planning. Brown, along with Rich Caulfield and former Glacier Bay National Monument Superintendent Robert Howe, spent as much time as possible in the Yukon-Charley proposal and nearby communities running rivers, inspecting proposed trails and campsites, taking dog-sled trips, and becoming acquainted with local residents and absorbing their experiences to "ground-truth" the earlier master plan for Yukon Charley. As Brown explained his approach:

We rented a cabin, we cut our own wood, and we spent time up there when it's cold and dark. We knew that we could not gain understanding or respect if we were simply fair-weather bureaucrats. We suspected, too, that we had to have time, in this cultural milieu, to get past public-meetings posing and sit down with individuals around an oil-drum wood stove and talk and argue and lay our shared values on the line with these people . . . then coming back for more and being accountable this time for what we said last time. [29]

Kauffmann, who had been responsible for the Gates of the Arctic proposal since 1972, took every opportunity to visit the area, hoping, in the end, to have been on the ground in virtually every part of the proposal. In setting goals for 1976, for example, Kauffman hoped to complete a two-week dogsled trip to Anaktuvuk Pass and Gates of the Arctic (April); confer with local people in Bettles, Alatna Valley, Kobuk, and Shungnak (April); complete field reconnaissance of Cockedhat Mountain and Oolah Pass areas (July), Shungnak and Kogoluktuk drainages and other western portions of the proposal (August), Kurupa Lake region (August 20); inspect all development sites and privately-owned structures in the proposal (July); and study of the Middle fork of the Koyukuk River in conjunction with the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. [30]

Stell Newman, keyman at Bering Land Bridge (formerly Chukchi-Imuruk), certainly had a unique job. Not only did he have the responsibility of learning as much as possible about a remote area on the Bering Strait, but had to become the NPS expert on reindeer herding—an important subsistence activity in the area. For several years Newman attended meetings of the Reindeer Herders Association, spent time with the herders as they patrolled their herds, took part in summer round-ups when antlers are cut to sell as medicinal products in the Orient, and lived with herders in an isolated camp to participate in a mid-winter butchering operation. [31]

Whatever differences they might have had regarding new area planning, the keyman all recognized the need for additional hard data on the individual areas. An important part of the Park Service's Alaska program, as indicated earlier, was the accumulation of basic data for planning, legislative support, and use by future managers. The magnitude and variety of research carried out, or sponsored by the Park Service, in Alaska during the d-2 period was unprecedented in the Service's history. In its fifty-odd years in Alaska prior to ANCSA, the Park Service had produced some forty-four reports on Alaska. [32] Between 1972 and 1978, 176 research reports on the proposed areas had been completed and another 61 were underway:

Type of Study
Wildlife Management7
Zoology46 [33]

The research resulted in a considerable number of ground-breaking studies, including such wide-ranging subjects as Melody Webb Grauman's study of the Kennecott mines in Wrangell Saint Elias and Yukon Fronter: Historic Resource Study of the Proposed Yukon-Charley National Rivers, Robert B. Forbes' study of the geology of the Maar craters at Chukchi-Imuruk [Bering Land Bridge], to the multi-disciplinary resource study of the Noatak by the Center for Northern Studies at Wolcott, Vermont. The latter was carried out in FY '73 and FY '74 at the cost of $131,000. The study team was in the field for months studying botany, mammalogy, orthinology, entomology, limnology, and archeology in an area that had been visited by no more than a handful of scientists in the previous century. [34]

The Service's Alaska Task Force planners tried to be alert to almost every opportunity to increase their knowledge about Alaska, and sought, in the words of John Kauffmann, "to use other trained eyes and ears and willing legs as well as our own." When Ray and Barbara Bane, school-teachers and long-time residents of the Alaska bush, made a 1,400-mile dogsled trip from their home in Hughes to Kotzebue and on to Barrow, Zorro Bradley and Bob Belous arranged for photographs and a description of their trip. They met the couple several places along the way to record their impressions of the land through which they had traveled, and of the lives of the people who lived there. [35]

Other agencies and organizations also conducted research, although not, apparently, on the scale of the Park Service's efforts. The Park Service did participate in a number of cooperative ventures. It joined, for example, the United States Geological Survey in mapping the geology of Glacier Bay National Monument and the Alaska Fish and Game Department in studying resource problems at Wrangell-Saint Elias, Kobuk Valley, Mount McKinley and Katmai. A jointly-sponsored NPS-FWS study examined reindeer herding on the Seward Peninsula, and in 1974, Will Troyer, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who later joined the Park Service, completed NPS-financed studies of bald eagle nesting and brown bear denning in the Katmai area. In 1976 the Park Service and the National Geographic Society agreed to co-sponsor a three-year $300,000 project designed to "locate archeological sites which will provide specific knowledge about movement of peoples from Siberia across Bering 'Land Bridge.' " [36]

From the very beginning, both as a result of congressional direction as well as by the personal inclination of those involved in the Park Service's Alaska effort, it was clear that the question of subsistence on the d-2 areas would be one that must be addressed. But, no hard data on subsistence existed and without it no coherent policy could be formulated. Because of this deficiency, an important aspect of the Park Service's research program in Alaska during the d-2 period would be a detailed examination of subsistence within or near each of the proposed areas. The subsistence studies would make significant contribution not only to the knowledge of Native and non-Native subsistence practices, land values, and lifestyles, but also to a more general understanding of Alaskan archeology, history, and anthropology. [37]

Detailed research on subsistence commenced in 1974 with a cooperative (NPS and NANA) study of subsistence patterns in the Kobuk Valley. Published as Kuuvanmuit Subsistence, Traditional Eskimo Life in the Latter Twentieth Century, this landmark study of Eskimo life would serve as a model for subsistence studies in other areas. In the following year (1976) Merry Allyn Tuten began work on a NPS-financed study of subsistence at Aniakchak; Richard Caulfield, who had worked with Bill Brown at Yukon-Charley, was assigned a similar study in that area and spent six months in the field during the next two years; and Ray Bane moved from the Kobuk study to begin, with Richard K. Nelson and Kathleen Mautner, an analysis of subsistence on the Koyukuk River. In 1976 the Service contracted with the University of Alaska to conduct subsistence research on the remaining proposed parklands. The university's work began in the fall 1976 under the direction of Richard K. Nelson. By the spring of 1977, considerable information on subsistence in all areas was available for use when Interior Department officials testified at hearings before the House Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands. [38]

Chapter Five continues . . .


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

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