Land Reborn:
A History of Administration and Visitor Use in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
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Chapter IX:
Mining, Wilderness, And National Park Status

As important as visitor use planning loomed in the conception of a wilderness park, it received much less attention than another form of use, mining. The controversy over mining in Glacier Bay National Monument, dormant since the 1930s, revived in the 1960s by conservation groups who saw the riddance of this environmental threat as a necessary item of housecleaning before making the monument a national park, as well as a fair price for Alaskans to pay in exchange for the development moneys and tourism revenues that would accompany national park status.

For its part, the Park Service chose to combine the two issues of mining and national park status with a third issue: designation of wilderness within the area as required under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The future of mining in Glacier Bay National Monument became the focal point in a public debate over how much of the monument--or park--should be protected under the Wilderness Act. The principal forum for this debate was the wilderness proposal and public review process mandated by Congress in the Wilderness Act, which allowed the Department of the Interior ten years, or until the end of 1974, to submit wilderness recommendations.

A New Phase of Mining

The "emergency" bill that opened Glacier Bay National Monument to mining and prospecting in 1936 resulted in little mining activity until more than twenty years later. Although prospectors made a number of claims around a known molybdenum deposit in Muir Inlet in 1941, and the USGS conducted a mineral survey of the area for national defense in 1942, and the Parker family, Joe Ibach, and other locals worked their claims from time to time, the bill's most significant effect upon the land in the 1940s and 50s was the rather pointless scratching and grubbing that mineral claimants had to do in the name of "assessment" work in order to keep their claims valid. [1]

The potential for environmental damage on a much larger scale increased almost overnight in 1958 with the discovery of a huge copper-nickel deposit lying beneath the Brady Icefield. The discoverers, a crew of fifteen mineral explorers employed by the Fremont Mining Company, were working the seaward slope of the Fairweather Range from their sea-going cabin cruiser, helicopter, and base camp at Crillon Lake. They found a mineralized rock outcropping, or "nunatak," protruding out of the huge, white expanse of the Brady Icefield, a little more than a thousand feet above sea level. The following summer, Fremont put a much larger crew in the field and began making extensive test drills through 300 to 400 feet of ice and into the bedrock underneath the glacier. Meanwhile, another crew employed by Newmont Exploration Ltd. buzzed over the icefield in helicopters leased from an oil exploration company, alighting here and there around the glacier rim to do some surface sampling. Analysis of the many core samples confirmed the existence of a large mineral deposit underlying the Brady Icefield. By 1963, the mining companies had filed twenty claims and invested $800,000 in mineral exploration. [2]

At the same time, an increase in prospecting was causing the monument staff "grave concern." A jump in gold and silver prices attracted dozens of new companies into the field. During the summer of 1964, there were no fewer than five companies prospecting in the monument: two in Muir Inlet, one using a drill rig near Lake Seclusion, one using helicopters without a permit, and one that made a mess of an area on Lituya Bay. [3] In a report titled "Information Required for Legislation to Redesignate Glacier Bay as a National Park," Mitchell included photographs of the degradation caused by this last operation--of "slashed forests, heavy equipment abandoned to rust, and supplies left to rot." It was typical, Mitchell said, of fly-by-night corporations that came and went so fast, "even we cannot keep track with all our efforts." His staff referred to it as the "legalized rape of Glacier Bay." [4]

A third concern for NPS officials was the potential that outside capital would develop one of the older mining operations in the monument on a large scale if gold and silver prices should further increase. Bert Parker claimed that his Ptarmigan Creek mine produced $250,000 between 1960 and 1964--not enough to attract investors at current gold prices, but enough to worry the superintendent. [5]

Calls for a Park Bill

In the years following Alaska statehood the proposal to make Glacier Bay a national park seemed to spring from many sources at once. Dr. Cooper wrote to the acting director of the Park Service on the eve of Alaska statehood, suggesting the time was propitious and Alaska's new senator Ernest Gruening would likely sponsor a bill. [6] Ted Stevens, a future senator from Alaska and presently a legislative counsel in the Interior Department, urged much the same thing to the Park Service director, who forwarded his proposal to the interior secretary. [7] Superintendent Mitchell was the key player, according to Dave Bohn, having decided soon after his arrival in 1958 that the area should have been made a national park long before. Mitchell once told Bohn he "did not want to see the Monument go another thirty-five years as it had," and in a letter to Irving M. Clark of the Seattle Mountaineers, Mitchell allowed that there was a "good possibility" of a park bill in the near future. [8] On the other hand, when Mitchell asked Regional Director Lawrence Merriam how he should respond to inquiries about park legislation from tourist industry boosters in Juneau, he was told to provide information but not to push it, and Merriam later praised Mitchell's "adroit" handling of the matter. The Juneau Chamber of Commerce enlisted conditional support for a park bill from both Senator Gruening and Representative Ralph J. Rivers, but the chamber changed its own position after encountering opposition from mining and commercial fishing interests who feared possible restrictions on their use of the area. The Advisory Board on National Parks endorsed the idea in principle but indicated that mining and seal hunting would have to be eliminated. Gruening was the most consistent supporter of the park idea and the most powerfully placed, but he too equivocated when mining interests appeared to be threatened. [9]

The mining issue soon brought the Park Service and Alaska's congressional delegation to an impasse. Park Service officials maintained that national park status "should bring with it a cessation of prospecting and mining, subject to valid existing rights." [10] Congressman Rivers, with Senator Gruening's concurrence, wanted "special provisions that mining and certain other uses which are allowed under monument status be carried over." [11] Anticipating a fight, Secretary Udall in 1964 requested that the Park Service prepare legislative proposals with accompanying reports on adverse uses in three national monuments that allowed mining but were otherwise deserving of national park status: Glacier Bay, Death Valley, and Organ Pipe Cactus. [12]

The Park Service's new director, George B. Hartzog, Jr., mapped out his agency's course around this impasse in a meeting with his top advisors on September 24, 1964. Hartzog determined that any legislation to upgrade the three monuments should treat the mining issue within the context of the wilderness review process, as prescribed by the Wilderness Act of September 3, 1964. Under this act, the mining laws would no longer apply to all designated wilderness areas after December 31, 1983, but mining and prospecting would be permitted to continue in the interim. Hartzog thought the upgrading acts might prescribe earlier cutoff dates, while mineral patents that were issued after Congress passed these acts would convey title only to the subsurface minerals. There would be other limitations embodied in the legislation as well. [13]

Superintendent Mitchell and his staff were in "complete accord" with this approach. He suggested that the Glacier Bay bill give the secretary of the interior the prerogative to require all prospecting parties to register their intentions, and to waive the requirment of annual assessment work, which tended to cause a lot of "senseless slashing." Mitchell also recommended that one of his staff should be on hand when committee hearings began. [14]

In October 1965, more than a year after Hartzog's decision, regional director Edward A. Hummel sent a list of nine recommendations to the director to incorporate into a park bill. The first was to "combine park status and wilderness designation legislation in one bill." Hummel's next five points involved mining provisions along the lines of the Wilderness Act and Mitchell's recommendations. His seventh point involved a minor deletion of land and water in the Gustavus area. The last two recommendations were to authorize commercial fishing in the park's marine areas and eliminate seal hunting. [15]

Under Hartzog's plan, Alaskans would have an opportunity to respond to these provisions when they appeared in conjunction with the agency's wilderness proposal, three or four years hence. But other participants in the process, particularly the boosters, wanted action sooner. At a press conference in Juneau on August 1, 1965, a reporter asked Secretary Udall how Glacier Bay National Monument could be made a park. Udall explained that it required an act of Congress, but said nothing of Hartzog's plan to combine it with the Department's wilderness proposal. The main concession Alaskans would have to make, Udall said, was the elimination of mining in the park. He hastened to add that this would happen only after the Park Service had completed a mineral survey. [16]

This was news to Park Service officials, who duly arranged a meeting with the USGS on September 21, 1965 to discuss the need for a reliable mineral survey. At first the USGS indicated it would target the study for the 1968 fiscal year. The Park Service, still thinking in terms of coordinating a park bill with a bill to designate wilderness, prepared to reprogram its wilderness review of Glacier Bay National Monument to coincide with the USGS study. Instead, the USGS study went forward the next summer. It seems likely that Senator Gruening used his influence to get this mineral study done much sooner, for a copy of the report arrived on his desk early in 1967. It was followed a few weeks later by a draft of a park bill prepared by the Park Service at Gruening's request. [17]

This bill was not to the senator's liking, for it repealed the Act of June 22, 1936 and authorized the secretary of the interior to acquire any lands or interests within the park by exchange or purchase. The only concession to mining interests was a provision that gave holders of valid existing claims two years to obtain mineral patents. The bill also authorized commercial fishing.

In April 1967, Udall met with Alaska's senators Gruening and E.L. Bartlett. The secretary pointed out that the USGS report listed only fifteen mineral sites of potential economic importance. Gruening said he had had considerable correspondence with Newmont Exploration Ltd., and felt that there were significant values beneath the Brady Icefield. Why not draw a line down the Brady Glacier and exclude from the proposed park all the lands to the west of it? Udall said he wanted to talk to Alaska's governor and representative, get their views, and "try to keep this out of a political fight between the Congressmen." An interior official who attended the meeting informed Hartzog's Alaska hand, Assistant Director Theodor Swem,

It would appear that Senator Gruening is not going to push for a park unless some provision can be made for mining. As he said, he was aware they could not get a park bill through the House with mining. He is interested in protecting the mining interests and we may have a job cut out to make this area a park, unless the mining interests indicate they are willing to sell out. [18]

This was the last time a Glacier Bay national park bill was seriously discussed. By now, the mining industry was coming under sweeping attack for its dismal environmental record, from the strip mining of coal beds in Appalachia to the pollution of air and water by smelters and mine waste. Regarding surface mining on federal lands, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the government "must put its own house in order," and Secretary Udall followed the President's lead by promulgating new regulations on July 17, 1967. With all the publicity given to the mining industry's effects on the environment, any concession to mining interests in a national park bill became unthinkable, and the Alaskan congressional delegation's only option, if they wanted to protect those interests, was to maintain the status quo. [19]

As hopes for a park bill died, Park Service officials returned to their plan of achieving the same objective in conjunction with their forthcoming wilderness proposal, confident that it would be approved by Congress. Some even contemplated a bill that would address mining in all the national park areas where it was authorized. Writing the Alaska field office in 1970, Superintendent Howe's call for legislation revealed the prevailing sense that the NPS had captured the moral high ground:

We feel strongly that the course to follow in coping with adverse uses such as mining in Glacier Bay National Monument, is to eliminate the adverse use. We would recommend that legislation be drawn up to terminate or phase out mining in Glacier Bay National Monument. We feel that such action could not be more timely considering the mounting interest and concern by the public in their environment. Local mining interests have been quite curious as to what the future of mining will be in Glacier Bay, and we feel that the past talk of eliminating mining in the monument has caused them to be hesitant on expanding activity here. We should try to confirm their fears that mining and prospecting are to be stopped in Glacier Bay National Monument.

Conservation groups in Alaska, as well as elsewhere, will stand behind the National Park Service, or they will initiate action if they are encouraged. Several thousand influential persons have been impressed with the magnificence of Glacier Bay National Monument since Glacier Bay Lodge opened in 1966 and the tour boat operation began. These park visitors form a strong basic group in sympathy with our objectives and we are sure that they will support such action. The mining interests will undoubtedly balk and fight any restrictions suggested, regardless of whether it is in the form of more stringent regulations or legislation terminating mining in Glacier Bay National Monument. [20]

Howe and others were encouraged in these views by the growing strength and organization of the wilderness preservation movement, which even gained a foothold in Alaska as the 1960s ended. Asked by the newly formed Alaska Wilderness Council what would be the most opportune time to push for repeal of the 1936 mining law, Howe's staff advised: when the wilderness proposal gets submitted to Congress. [21]

The 1971 Wilderness Proposal

Shortly after park planner James S. Rouse transferred to the new Pacific Northwest regional office in Seattle in 1970, he was assigned supervision of the Glacier Bay National Monument wilderness proposal. Rouse's team completed the document in 1971 and prepared to conduct public hearings on the proposal in Juneau and Anchorage that fall. Almost at the last minute, Rouse was reminded that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) required an environmental impact statement to accompany the proposal. Until that point, Rouse's team had not considered the potential economic effects of wilderness designation, and they addressed these in a hastily prepared two-page EIS. With a thin proposal numbering just seven pages of text and this fig leaf of an EIS, the Park Service entered the public hearings process. [22]

The timing of these public hearings in November 1971 could not have been worse for the Park Service. That month, Alaskans were following local press coverage of the House and Senate floor debates on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which promised to be the most important Alaska lands legislation since statehood. An amendment introduced in the Senate version of the bill, which would become Section 17 (d) (2) of the act, directed the secretary of the interior to withdraw up to 80,000,000 acres for study and possible inclusion in the various federal land management systems, including the national park system. Much of this land, it was understood, would also be included in the nation's wilderness preservation system. Complaints of a massive federal "lock up" of the state's natural resources--a staple of Alaskan politics--reached a new crescendo just as the Park Service made public its proposal to designate more than 2,000,000 acres in Glacier Bay National Monument (and a larger area in Katmai National Monument) as wilderness.

Regional Director John A. Rutter reported that the wilderness proposal got a somewhat less scorching reception at the hearings than it did in the press. At the Juneau hearing on November 20, the Sierra Club's Alaska representative, Jack Hession, commended the wilderness proposal, saying that the monument's unique roadless character should be preserved and Congress should eventually appropriate funds to buy out the mining interests. "The debate here today," Hession said, "takes place amidst a growing national awareness that reform of the mining and mineral leasing laws is overdue." [23] At the Anchorage hearing, a spokesman for the Alaska Miners Association argued that the Park Service plan contradicted the secretary of the interior, who had recently called on the mining industry to triple production in thirty years. An Alaska Airlines representative called for further study, and an editor of the Anchorage Daily Times slammed the Park Service proposal for its superficiality, saying it "read like a chapter out of a tourist promotion handbook." Governor William A. Egan harangued the Park Service in an hour-long speech, calling the proposal and the EIS "legally insufficient...and meager," and saying that the EIS represented a "double standard for environmental impact statements." [24]

The most significant information that came out of the hearings was Newmont Exploration Ltd.'s disclosure of its plan to bore a three-mile tunnel under the Brady Icefield. It proposed to open the mine at a point about 1,000 feet above sea level. There would be a mill at the site of the mine adit, and a road down the Dixon River valley to Dixon Harbor. At Dixon Harbor there would be a wharf and townsite for several hundred workers (Map 5). Newmont enumerated thirty-five sections that encompassed these planned facilities and requested that they be omitted from the wilderness area. [25]

It was clear that the magnitude of this planned operation posed a major environmental threat: a three-mile adit would yield an enormous quantity of waste rock, to say nothing of how the road would inhibit the movement of animals along the narrow coastal corridor, nor how minewater and smelter smoke laden with copper sulphides would contaminate the environment. But the mining law of 1936 placed the Park Service in an ambiguous position for responding to it. Superintendent Howe convinced the Pacific Northwest regional office that Newmont's plans were a "major concern," and the regional office provided funds and support for a two-year "baseline" study of the natural resources on land and in the water that would be impacted by such a development. [26] But for the time being, the Park Service was coy about its legal authority to restrict the planned operation. It was left to environmental groups like the Sierra Club to threaten Newmont with a legal challenge and probable court injunction if the company should try to proceed. [27]

Gradually, the Park Service adopted the position that the scope of operations Newmont proposed was illegal. The first indication of this stance came with the release of its wilderness recommendation for Glacier Bay in May 1972, six months after the wilderness proposal hearings. The Park Service recommended that the entire Dixon Harbor area be included in a wilderness area, and it made the recommendation with the understanding that wilderness designation by Congress would be accompanied by the repeal of the 1936 mining act. Two months later, in July 1972, Regional Director Rutter requested a solicitor's opinion as to whether Newmont's mineral patent entailed the right to use surface areas for a millsite and shipping and housing facilities. Mineral patents did entail that right under standard mining law, but Park Service officials noted that the act of 1936 applied to "mineral deposits...exclusive of the land containing them." The law provided further that the secretary of the interior could regulate use of the surface land "as may be required for all purposes reasonably incident to the mining or removal of the minerals." How much was reasonable?

The solicitor's opinion suggested that the Park Service could prohibit mill operations, road construction, and waste disposal in the monument if it allowed alternatives such as access by helicopter and waste disposal in an adjacent area. But the solicitor's opinion was equivocal and failed to reflect upon some of the peculiar logistical problems of the Newmont claims, such as the mineral deposit being overlaid by 400 feet of moving ice. Park Service officials were told that the legal questions involved would almost certainly have to be litigated. [28]

Some sixteen months after the wilderness proposal hearings, James S. Rouse's planning team completed a revised draft EIS to accompany the wilderness recommendation. This document left no doubt about the Park Service's position, as it asserted that the mining law of 1936 did not convey to mineral claimants the right to construct mills on the surface. In describing the no-action alternative (designating no wilderness in the monument), the draft EIS stated that mining development "would degrade one of the most scenically grand and ecologically significant areas in the world." [29] The Park Service released the draft EIS for public comment on March 22, 1973.

In the next six months, the draft EIS received mounting criticism not only from mining interests and the state of Alaska but from other bureaus in the Department of the Interior as well. One criticism, first sounded by Newmont Exploration Ltd. and soon echoed by others, was that the draft EIS distorted the findings of the USGS mineral survey of 1966 to say that the area did not contain significant mineral values. Newmont asserted that the nickel deposit represented the "largest known reserve of nickel in the United States." The USGS stated that its study had been "misused," and "the fact that deposits were discovered during the limited USGS investigation indicates that further potential exists." [30] As more criticisms came back, one exasperated Park Service official wrote:

Most of the critiques handed me for review are patently the result of a coordinated effort by the State of Alaska, the Geological Survey, the State Department of Natural Resources, and C.C. Hawley, until recently an employee of the U.S. Geological Survey. I suspect that the orchestration was provided by L. Ouilette, head of the Federal-State Land Use Planning Group in Anchorage.

This official predicted that the named agencies would not be appeased until a larger mineral study was done. He thought the Park Service would be "going to the mat" with the USGS. [31]

In March 1974, the Interior Department took two steps which demonstrated the Nixon administration's commitment to keeping Glacier Bay National Monument open to mining, regardless of the Park Service's recommendation. On March 22, the Interior Department requested a second opinion on the mining law of 1936 from the Office of the Solicitor. Then on March 31, Secretary of the Interior Rogers C.B. Morton met with the USGS and John C. Whitaker, the White House aide on natural resources, and ordered a new USGS study of the proposed Glacier Bay National Monument wilderness areas. The solicitor's opinion, dated May 16, stated unequivocally that the law of 1936 did not cover milling of ore. This opinion never got into Park Service files, nor was the Park Service informed of the USGS study until August 6, 1974, when geologist David Brew and his team appeared at Bartlett Cove in their USGS charter boat. [32]

Both the Nixon and Ford administrations maintained that the Brady Glacier copper-nickel deposit must remain accessible to the mining industry for reasons of national security. According to administration officials, United States consumption of imported nickel was already three times the amount produced from domestic sources, and the nation's known domestic supply would be exhausted in fifteen years. [33] Skeptics pointed out that most of the United States' foreign supply came from Canada, and most of the world's supply came from the western hemisphere; these were not sources that were likely to be cut off. It seemed that the national security argument was a wedge for keeping the door open to the mining industry.

The irony that two USGS mineral surveys had now sprung from the wilderness review process, thereby encouraging mineral discoveries where wilderness enthusiasts least wanted to see them made, did not escape the environmentalists who had learned by now that environmental impact statements could be used by federal agencies to achieve almost the opposite of what the National Environmental Policy Act had intended them to do. More often than not there was more money available to research economic costs and benefits than to study environmental consequences. It seemed to some environmentalists that the USGS study of mineral values in Glacier Bay National Monument epitomized the cynical use of environmental law. "One of the greatest absurdities is the current mineral survey being conducted within Glacier Bay National Monument while it remains open to mineral location," remarked Charles M. Clusen of the Sierra Club. "If any potential mineral values are found, mineral development will not only have been accelerated by the survey without any controls, but private interests will be able to claim virtually for free any minerals found at the public's expense." Representative John F. Sieberling likewise observed, "There is nothing to stop prospectors from following the Survey along and staking claims on the choicest lands. And before Congress could even consider wilderness designation for the area, the wilderness qualities could be destroyed forever." [34]

By now it was clear that the Nixon and Ford administrations would not complete all the wilderness recommendations required under the Wilderness Act by December 31, 1974. On June 4, 1974, Secretary Morton recommended to President Richard Nixon that the wilderness recommendation for Glacier Bay National Monument be deferred. On July 13, 1974, President Nixon transmitted to Congress the following recommendation: "Until we have the benefit of additional mineral survey data on the area...we will be unable to balance its wilderness values and mineral resources. For this reason we recommend that the Congress defer action on this proposal until such a survey is completed." [35]

In the Pacific Northwest regional office, James A. Rouse's planning team still forged ahead on a wilderness proposal for Glacier Bay National Monument, but finally requested permission in the summer of 1975 to shelve the project and await results from the mineral survey. [36]

Newmont Plan for Mining Development. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The Mining in the Parks Act of 1976

On September 18, 1975, Senator Lee Metcalf of Montana introduced a bill to prohibit location of mineral claims in six units of the national park system where it was presently legal. The six areas were Glacier Bay, Death Valley, and Organ Pipe Cactus national monuments, Mount McKinley and Crater Lake national parks, and Coronado National Memorial. The bill repealed the special mining law for each area such as the Act of June 22, 1936, for Glacier Bay National Monument, called on the secretary of the interior to determine the validity of all unpatented claims, and imposed a four-year moratorium on any surface disturbance of claims while Congress had the opportunity to consider their purchase. [37] Representative Sieberling introduced a similar bill in the House.

The official Park Service line, which was known by the monument staff even before it was enunciated at the Senate and House committee hearings in early October, was that Glacier Bay National Monument should be excluded from the bill. Nevertheless, public concern about the Newmont mining development was running high enough that monument staff and Alaska conservationists were cautiously optimistic that the legislation would result not only in repeal of the 1936 act but in an eventual buyout of the Newmont claims. Jim Kowalsky, Alaska representative for Friends of the Earth, wrote biologist Gregory Streveler a note before packing his bag for Washington: "Send me arguments in favor of this measure as regards Glacier Bay, especially when some senators light into me and demand to know how the hell I could ask to lock up the nickel when the nation needs it so, etc. etc." Ranger Charles V. Janda answered Kowalsky's letter with this revealing caveat:

What follows is best kept as evaluations from an "informed source" for the reasons of the communications gap between Washington and Glacier Bay. While we are not at odds with policies and tactics of our people back East, we are victims of the old "left hand...right hand" adage and I obviously wish to remain clear of any politics which may antagonize the mining fraternity and/or conflict with Washington strategy. [38]

Constrained by the administration's position that the monument should remain open to mining because it contained "critical minerals which are in short supply," Park Service officials could do no more than supply information, without giving any sort of endorsement of the environmentalists' testimony. [39]

Opponents mounted a strong effort to cut Glacier Bay National Monument out of the bill. Senator Ted Stevens argued that the debate over mining in Alaska parks ought to wait until Congress considered comprehensive Alaska land legislation, after the administration completed the land withdrawals required by Section 17 (d) (2) of the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act. [40] The Joint Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission took a different tack, recommending (as Gruening had earlier) that the west slope of the Fairweather Range be deleted from the monument. By the time the bill went to the whole Senate for a vote in February 1976, Senator Stevens, the commission, and the Ford administration had joined forces in urging an amendment that would retain the west slope area in the monument but leave it open to mining. Stevens pushed the amendment through the committee by a vote of 22 to 19, but in the full Senate it was defeated 33 to 53. Stevens did succeed in exempting Glacier Bay National Monument from the four-year moratorium on surface development. [41]

When the Senate bill came before the House in September, the contest involved two further amendments affecting Glacier Bay National Monument. The first was an amendment introduced by Congressman Don Young, nearly identical to that of Senator Stevens, which the House rejected by a two-to-one margin. The second was a reinstatement of the four-year moratorium on surface development in Glacier Bay National Monument. Environmental groups lobbied hard on this issue, countering potent assertions by the administration that the Dixon Harbor development could create as many as 800 jobs for up to twenty-five years. Up to ten lobbyists worked the halls of the House of Representatives in a coordinated effort to visit all 435 members' offices before the vote. The lobbyists included former superintendent Howe, who was now retired and able to speak freely on the issue. As the best informed lobbyist, he was directed to the offices of the undecideds, toting maps and photographs which he spread before each of the congressmen or their aides. The bill passed by a vote of 352 to 9. [42]

The law required the Department of the Interior to determine the validity of each unpatented mining claim in Glacier Bay and Death Valley National Monuments, estimate the market value of each valid claim, and recommend to Congress which, if any, claims should be bought with public funds. These tasks devolved upon the NPS, with practically no assistance from the USGS, Bureau of Land Management, or Bureau of Mines, agencies with much more experience in determining the validity of mining claims. The Park Service's report on Glacier Bay National Monument, submitted four months late in January 1979, invalidated all unpatented claims in the monument and estimated the cost of purchasing the twenty-two patented claims (twenty in the Newmont group plus the Parker family's Leroy No.1 and No.2) at $100,000. The report stressed the logistical problems that would be involved in mining and milling the Newmont claims, including the erosion that would result from the 13-mile access road, mine portal, and tailings disposal, the flooding that would likely develop in a mining operation underneath a glacier and in such a wet climate, and the problem of disposing of nearly six million tons of waste per year. The report estimated that the community at Dixon Harbor to support such an operation would number 4,000 people. The environmental impacts would be profound; the cost of administering the area under these conditions would be an estimated $200,000 per year. [43] Interior officials later acknowledged that the overriding consideration in framing various options was cost rather than environmental impact, as both Congress and the Carter administration were pushing hard in 1979-80 to balance the budget. The Interior Department drafted a bill to enact the NPS recommendations for Glacier Bay and Death Valley, but it was never introduced in Congress. [44]

In 1981, Congress asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to review the Department's handling of the Mining in the Parks Act. Predictably, given the change of administrations that year, the GAO issued a report in December assailing Interior's performance, suggesting among other things that the Department had given inadequate consideration to the "mineral supply and economic ramifications" of its recommendations. Concerning the Brady Icefield nickel-copper deposit, "no analyses were submitted to Congress regarding other commodities known to exist in other areas." In sum, the GAO report recommended that 1) Congress should not legislate on the basis of the 1979 recommendations by the Park Service, 2) the secretary of the interior should notify Congress that it no longer supported the Park Service's 1979 recommendations, and 3) all mineral management functions of the Park Service should be transferred to other agencies. [45] The Reagan administration allowed the matter to rest, never submitting to Congress new recommendations for the buyout of mining interests in Glacier Bay or Death Valley.

In the long run, the Mining in the Parks Act was only a partial victory for environmentalists: the mining claim above Dixon Harbor remains in private hands, and development awaits only a growth in demand and a legal decision over milling rights before it goes forward. If it ever happens, says a former park biologist, "They will turn the bay inside out." [46]

NPS boat and amphibious plane
Transfer between NPS boat and amphibious plane, Glacier Bay National Monument, during Advisory Board trip to Alaska, July 31, 1965. (Ted Swem Collection.)

Hartzog, Grosvenor
George Hartzog (NPS Director, center) and Melvin Grosvenor (National Geographic Society chief and member of the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments, right), taken during the 1965 advisory board field trip. (Ted Swem Collection.)

Drill site on east side of Muir Inlet
Drill site on east side of Muir Inlet (Nunatak II in background), August 1966. During the mid-1960s several prospecting companies, taking advantage of the 1936 bill which opened the monument to mining, set up exploratory operations in scattered monument locations. (Robert Howe Collection, photo GB 400.)

Kuehl, Luntey, Mattes, Breedlove
NPS officials (left to right) Alfred Kuehl (landscape architect), Robert Luntey (planner), Merrill Mattes (historian, in front) and Bailey O. Breedlove (landscape architect), on board the Nunatak II, August 1967. (Robert Howe Collection, photo GB 828.)

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000