Alaska Subsistence
A National Park Service Management History
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Chapter 4:
THE ALASKA LANDS QUESTION, 1971-1980 (continued)

B. The Interior Department Begins Planning for New Parks

The National Park Service, which managed less than seven million acres of Alaska land in December 1971, reacted to ANCSA's passage by commencing an immediate, whirlwind effort to identify and evaluate lands for consideration as National Park System units. On December 21, just three days after the bill signing, Director George Hartzog assigned Theodor Swem, the agency's Assistant Director for Cooperative Activities, to coordinate the agency's Alaska effort; six days later, Swem requested the assistance of Richard Stenmark of the Alaska Group Office in Anchorage in identifying and evaluating proposed withdrawal areas. [22] The NPS and other land management agencies acted quickly because they had to: according to the timetable laid out in ANCSA, they had just 90 days to make a preliminary withdrawal of d-2 lands and nine months to issue a final withdrawal order. Given that timetable, agency officials hurriedly compiled what meager resources they had on Alaska's outstanding natural and cultural areas; they then began assembling an ad hoc planning team that was intended to provide information and guidance about potential parklands—either new NPS units or extensions to existing units.

Table 4-1. Proposed NPS Areas in Alaska, March 15, 1972

Study Area Name
(Present Park Name)
Study Area

New Areas:
Aniakchak Crater
  (Aniakchak NM)
Gates of the Arctic
  (Gates of the Arctic NP & Pres)
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
  (Kobuk Valley NP)
Imuruk Lava Field
  (Bering Land Bridge NPres)
Lake Clark Pass
  (Lake Clark NP & Pres)
Mount Veniaminof
Noatak River
  (Noatak NPres)
Nogabahara Sand Dunes
Saint Elias — Chugach
  (Wrangell-St. Elias NP & Pres)
Tanana Hills
  (Yukon-Charley Rivers NPres)

Additions to Existing Park Units:
Katmai National Monument1,218,490
Mount McKinley National Park4,019,251

On March 15, 1972, Interior Secretary Rogers C. B. Morton made the preliminary withdrawal of d-2 lands. (See Table 4-1 at right.) They comprised the following areas (names in italics are of present park units).

The combined acreage of the twelve proposed new units and two park additions totaled some 45 million acres. Significantly, the NPS made no provision, during this initial withdrawal, for land that would later be included in either Kenai Fjords National Park or Cape Krusenstern National Monument, and the initial withdrawal also failed to include any additions to Glacier Bay National Monument. [23]

In May 1972, just a few weeks after Morton's withdrawal, NPS Assistant Director Ted Swem brought a contingent of NPS planners to Alaska, and for the next several months the team fanned out across the state and did what it could to gather information about these and other potential parklands. NPS staff also worked with other Interior Department agencies to coordinate the land withdrawal process. [24] On September 13, Interior Secretary Morton issued his final 80,000,000-acre land withdrawal, which included 41.7 million acres for new or expanded NPS units. During the six-month study period, the NPS dropped several areas and added new ones, so that the September withdrawal areas largely approximated the areas—at least in name—that Congress adopted several years later.

Once the withdrawal process was completed, the NPS and the other land management agencies had another major ANCSA-imposed deadline to meet: the completion, by mid-December 1973, of master plans and draft environmental impact statements for each of the proposed national interest lands units. In response to that mandate, these agencies began to intensively study the areas that they had selected; they studied each unit's wildlife and fisheries, inventoried cultural resources, assessed interpretive themes and tourist potential, local and area transportation patterns, and performed other research tasks intended to demonstrate the suitability of these areas to Congress and the public.

As part of that information gathering effort, these agencies responded to the data they gathered by increasing or decreasing the size of the various proposed units; and in response to conflicts between these agencies, the total acreage assigned to each agency's withdrawals changed as well. This fine-tuning took place during various increments between late 1972 and late 1973, and it continued throughout the following year during the agencies' preparation of final environmental statements for each of the various proposed units. Table 4-2 on the facing page shows the extent to which unit acreages changed during this period.

Table 4-2. Evolution of Proposed NPS Areas, September 1972 to January 1975

Area Name
(Sept. 1972)
Area Name
(Dec.1973/Jan. 1975)
Study Area Acreage
Sept. 1972Dec. 1973Jan. 1975#

New Areas:
Aniakchak CraterAniakchak Caldera740,200440,000580,000
(none)Cape Krusenstern(none)350,000343,000
Gates of the ArcticGates of the Arctic9,388,0008,360,0009,170,000
Great Kobuk Sand DunesKobuk Valley1,454,0001,850,0001,854,000
Kenai FjordsHarding Icefields-Kenai Fjords95,400300,000305,000
Lake Clark PassLake Clark3,725,6202,610,0002,821,000
Wrangell-St. Wrangell-St. Elias10,613,540 13,200,000@14,140,000@
Yukon RiverYukon-Charley Rivers1,233,660 1,970,0002,283,000

Additions to Existing Park Units:
Katmai National Monument
Mount McKinley National Park
2,996,640 [25]3,180,0003,210,000 [26]

# - The various final environmental statements were issued between November 1974 and February 1975; January 1975 was chosen as a midpoint during the publication process.

^ - In Dec. 1973, Chukchi-Imuruk National Wildlands was a joint proposal between NPS and the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (BSF&W), but by January 1975 the unit proposal was for Chukchi-Imuruk National Reserve, to be administered by the NPS.

* Proposals called for the Noatak National Ecological Reserve (in Dec. 1973) and the Noatak National Arctic Range (in Jan. 1975) to be jointly managed by the BSF&W and the Bureau of Land Management. It is included here because of Noatak's eventual inclusion as an NPS unit.

@ - In December 1973, the Wrangell-St. Elias area was divided into a Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (NPS, 8,640,000 acres) and the Wrangell Mountain National Forest (USFS, 4,560,000 acres); by January 1975, the acreage of the NPS area was still 8,640,000 acres while the USFS area had risen to 5,500,000 acres.

Map 4-2. Proposed National Conservation Areas, December 1973.
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

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Last Updated: 14-Mar-2003