Alaska Subsistence
A National Park Service Management History
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Chapter 4:

E. Studying the Proposed Parks, 1974-1976

After the NPS and other Federal land management agencies, as required by the ANCSA timetable, turned in the various draft EISs and master plans for the proposed conservation areas in December 1973, emphasis turned toward the preparation of a series of final environmental statements (FESs). To a large extent, changes in the EISs would be based on the tenor of public comment. In addition, however, the gathering and analysis of new data by agency staff brought more changes. As in the rest of the Alaska planning effort, there was little time to lose; final documents which incorporated both the additional field work and the heavy volume of public participation had to be completed and published in little more than a year. [66]

In order to prepare the various final environmental statements, NPS personnel fanned out across the state during the summer of 1974. The preparation of the FESs took place that fall. They were completed and distributed to the public between December 1974 and February 1975.

In their approach to subsistence, the recommendations in the various FESs were even more far-reaching than those in the December 1973 draft EISs. All proposed NPS units, for example, were still open to valid subsistence uses. As in the various draft documents, almost all of the final environmental statements issued the following boilerplate statement, which was similar to (though more specific than) language in the December 1973 documents:

Except as may be otherwise prohibited by Federal or State law, existing traditional subsistence uses of renewable resources will be permitted until it is determined by the Secretary of the Interior that utilization not physically necessary to maintain human life is necessary to provide opportunities for the survival of Alaskan cultures centering on subsistence as a way of life. If it is demonstrated that continued subsistence uses may result in a progressive reduction of animal or plant resources which could lead to long range alterations of ecosystems, the managing agency, following consultation with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, communities and affected individuals, shall have the authority to restrict subsistence activities in part or all of the park unit. [67]

man on snowmobile
By 1968, when this photo (in Barrow) was taken, snowmachines were beginning to replace dog teams throughout rural Alaska. NPS (ATF Box 8), photo by Merrill J. Mattes

Additional subsistence-related proposals were also offered. Most of the proposals for NPS-administered units—in fact, all but the Gates of the Arctic and Yukon-Charley proposals—included proposed park purposes that related to either Native subsistence activities or other Native activities. [68] The two strongest of these statements were at Cape Krusenstern, where the NPS promised "to encourage and assist in every way possible the preservation and interpretation of present-day Native cultures," and at Kobuk Valley, where the agency stated its intention "to foster the continuation of the Alaska Eskimo culture by providing for traditional resource uses, such as hunting, fishing, and gathering, provided such uses are consistent with the preservation of primary resources values." [69] Three proposed park units—Aniakchak, Harding Icefield-Kenai Fjords, and Lake Clark—had as a purpose "to provide for Native involvement in ongoing monument operations, research, and the provision of visitor services" [70] Both the Katmai and the Lake Clark proposals included language, in their park purposes, calling upon the agency "to encourage and foster cooperative agreements between the NPS and Native groups [as well as with other entities] to help assure optimum use of the region's resources" [71] Still other park purposes were for "developing understanding and respect for ... the present-day American Eskimo culture" (for the Chukchi-Imuruk proposal) and "to insure that ... traditional Native lifestyles and subsistence uses are allowed to continue" (for the Harding Icefields-Kenai Fjords proposal). [72] Provisions pertaining to access were also offered. At Aniakchak, the agency promised to "work with Natives in providing for access to lands in the monument in which Natives have interests," and the Gates of the Arctic FES stated that "The Secretary [of the Interior] may authorize snowmobile use for subsistence purposes within the park." The Gates of the Arctic document, in addition, introduced the traditional use concept. "Traditional subsistence use of the park," it noted, "will be allowed to continue." The document later went on to define as traditional such activities as hunting, fishing, trapping, and fuel gathering. [73]

A key element in the preparation of the various FESs was the growing expertise about the proposed parks by NPS staff. Some of these employees specialized in particular themes—geology or zoology, for example—but others immersed themselves in the study of particular clusters of park units. This expertise had begun back in the spring of 1972, when the agency had decided to organize four study teams to collect information for the various proposed park units. The initial captains of these study teams, chosen in May of that year, were John Kauffmann, Paul Fritz, Urban Rogers, and John Reynolds; in addition, the agency assigned Zorro Bradley to head a fifth team that would study historical and archeological areas and provide cultural resource assistance to the other four teams. [74] During the preparation of the draft and final EISs the personnel heading the study teams changed; Paul Fritz and Urban Rogers, for instance, were replaced by Gerald Wright and Fred Eubanks, respectively. Beginning in early 1975, however, the level of park expertise dramatically increased when Director Gary Everhardt decided to add ten new professionals to the planning team. These "keymen," as they were called, were given the task of gathering and coordinating knowledge about individual park units. John Kauffmann, who since 1972 had been spearheading the agency's efforts for several proposed parks in northwestern Alaska, became the keyman for the Gates of the Arctic proposal, but most of the other keymen transferred to their new positions from the Denver Service Center. [75]

In addition to their park responsibilities, each of the keymen was assigned an additional collateral duty, and one high priority project in the latter category was the preparation of a subsistence policy statement. Robert Belous, the keyman for the Cape Krusenstern and Kobuk Valley proposals, had written an interim subsistence report back in November 1973; as a follow-up, he issued a Subsistence Policy for Proposed NPS Areas in Alaska, completed in September 1975. Belous then teamed up with Dr. T. Stell Newman, the keyman for the Chukchi-Imuruk proposal, and in April 1976 the two completed a Draft Secretarial Policy: Subsistence Uses of New National Park Service Areas in Alaska. Newman wrote a final subsistence policy document, The National Park Service and Subsistence: A Summary, which was issued in November 1977. [76] The 1976 draft policy was "widely circulated in Alaska for public comment" (according to language in the 1977 study), and the comments generated in response to that draft helped mold the Secretary of the Interior's position on subsistence when he submitted the Department's proposals to Congress in September 1977. In prefatory remarks for the 1977 study, Newman noted that in order to gain a "better understanding of this unique lifestyle," the NPS had conducted "over ten man-years of professional anthropological research ... on the nature of subsistence in the proposed parklands." [77]

Bob Belous
Bob Belous worked for the NPS in Alaska from 1972 through the early 1980s. Besides his excellence as a photographer, he played a major role in forging the agency's subsistence policies. NPS (AKSO)

As historian Bill Brown has noted, a major source of philosophical guidance for agency officials during this period was ecologist Raymond Dasmann and his concept of the "future primitive." Dasmann, in a seminal 1975 paper on the subject, noted that it was "a good time to reexamine the entire concept of national parks and all equivalent protected areas." "Is it not strange," he stated, that park managers the world over had "taken for granted that people and nature were somehow incompatible"? After suggesting that the world was divided into "ecosystem people" (that is, people who were members of "indigenous traditional cultures") and "biosphere people" (that is, "those who are tied in with the global technological civilization"), he noted that ecosystem people were institutionally fragile because they were dependent upon a single ecosystem for their survival. Historically, he noted, only biosphere people had created national parks. But because of a sharp rise in global development, ecosystem-based homelands were rapidly diminishing. Concerned about that trend, he urged that a profound change be instituted in how national parks should function. "National parks," he noted, "must not serve as a means for displacing the members of traditional societies who have always cared for the land and its biota." "Few anywhere would argue with the concept of national parks," he continued, "but many would argue with the way the concept has been applied—too often at the cost of displacement of traditional cultures, and nearly always with insufficient consideration for the practices and policies affecting the lands outside of the park." He therefore made several specific recommendations. First, "The rights of members of indigenous cultures to the lands they have traditionally occupied must be recognized, and any plans for establishing parks or reserves in these lands must be developed in consultation with, and in agreement with, the people involved." In addition, Dasmann urged that "wherever national parks are created, their protection needs to be coordinated with the people who occupy the surrounding lands. Those who are most affected by the presence of a national park must fully share in its benefits...." NPS officials recognized that their options were limited in the various long-established parklands of the Lower 48 states. In Alaska, however, the millions of acres being considered as new national parklands provided an excellent tableau where Dasmann's ideas might be manifested. [78]

G. Bryan Harry
G. Bryan Harry, who served as director of the NPS's Alaska Area Office from 1975 to 1978, called Belous a "gigantic philosophical champion of Natives in the national parks." NPS (AKSO)

All three of the documents that Belous and Newman produced from 1975 to 1977 were philosophically consistent with, and were logical extensions of, the recommendations that had been laid out in the draft and final EISs. The documents were unequivocal regarding the legitimacy of subsistence activities in the various proposed park units. The 1975 study, for example, noted that the NPS "recognizes that the continuance of such harvest of wild food and other biological resources from lands currently proposed as additions to the National Park System ... is an important opportunity for retaining an unbroken link with the Nation's cultural past." It further noted that

The goal of this proposed policy on subsistence use of renewable resources on national parklands created under ANCSA is to provide the opportunity for rural Native people engaged in a genuinely subsistence-centered lifestyle to continue if they so desire, to allow such people to decide for themselves their own degree of dependency and the rate at which acculturation may take place.

Portions of the 1975 draft policy, as noted above, suggested a preference for Native use. Other parts of that policy, however, backed off from that preference. Subsistence permits, for example, would be issued to "local residents who have demonstrated customary and consistent use of [Subsistence] Zones for the direct consumptive use of renewable resources at the time of enactment of ANCSA," a local resident being defined as "a Native or non-Native living in the vicinity of a Subsistence Zone and making consistent and customary use of the Zone for subsistence purposes." The 1976 and 1977 documents made clear that Natives and non-Natives would have equal access to subsistence resources; as noted in the 1976 report, "The need for subsistence resources is not the exclusive claim of Native people in Alaska.... This is consistent with the Alaska State Constitution which recognizes no racial priority but considers all citizens equal under the law." [79]

Other key areas of subsistence policy were first discussed and evaluated in these documents. The idea of a Subsistence Resource Council as a local management element first arose in the 1975 statement, as one leg in a "tripartite" arrangement that would also include the NPS and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The rationale that demanded the existence of a series of subsistence councils also brought about the insistence that subsistence resources be managed on a regional basis. The study noted that "Because of broad variations in subsistence use patterns and problems across the state ... each unit will be managed under a separate and distinct management plan with a local subsistence resource council representing each unit." Third, the agency made it clear that the proposed subsistence provisions, appropriate as they were, would pertain only to the Alaska parks. The 1976 study noted that because the allowance of subsistence principles comprised "a distinct departure from longstanding NPS management principles," it was therefore "imperative that such design and management departures ... are not to be a precedent for alteration of park system management for existing units in or outside the State of Alaska."

A final theme the various policy statements covered was the subsistence zone idea. The policy writers made it clear that subsistence, in the agency's opinion, was a modern as well as a traditional land use, and that "ancient aboriginal ways of life [should not] be artificially restored or preserved as a static remnant of the past through legislation or prohibition." But even though the agency had no intention of generally suppressing subsistence activities, it did conclude that subsistence uses should not be allowed throughout all of the proposed park units. As the 1976 document made clear,

Not all parklands proposed under ANCSA, or regions within such parklands, are of equal importance for subsistence purposes. Areas of special importance and consistent utilization will be designated as "Subsistence Zones." The Secretary will designate such Zones following consultation with the local Subsistence Resource Council and the State Department of Fish and Game.

The 1977 document reiterated the contrast in subsistence dependency; it noted that "Subsistence needs and practices vary widely across the state, from a major dependence in the northwestern Alaska proposals to scant dependence in most other proposed parklands." It also took the subsistence zone idea from the general to the specific; it contained maps outlining proposed subsistence zones for all but three of the proposed parks. No subsistence zone was planned for Aniakchak, either because data was unavailable or because subsistence use was deemed "slight," and subsistence zone maps were omitted for the Glacier Bay extensions and for the Noatak proposal because insufficient data was available to delineate an accurate use area.

Another activity that the NPS undertook during the 1974-1976 period—one that played a large role in delineating the various subsistence zones noted above—was the completion of a series of studies on subsistence use in the various proposed parks. As has been noted, virtually no data was available about subsistence use in the national interest lands prior to ANCSA, and park planners eagerly sought subsistence data to help guide the evolving legislative proposals. The preparation of these studies was entrusted to the University of Alaska's Cooperative Park Studies Unit, which had been established in 1972 to stimulate park-related research. One of CPSU's two subentities was the Anthropology and Historical Preservation Program, which was headed by Zorro Bradley, an NPS anthropologist and adjunct faculty member at the Fairbanks campus. [80]

During the first several years of the CPSU's existence, historical and cultural studies were largely overlooked. The program did, however, gain one key contact: a Hughes schoolteacher named G. Ray Bane. During the winter of 1973-74, Bane had told a friend that he and his wife, Barbara, planned a 1,400-mile dog-mushing trip. From Hughes, which was a Koyukon Athabaskan village, they would mush down river to Huslia; north to Shungnak, a Kobuk River Inupiat village; then on to Kotzebue, Wainwright (where he had previously taught), and Barrow. Zorro Bradley, having caught wind of the trip, asked Bane to send him a report of his observations along the way. The Banes took their trip, as planned, between February and May 1974, and while visiting Fairbanks shortly afterwards, Bane and Bradley discussed the idea of a subsistence study of Shungnak, which was just beyond the borders of the proposed Gates of the Arctic unit. As Bane later recalled, the NPS "needed to know Shungnak's land use patterns and how the reality of a park would change them." Bane's proposal was approved shortly afterward, and the couple moved that summer to Shungnak. The Banes were later joined by anthropologists Richard K. Nelson and Douglas Anderson. The three of them, along with several other researchers, pooled their efforts and emerged with a landmark document entitled Kuuvangmiit; Traditional Subsistence Living in the Latter Twentieth Century, which revealed the subsistence patterns of five Kobuk River Eskimo villages. [81]

Ray and Barbara Bane, who had resided in northern Alaska since the early 1960s, came to the attention of NPS officials shortly before they embarked on a 1974 dogsled trip. Ray later joined the agency, and for more than 20 years thereafter he was an important voice in the subsistence arena. George Wuerthner photo

In June 1975, the CPSU's cultural program became far more active when it commenced identifying and evaluating broadly-defined historical sites as defined in Section 14(h)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. For the next fourteen months, a ten-person CPSU team inventoried more than 7,000 Alaskan historical sites. Once that task had been completed, team members started work on cultural studies related to specific proposed park units, and many of those studies focused on subsistence use patterns. Compiling those studies caused many CPSU researchers to make repeated visits to various villages surrounding the proposed park units; by their actions, they complemented the role of the agency's various "keymen." By 1977, a considerable body of subsistence data had been gathered; that data proved invaluable as hearing testimony when various Alaska lands proposals were being considered that year in the U.S. House of Representatives. By 1979, subsistence studies had been completed and published for the Aniakchak, Cape Krusenstern, Gates of the Arctic, Katmai, Lake Clark, Mount McKinley, Noatak, and Yukon-Charley proposals. [82]

One event during this period, significant as it was for the proposed parklands, took place thousands of miles from Alaska. On October 11, 1974, President Gerald R. Ford signed Congressional legislation that established the first two national preserves: Big Cypress in southern Florida and Big Thicket in eastern Texas. As historian Frank Williss has noted, the preserve concept allowed for hunting and other land uses, so long as those uses did not affect the preservation of the natural values for which the area was established. Prior to the signing of this bill, the only NPS-administered areas in which a diversity of land uses were allowed were the national recreation areas, which were popularly perceived to be limited to reservoir environments. But the bill's passage, coming as it did in the midst of the national interest lands planning process, suggested the possibility to future Congresses that national preserves—allowing any number of nontraditional uses—were a legislative option for the various Alaska park proposals. [83] Two years before President Ford signed the bill, the State of Alaska had convinced Interior Secretary Morton, as part of a larger agreement, to allow sport hunting in the coastal portion of the Aniakchak Crater proposal. The ramifications of this agreement had the potential to open additional national interest lands to sport hunting. [84] Many park supporters—from both inside and outside the agency—were "nervous about a park with hunting," according to one planner active in developing various park proposals. But as noted above, Interior Department planners in December 1973, lacking other alternatives, had decided to allow sport hunting in many park proposal documents. The preserve idea thus served as a way to segment the various park proposals based on historical levels of sport hunting activity; and in January 1976, NPS planners posited just such a division for the proposed Lake Clark unit. [85]

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Last Updated: 14-Mar-2003