Alaska Subsistence
A National Park Service Management History
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Chapter 5:

D. The NPS Organizes a Subsistence Program

Roger Contor
Roger Contor served as the NPS's regional director for Alaska from 1983 to 1985. NPS (AKSO)
Lou Waller
Lou Waller, in his capacity as regional chief of the NPS's Subsistence Division, was a key player in subsistence decision making between 1984 and the mid-1990s. Lou Waller photo

Although, as noted above, NPS officials (along with Interior Department solicitors) had been active in establishing management regulations for the various new and expanded national park units, the agency's only other major subsistence-related duty pertained to the establishment and operation of subsistence resource commissions (SRCs). [85] Section 808 of ANILCA had specified the formation of seven park or monument SRCs, whose members were to be appointed "within one year from the date of enactment of this Act:" in other words, by December 2, 1981. The Act stated that the Interior Secretary was responsible for appointing one-third of the SRC members, but the remaining members were appointed by either the Governor of Alaska or by the various state-managed regional advisory councils. On December 1—one day before the Congressional deadline—NPS representative Bob Belous appeared before a joint meeting of the Alaska fish and game boards to announce that his agency was having only limited success in establishing the various SRCs. Belous noted that the NPS, acting on behalf of the Interior Secretary, had selected its quota of seven SRC candidates. But the two non-Federal entities had failed to fulfill their part of the bargain. (Indeed, the six regional advisory councils that fulfilled ANILCA's requirements had not yet been established.) Belous, however, was not gloating. He noted, somewhat sheepishly, that the funding that had been requested to support the various SRCs had been recently stricken from the FY 1982 federal budget. Because of a budget stalemate, he admitted that it was "impossible to predict" if support funding would be restored any time soon. [86]

Budget problems for the agency in Alaska proved to be a long-term problem. Despite those difficulties, however, a full complement of 63 Alaskans had been chosen for the new SRCs within three months of Belous's presentation to the fish and game boards. As part of the state effort to gain federal approval for its activities relative to Title VIII of ANILCA, Governor Hammond appointed three members to each of the seven SRCs; and the newly-formed regional advisory councils, at their initial (February or March 1982) meetings, also appointed members to park and monument SRCs that were located in their regions. By the end of March, all nine members had been chosen for each of the seven SRCs, and by late May, ADF&G had passed on these names to NPS Regional Director John Cook. [87]

The NPS, meanwhile, was also active. The NPS, working with the Interior Department's Solicitor's Office, began preparing charters for the seven SRCs. In late April 1982, these charters were submitted for approval to Interior Secretary Watt, and on May 20, Acting Interior Secretary Donald Hodel approved all seven charters. The charters specified that they would be operating indefinitely; that members would be initially appointed for staggered terms (either one, two, or three-year terms) and for three-year terms thereafter; that the SRCs would meet twice per year, and that the Interior Department would spend $10,000 per year for their support. [88] Hodel sent the letter to NPS Director Russell E. Dickenson, who forwarded a copy to Morris Udall and James McClure. These two men chaired committees in the House and Senate, respectively, that oversaw Interior Department operations. [89]

Meanwhile, the NPS and the other federal land management agencies in Alaska had begun to work with Alaska fish and game officials on a workable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). During the winter of 1981-1982, as noted above, the state and federal governments were slowly working out the conditions under which the Interior Secretary would certify the state's subsistence management program, and an MOU was intended to clarify the subsistence responsibilities of each state and federal agency. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to quickly arrive at mutually agreeable language with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and on March 13, 1982—a full two months before Interior Secretary Watt certified the state's management program—ADF&G and F&WS signed their MOU. [90] Hopes were high that the NPS would sign its MOU with the state soon afterward—in April an Interior Department official stated that he was "currently negotiating" such an agreement—but the agreement was not signed by both parties until October 14. The MOU, in general, reiterated the fact that the subsistence management lay squarely in the state's hands; the state's management program, however, had to recognize NPS management guidelines and the Federal role as specified in ANILCA. The MOU listed a series of functions to which either the federal or the state agency was solely responsible, and it also listed a series of goals that were the mutual responsibility of both agencies. [91]

During the same week that NPS official John Cook and Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Skoog signed their MOU, the state and federal governments announced the appointment of the 63 initial SRC representatives. A month later, on November 4, their terms officially began; their terms would expire in November of either 1983, 1984, or 1985. The NPS hoped that the SRCs would quickly become active, but (as a 1984 letter tactfully explained it), there were "a series of procedural and administrative delays which have prevented the operation" of the various commissions. [92] Funding was the key sticking point; no funds were available to support the SRCs in either the 1982 or 1983 fiscal years.

As part of its oversight responsibility as outlined in Section 806 of ANILCA, the Interior Secretary (and his staff) in the summer of 1983 compiled an initial report that "monitor[ed] the provisions by the State of the subsistence preference set forth in section 804." That report, which was intended to be prepared "annually and at such other times as [the Secretary] deems necessary," was prepared for the relevant Senate and House committee as well as for the State of Alaska. In January 1984, the completed report was forwarded to the relevant committee chairs in the U.S. House and Senate. Twenty-seven pages long exclusive of attachments and staff comments, it chronicled the many efforts between state and federal officials to collaborate on a mutually-agreeable subsistence management plan. [93] This was the first of a series of Section 806 reports that would be prepared, in response to ANILCA's dictates, for the remainder of the decade.

During 1982 and 1983, the NPS underwent a number of staff changes that, in sum, had significant repercussions on how the agency managed its subsistence program. John Cook, who had overseen Alaska's subsistence program from the days that had immediately followed the national monument proclamations, left Alaska in March 1983, and during the same period several members of the freewheeling subsistence "brain trust"—including Bill Brown and Bob Belous—severed their ties with the agency's regional office operation. In May 1983, Cook was replaced by Roger J. Contor, a self-described conservative who was then serving as superintendent of Olympic National Park in Washington. [94] (Contor, as noted in Chapter 4, was no stranger to Alaska affairs; from 1977 to 1979, he had served as NPS Director William Whalen's point man for Alaska.) Contor, to a greater degree than Cook, felt that Alaska's park units could be managed much like those located elsewhere in the system. As Contor described it, he spent much of his tenure in Alaska "trying to preserve the integrity of the word 'park'." Based on the newly-protective Servicewide stance that Congress had adopted in the 1978 act that expanded Redwood National Park, Contor's philosophy was to limit activities within parks that were not specifically guaranteed by either ANILCA or subsequent regulations. [95]

In December 1983, the agency's subsistence program gained new momentum when Contor named Dr. Louis R. Waller to co-ordinate the Alaska subsistence effort. Waller, a ten-year Alaska veteran with the Bureau of Land Management, had worked in the bush (in McGrath) as well as in Anchorage. He assumed his new position in January 1984. [96] His appointment was a major step forward in organizing the agency's subsistence management efforts; although the agency had been responsible for subsistence matters since December 1980 (and to a lesser extent since December 1978), no one before Waller had worked full-time on problems related to subsistence coordination or management. (See Appendix 3.) Waller thereafter served as the primary point of contact for subsistence issues, although many of the agency's subsistence decisions were the joint product of discussions between Waller, Contor, and Associate Regional Director Michael Finley.

The long-awaited funding to operate the various subsistence resource commissions finally became available in December 1983, and soon afterward the agency took steps to make them active, operating entities. [97] In March 1984, Waller contacted the six superintendents of parks for which Congress had designated SRCs, [98] and arrangements were made to hold a series of introductory meetings. (See Table 5-4, following page.) The first such meeting was that of the Aniakchak SRC, held in King Salmon on April 18. These were followed, in quick succession by a combined meeting of the Cape Krusenstern, Gates of the Arctic, and Kobuk Valley SRCs in Kotzebue on May 3; of the Denali and Lake Clark SRCs, in Anchorage on May 10-11; and the Wrangell-St. Elias SRC, near Copper Center on May 15-16. Sufficient members of each commission except Aniakchak were present to constitute a quorum. [99] The various park superintendents (who were the designated commission management officers), along with subsistence coordinator Lou Waller, presided over these meetings and provided extensive background literature to each commission. A key agenda item was the selection of a chairperson (see Appendix 4); much of the remainder of the various meetings was devoted to a description and clarification of the various commissions' roles and functions. The various SRC members were told that one of their first responsibilities would be (as noted in Sec. 808(a) of ANILCA) to "devise and recommend to the Secretary and the Governor a program for subsistence hunting within the park or park monument." [100] (See Appendix 5.)

Table 5-4. Subsistence Resource Commission Chronology, 1977-present

Jan. 1977 — Initial version of H.R. 39 provided for "regulatory subsistence boards"

Oct. 1977 — Committee print of H.R. 39 proposes an "Alaska Subsistence Management Council" as well as for regional and local advisory committees

Oct. 1978 — Senate Committee version of H.R. 39 first proposes park and monument subsistence resource commissions

1979-80 — House-passed version of H.R. 39 (May 1979) provides for regional and local subsistence advisory committees (but not SRCs), but Senate-passed version (August 1980) includes an SRC provision.

Dec. 1980 — Senate bill becomes law.

1981-82 — Initial SRC members selected, but commissions remain inactive due to lack of startup funding

April 1984 — Initial SRC meeting was for the Aniakchak SRC, in King Salmon. Remaining SRCs held their introductory meetings a month later.

Nov. 1985 — Initial SRC Chairs meeting, in Anchorage. Subsequent meetings held in Nov. 1988 (Fairbanks) and Dec. 1989 (Anchorage)

1986-87 — Initial hunting plan recommendations submitted to the Interior Secretary

1988 — The Interior Secretary responds to the initial recommendations.

1994 — Initial SRCs began submitting game management recommendations to RACs; by 1996 this was a regularly-accepted, if informal, practice

June 1996 — Resumption of SRC Chairs meeting, annual meetings held thereafter

Nov. 1998 — SRCs given authority to submit some recommendations to NPS's Regional Director instead of to Interior Secretary

March 2002 — First SRC non-game Hunting Plan recommendations become federal regulations

Waller, during this period, also worked with the Alaska Game Board in order to inform the board—and Alaska's hunters—about NPS hunting policies in the various park units established by ANILCA. In 1983, the agency had been pleased when the board revised its widely-distributed hunting regulations booklet to reflect the prohibition of sport hunting in the various parks and monuments. In March 1984, however, it became concerned with several proposals that the board was considering for land in and around Gates of the Arctic National Park. The agency questioned, for example, the need to change a regulation that had not been requested by local residents; it was concerned that the boundary of a proposed bull moose hunting regulation was a national park unit boundary and not a game management unit boundary; it was perplexed that brown bear proposals were being considered that did not match well-defined traditional use patterns; and it was alarmed at proposed wolf control programs that might affect wolf populations within the national parks. [101]

Despite the NPS's arguments to the contrary, the Board of Game, at its March 1984 meeting, implemented the regulations that pertained to the Gates of the Arctic area. The agency, however, refused to sit idly by. On August 22, Regional Director Roger Contor wrote the game board a detailed letter that bemoaned a "problem with communications" between the two bodies. He reminded the board, moreover, that the State-Federal Memorandum of Understanding, signed in October 1982, required "timely consultation, coordination of resource planning," and a pledge "to resolve management differences between the [ADF&G] and the Service before expressing a position in public." Contor broadly hinted that the state had sidestepped the MOU in its Gates of the Arctic proposals; he then briefly outlined several of the NPS's primary management tenets and described why the proposed regulations clashed with them. He specifically noted that a "natural and healthy" management mandate in the parks and monuments (as specified in ANILCA) often diverged from the state's mandate for "sustained yield" management, and he criticized that board for not paying heed to the "where traditional" clause as elaborated upon in the legislative history. He then reiterated some of the specific concerns that the agency had expressed in its March letter. [102]

NPS personnel
In 1983 or 1984, key NPS personnel met for a superintendents' conference at Glacier Bay Lodge. Top row, left to right: Mike Finley (ARO), Jim Berens (ARO), Dave Mihalic (YUCH), Dave Morris (KATM). Second row: Robert Cunningham (DENA), Mack Shaver (NWAK), Bill Welch (ARO). Third row: Ernie Suazo (SITK), Dick Sims (KLGO), Dave Moore (KEFJ), Larry Rose (BELA), Bob Peterson (ARO). Fourth row: Mr. & Mrs. Roger Contor (ARO), Mike Tollefson (GLBA), Paul Haertel (LACL). Bottom row: Mrs. Finley, unidentified, Mrs. Welch, Mrs. Ring (holding infant), Chuck Budge (WRST). NPS (AKSO)

In response to Contor's missive, Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Don Collinsworth wrote an equally detailed letter, responding to Contor point by point. He, like Contor, quoted extensively from ANILCA's legislative history. Collinsworth recommended, "as a courtesy to the National Park Service," that the Board of Game reconsider two of its three previous proposals. And to avoid such conflict in the future, he laid out a four-step process by which the two agencies would be kept informed of potential changes in the hunting regulations for areas within the NPS's purview. [103]

To further the communications process, both Contor and Associate Regional Director Michael V. Finley appeared personally before the Board of Game at its December 1984 meeting. Contor, in his remarks, noted that the recent exchange of letters indicated "that there are many agreements between the ADF&G and the National Park Service and some disagreements. We are not alarmed by some disagreement when trying to resolve issues as complex and emotionally charged as subsistence." He briefly discussed the NPS's management constraints, then made two specific suggestions: 1) "that the regulation proposal form be modified or supplemented in such a manner so as to become a consistency test or checklist for any regulatory proposal for lands administered by the NPS," and 2) "that development of subsistence hunting recommendations by each local commission [i.e., a local advisory committee, a regional advisory council, or a park-specific subsistence resource commission] should generally occur prior to the Board of Game making any changes in regulations which have been in effect." Finley, who also spoke that day, limited most of his remarks to the two proposals (for brown bear and for bull moose) that the game board had agreed to reconsider. Finley recommended that the two regulations be rescinded; doing so "would represent the first of many steps necessary in working together towards the development of appropriate and effective game regulations for NPS units in Alaska." [104] The Board made no immediate move to rescind either action. On other matters, however, the Board became increasingly sensitive to NPS concerns after that date, primarily because Waller, Finley, and other agency officials became regular attendees at Board meetings. [105]

In 1984, the NPS manifested a changed attitude toward subsistence in other ways as well. One was in the realm of enforcement. During the first few years after ANILCA's passage, as noted above, agency personnel—recognizing that obvious antagonism that many Alaskans had toward federal officials, and their own need to blend into community and civic life—had stressed education and tolerance rather than enforcement. The arrival of Contor and Waller, however, signaled the beginning of a new paradigm; education and a "soft touch" approach would be replaced by the enforcement of regulations, and care would be taken to prevent the expansion of subsistence uses beyond those that ANILCA and the regulations had specifically guaranteed. [106] It is not surprising, therefore, to note that the first disciplinary actions taken against those who violated subsistence regulations were recorded during this period. In March 1984, for example, two Gates of the Arctic rangers arrested Larry Fitzwater for trapping near Oolah Lake; trapping for subsistence purposes was legal in a national park, but Fitzwater lived in Bettles, and Oolah Lake was not considered "traditional" to Bettles residents. The confusion over the subsistence statutes, along with a general resentment that many rural residents felt toward any federal agency, caused many to vent their anger at the NPS. In reaction, the agency de-emphasized its enforcement of the subsistence statutes while the park's SRC researched and analyzed the matter. [107] So far as is known, the agency during the 1980s issued only a handful of subsistence-related citations, mostly at the various Northwest Area park units. [108]

The NPS also began to change its attitude toward cabin management in the various national park units. To the chagrin of some conservationists, ANILCA (according to one Congressman) allowed "anyone who built a cabin in a national park before 1974 to keep and use that cabin," even if the federal government held an unencumbered land title. Their right to use the cabin, moreover, could be passed on to immediate family members. [109] The management regulations, adopted in June 1981, provided little new information concerning this subject area, so to assure the uniform treatment of cabin applicants in Alaska's far-flung park areas, regional office personnel in 1982 developed cabin permit guidelines. But the Citizens' Advisory Commission on Federal Areas (CACFA), [110] along with several individuals, protested the guidelines. In response, the NPS in mid-March 1984 issued a Proposed Rule that would

permit both the continuation of appropriate existing cabin use and the development of appropriate new cabin use where the law allows.... The Department is hopeful that this proposed regulation will minimize the regulatory burden on Alaskan residents required by law, but without sacrificing the "due process"—i.e., legal procedures—necessary for protection of these residents' interests. [111]

This process, though not directly related to the interpretation or enforcement of provisions in Title VIII, was of primary interest to subsistence users because cabins were a primary adjunct of the lifestyles of many people who harvested subsistence resources. The public was originally given two months—until June 4, 1984—to comment on the proposed regulations, although two subsequent efforts to provide input pushed the deadline for comments back to January 1985. During the nine-month period allotted for comment, the NPS held three public meetings on the subject (in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau), and it eventually received 269 comments. [112] After the public comment period lapsed, Interior Department officials (outside of the NPS) "took some considerable interest" in the regulations and significantly reworked the agency's proposed final regulations. As a result of these and other activities, more than two years passed between the issuance of a proposed and final rule. The final cabin regulations were finally issued (via the Federal Register) in mid-September 1986; they went into effect a month later. [113]

working with hide
In early 1984, the NPS proposed cabin management regulations for the various Alaska park units. These were finalized and implemented in 1986. Paul Starr photo

During the period that the NPS was forwarding its cabin management proposals, it and other federal agencies were hard at work completing a large, comprehensive report on the implementation of Title VIII. Congress had mandated that the first so-called Section 813 report be submitted to the appropriate committee heads by early December 1984. In order to fulfill that mandate, the Fish and Wildlife Service—in concert with the NPS and other federal agencies—completed a draft version of a massive volume entitled Subsistence Management and Use: Implementation of Title VIII of ANILCA in November 1984. The volume, as specified by ANILCA language, was a compendium of information about Alaska's fish and wildlife populations, subsistence harvest patterns, the economic and cultural role of subsistence, and the role of state and federal governments in managing subsistence resources. Beginning in late December, the Fish and Wildlife Service distributed more than 150 copies of the draft report to interested agencies, native corporations, and individuals for public comment; the agency specified a comments deadline of February 25, 1985 but actually accepted comments until March 20. Relatively few commented on the draft, however, and a final report was completed and distributed to the appropriate Congressional committees (and to other interested parties) in May and early June of 1985. [114]

Throughout the period in which the NPS subsistence program was gaining substance, the state-based subsistence management system was taking shape as well. As noted above, each of the regional fish and game councils had held an initial meeting in February or March of 1982. (See Appendix 2.) After that point, however, regional council meetings were held on a more sporadic basis. During the fall of 1982 or the spring of 1983, four of the six councils met. By 1984, some councils—particularly the Interior Regional Council, headed by Royce Purinton III, and the Southeast Regional Council, headed by Gordon Williams—held regular meetings, carried on a lively correspondence with Interior Department officials and submitted annual reports. [115] But the remaining councils were, for all practical purposes, inactive. The lack of activity was blamed, in part, on the inability of ADF&G to fund a staff coordinator (also called a "regulatory program assistant") for each regional council. But by October 1984, "hiring procedures [were] currently underway" to fund these six positions; by the end of November, half of the coordinator positions had been filled; and by March 1985 the only unfilled position was that of the Arctic Regional Coordinator. [116] The establishment of the coordinator positions promised an increasingly important future involvement of the various regional councils.

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Last Updated: 14-Mar-2003