Alaska Subsistence
A National Park Service Management History
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Chapter 8:

C. Agency Program Modifications, 1993-1996

Bob Gerhard
Bob Gerhard, who served as the superintendent for the Northwest Alaska Areas from 1992 to 1996, has been involved with subsistence issues in Alaska since the 1970s. He currently serves as a program manager in the regional office. NPS (AKSO)

Regardless of the success or failure of the March 1993 conference, the issues that had been raised there refused to go away; and before long, conflict arose once again between park and regional officials. The next area of contention took place in the Northwest Alaska Areas Office as a result of nearly-identical hunting plans that the Cape Krusenstern and Kobuk Valley SRCs had forwarded to the Interior Secretary. (This plan included six thematic areas; the first such area included a critical recommendation calling for a huge resident zone to include all residents within the NANA Regional Corporation boundaries, while other recommendations dealt with aircraft and ATV access, traditional use areas, and sundry topics. (Portions of the plan, as noted in Chapter 6 as well as in Section A [above], had been finalized back in the mid-1980s but had never been sent to Washington.) These resolutions were finally mailed to Secretary Babbitt shortly after an August 1993 joint SRC meeting.

Superintendent Bob Gerhard, hoping to influence the agency's actions or at least hoping to crystallize agency opinions, sent Regional Subsistence Chief Lou Waller what was admittedly a "very rough draft" of a response letter in October 1993. In that letter, he noted that the SRCs' proposed resident-zone idea was "generally within the guidelines stated in ANILCA §808, and to be consistent with the intent of the legislation," and regarding other SRC recommendations, Gerhard appeared eager to be as amenable as the laws and regulations allowed.

The regional office responded by meeting with park staff in mid-November; then, three weeks later, it penned its own response letter which dealt less liberally with the SRCs' recommendations. Park staff, who had been promised that they would be immediately apprised of all regional-office actions in the matter, had to wait more than two weeks before hearing about the region's draft letter. Gerhard, clearly taken aback by the turn of events, told regional officials that "if we are supposed to be working together on this project, I do not think we are doing it well." [37] He made a renewed attempt to ink a mutually-acceptable draft response letter, but as the files on this subject clearly indicate, park and regional officials were unable to forge a final response letter. Finally, in June 1994, the two SRCs signaled that their patience had worn thin. In identical letters written to Interior Secretary Babbitt, Cape Krusenstern SRC chair Pete Schaeffer and Kobuk Valley SRC chair Walter Sampson let it be known that because "we have not received a response to our recommendations ... further meetings of the Commission will be contingent upon the receipt of a formal response to the recommendations contained in the proposed hunting plan." [38]

Ralph Tingey
Ralph Tingey, the superintendent for Lake Clark National Park and Preserve from 1992 to 1996, was a key member of a 1994 task force that produced a draft review of subsistence laws and agency regulations. Ralph Tingey photo
Jon Jarvis
Jon Jarvis, who was Wrangell-St. Elias's superintendent from 1994 to 1999, was the principal author of a report that reviewed of the region's natural resources program. One outcome of that report was the dissolution of the region's subsistence division. NPS (AKSO)

By this time, new pressures were beginning to confront the Park Service. Beginning in late 1993, Clinton administration officials let it be known that the NPS, along with other government agencies, would be facing likely budget cutbacks and a staff reorganization. The NPS, in response, recognized the necessity of moving many personnel to the parks from central and regional office positions. But regional officials were also aware that reorganization methods that might work at other regional offices would hold little relevance in Alaska, where subsistence management was a major agency function. And as suggested above, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the subsistence problems that had brought about the Spring 1993 superintendents' conference had not been solved, and there was almost a complete breakdown in communications between regional subsistence officials and several park superintendents. In the spring of 1994, therefore, Regional Director John M. Morehead (in the words of one subsistence expert) "threw up his hands" over the continuing difficulties between the regional office and the field and demanded that the major subsistence problems be re-analyzed by establishing a regional subsistence working group or task force. As Gates of the Arctic Superintendent Steve Martin explained, "the task force was a working group of NPS managers [intended] to assess the subsistence management program and identify issues requiring policy development." The group, which was asked to look "at subsistence issues on a regional basis," was selected by Deputy Director Paul Anderson and Management Assistant William Welch; it consisted of superintendents Ralph Tingey and Steve Martin along with subsistence specialists Lou Waller, Hollis Twitchell, and Jay Wells. Others attended meetings and contributed to the discussion from time to time. [39]

The task force, which met for the first time on May 12, quickly recognized that its primary task would be the compilation of a subsistence issues paper that would clearly and explicitly describe the major subsistence management issues. It may be recalled that the regional subsistence division, back in late 1992, had written a few draft position papers on specific thematic topics, but the 1994 task force wanted consistency in how a wide variety of subsistence laws and regulations was being interpreted. The task force, therefore, undertook a comprehensive review of laws and regulations that affected Alaskan subsistence activities. It met some twenty times over the next several months (primarily but not exclusively in Anchorage), and by the fall of 1994 it had completed a "Draft Review of Subsistence Laws and National Park Service Regulations." The group felt that it had broken much new ground during the discussions that resulted in that document; at the same time, however, members felt that there was little need to distribute the document to anyone outside of the agency. As a result, only a few copies of the draft document were produced, and for more than a year the document was largely ignored. [40]

During 1994 and 1995, the specific direction in which the agency's reorganization was to take place became increasingly clear. Former regional offices, for example, were cleaved into either field offices or system support offices, and funding allocation authority was significantly shifted from the old regional offices to the newly-formed Alaska Cluster of Superintendents. Months after implementing that change, however, it became increasingly obvious to officials at the park level that the call for reorganization as detailed in the NPS Restructuring Plan—particularly as it related to natural resource management—had not yet been implemented at the regional level; in addition, the new balance of power between the regional office and the parks (from "directing" the parks to providing "support" to them) was not being applied in Alaska. To overcome these structural problems, Field Director Robert Barbee in early December 1995 organized a four-person team, headed by Wrangell-St. Elias superintendent Jon Jarvis, to analyze the problem and recommend workable solutions. [41]

The team soon ascertained that the existing natural resource management system (consisting of the Subsistence, Natural Resources, Minerals Management and Environmental Quality divisions) was an inefficient organizational breakdown. Rather than subdividing tasks by program or issue, it argued, tasks should instead be based upon discipline or function. It thus recommended that natural resource programs be undertaken by four new divisions (or "teams"), plus one existing division that would assume a new function. The plan called for seven of the nine staff members who then comprised the Subsistence Division to be included in either the Biological Resources or Program Support Teams, both of which were new; the remaining two staffers would be added to the long-established Cultural Resource Division. The plan, to a large extent, was worked out in a series of meetings in mid-February 1996. Agency leadership broadly approved the plan during the last of those meetings, and a report delineating the reorganization process—dubbed the "Jarvis report"—was prepared soon afterward. [42] By May of 1996 the Subsistence Division ceased to exist; most of its former functions were assumed by interdisciplinary teams of new and old staff and by other members of the natural resource and cultural resource teams. [43] Paul Anderson, who had assumed leadership of the NPS's subsistence program in late 1994, continued to guide the agency's subsistence efforts during this transition period; key to his management style was the promotion of a more consultative and participatory approach to addressing and resolving subsistence issues.

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Last Updated: 14-Mar-2003