AUGUST 10, 2000

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to discuss with you two issues which are of concern to the committee, the potential mineral resources of the Brady Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park, and the implementation of new regulations relating to commercial fishing at Glacier Bay National Park. I would like to begin by discussing the Brady Glacier.

Brady Glacier

I will preface my testimony by noting that the National Park Service has not received a plan of operations to develop the ore body associated with the Brady Glacier. Under 36 CFR Part 9, Subpart A, prospective miners must submit and obtain NPS approval of a plan of operations before they commence mineral development activities. The NPS promulgated the regulations pursuant to authority of the Mining in the Parks Act of 1976. In that Act, Congress specifically directed that "all activities resulting from the exercise of valid existing rights on patented or unpatented mining claims within any area of the National Park System shall be subject to such regulations prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior as he deems necessary or desireable for the preservation and management of theses areas." The National Park Service is unaware of any specific plans for either mining exploration or production at the Brady Glacier, and has no details about the owners’ intent for exploration, access, milling, shipping or any of the other issues associated with a large industrial project. All of these would be required by the Mining in the Parks Act and other legislation. Absent any specific proposals or issues, my comments will be general in nature.

The Brady Glacier is located in a remote area in the southwestern part of Glacier Bay National Park. The glacier is approximately 10 miles long, and 3 to 4 miles wide. The Brady Glacier ore body was discovered by Newmont Mining Company (Newmont) in the 1950s in small hills surrounded by the Brady Glacier. Intensive exploration showed this deposit to be largely under the ice. There are about 400 acres of patented mining claims relating to this ore body.

In the early 1970s, Newmont studied the feasibility of a mining operation that would remove and concentrate 20,000 tons of ore per day; transport that concentrate by some combination of tunnels, trams and roads; establish a coastal port at Palma Bay, Torch Bay or Dixon Harbor; and provide accommodations and air/sea transportation for a large staff of onsite workers.

The Park Service responded with environmental studies in the early 1970s in order to anticipate the effect that possible mineral development might have on the park. It is worth noting that the threat of mining in Glacier Bay (along with mining in Death Valley National Park) was a major impetus for the enactment of the Mining in Parks Act of 1976.

Though there are minor indications of human use, the area remains quite pristine. In 1980, Congress designated the lands surrounding the Brady Glacier claims as wilderness. Researchers in the 1970s found that the abundant black bears, wolves and goats, for instance, showed little knowledge of people. Plant communities remain almost untouched. With the possible exception of lingcod and rockfish, which may have been fished heavily at times, the marine environment is probably in relatively unaltered condition.

Torch Bay and especially Graves Harbor are important seasonal anchorages for the commercial fishing fleet. At other times of year on the coast, and nearly always inland, the opportunities for solitude are very great. Though not used heavily for recreation, the area is ideal for sea kayaking, wildlife viewing and hiking on the beaches and alpine ridges, although the weather can be severe at times. Some winter ski trekking occurs on the Brady Glacier.

Marine and aquatic resources in the area are noteworthy. They include a substantial population of reintroduced sea otters, a major haulout of the threatened Steller sea lion, several medium-sized seabird colonies, and excellent populations of rockfish and lingcod. Coho and king salmon heading for inside waters of Southeast Alaska are at times very abundant. The Boussole River/lake system maintains a well-studied population of red salmon, and a eulachon run occurs in spring in the Dixon River.

The combination of pristine condition and several decades of research makes the area an especially significant scientific resource. For the same reasons, the area has the potential to function as part of an ecological baseline system, against which the influence of man elsewhere in the Southeast Alaska can be measured.

Today our records show that a total of 20 patented mining claims, covering 400 acres, exist on the Brady glacier and that the University of Alaska owns the claims. The university bought the claims in 1997 for $100,000 plus an overriding royalty interest to the prior owners if the claims were ever developed.

The Brady claims are largely under ice, and so the principal questions revolve around the transport and support facilities that would have to be built, and possible water quality changes related to tailings storage and ore transportation. Even if the development of these claims is determined to be economically feasible, however, significant development within and surrounding the patented claims would be required. There is no mill site associated with these claims, and no rights to use the surrounding park wilderness lands for mining activities. Congress and the courts have provided clear direction that mining in national parks will occur only in ways that cause no significant harm to the parks. This is an appropriately high hurdle for any project, and one which the Department will uphold.

Commercial Fishing

I will now turn to the issue of commercial fishing in Glacier Bay National Park. The marine waters of Glacier Bay National Park have been fished commercially since prior to the establishment of Glacier Bay National Monument. Commercial fishing continued under federal regulation after the national monument's establishment in 1925 and its subsequent enlargement in 1939. From 1966 until promulgation of federal regulations implementing the provisions of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for FY 1999 (Section 123) general Park Service policy and regulations prohibited commercial fishing in most units of the Park System including Glacier Bay National Monument and Glacier Bay National Park.

In passing Section 123 of the Omnibus Act of 1999, Congress resolved the long-standing issues surrounding commercial fishing in Glacier Bay. The Act:

* Closed specifically identified areas of non-wilderness waters in Glacier Bay proper to commercial fishing;

* Limited commercial fishing elsewhere in Glacier Bay proper to pot fishing for tanner crab, long-lining for halibut, and trolling for salmon;

* Established a "grandfathering" process to allow qualifying fishermen in the three commercial fisheries to continue fishing in the remaining waters of Glacier Bay proper under non-transferable lifetime permits;

* Clarified that the marine waters of Glacier Bay National Park outside of Glacier Bay proper will remain open to various existing commercial fisheries;

* Directed NPS and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to cooperatively develop a fisheries management plan for the park's coastal waters; and

* Provided substantial funds to compensate those adversely affected by the closures and restrictions.

Economic Issues

By authorizing existing commercial fisheries to continue in park waters outside of Glacier Bay proper, Section 123 permits fishing to continue where more than 80% of the commercial harvest (in terms of reported biomass) has historically occurred. This amounts to about 3.2 million pounds of seafood per year. Additional harvest will continue in most of Glacier Bay proper during the life tenancy period of qualifying fishermen, supporting fishermen and their communities for many years.  The park waters closed to commercial fishing have historically accounted for less than 10% of the total commercial harvest in park waters.  

Nonetheless, the NPS – and Congress – recognized that fishery closures have, and will,  economically impact some fishermen, crewmembers, processors, and communities. We look to the compensation program, authorized and funded through amendments to the 1999 Omnibus Act, to offset the economic hardships felt by the people and communities of Southeast Alaska as a result of commercial fishery closures in Glacier Bay.  

The compensation program authorized by Congress will direct more than $30 million to the people of Southeast Alaska. Our implementation of this program is being done with significant public involvement, is on schedule, and includes the following actions:

* In cooperation with the state of Alaska, we have largely completed the buyout program for qualified commercial Dungeness crab fishermen. A total of 8 fishermen have been paid $4,354,692 to date.

* We have implemented interim compensation programs for qualified Dungeness crab processors and fishing vessel crewmembers to mitigate anticipated 1999 income losses. Six crewmembers have applied for this funding.

* The NPS and the State of Alaska are working with the public to develop and complete the general compensation program. We conducted a series of public conference calls in May and early June to review a Draft Economic Analysis and solicit public comment regarding potential eligibility criteria, compensation allocations and formulas.

* The public comment period on the economic analysis EA ended July 1 and the final Economic Analysis is currently available in hard copy and on the park's website.

* The Park Service, with concurrence of the state, will publish and distribute a draft compensation plan in mid-September, followed by public meetings in 11 or more Southeast Alaskan communities in October and November.

* The public comment period will conclude November 30, 2000, and a final Compensation Plan will be completed by year’s end, with implementation and payments to begin early in 2001.

* We project that no more than 5% of the compensation funding will be spent on administering this program, and a significant portion of that amount is enabling the State of Alaska to devote staff and time to the program.

Cultural Issues

We look to the compensation program to assist southeastern families and communities in making their difficult transition.  We are aware, however, that fishery closures in Glacier Bay – and the many other changes in fishery regulations and markets (including fluctuating salmon markets, the advent of the individual fishing quota system, and the closure by the State of Alaska of seine fisheries in Icy Strait) may render losses that economic compensation cannot recoup.  We recognize that commercial fishing is, and will continue to be, an important lifeway for many individuals and families in Southeast Alaska.  The ongoing fisheries in Icy Strait, Cross Sound, the park’s outer waters and adjacent non-park waters will help to maintain the vibrant maritime tradition of Southeast fishing communities.  

In particular, the Park Service recognizes that fishing is an important component of the cultural fabric of the Hoonah Tlingit people and one way in which the Tlingit people maintain ties to their traditional homeland. Consequently, the Service and the Hoonah Indian Association (the recognized tribal government for this area) have discussed the development of a cultural fishery program. This program will serve to pass important cultural traditions and practices from elders to young people, maintain strong Hoonah cultural ties to Glacier Bay, and provide a traditional food source for the Hoonah Tlingit people.

While fishery closures in Glacier Bay will have some economic impacts for many Tlingit fishermen, earlier closures of local seine fisheries outside of the park significantly reduced the Hoonah fleet long before the Glacier Bay closures. Importantly, the winter king salmon fishery (a relatively small fishery, but important to Hoonah Tlingit hand trollers) will continue for the lifetime of many fishermen. We recognize that there will be a cultural impact on the Hoonah Tlingit people, but hope a cultural fishery program will address these needs and we will continue to work with the Hoonah people on other important traditional activities. Finally, all local area residents can continue to fish for personal use consumption.

Natural Resource Issues

The resource implications of commercial fisheries closures in Glacier Bay are complex and numerous.  Commercial fishery closures will affect not only previously harvested fish and shellfish populations, but are expected to have widespread effects on the entire marine community.   First and foremost, the Glacier Bay closures will ensure marine ecosystem integrity and preserve biodiversity. Large quantities of fish and shellfish previously removed for human consumption will now be available to cycle through the ecosystem. Fisheries scientists believe that larvae, juveniles, and adults may "spill over" from protected areas into surrounding waters. Thus, healthy fish and shellfish populations in Glacier Bay may enhance the sustainability of fisheries in adjacent areas and may even serve as an insurance policy against fisheries collapses. Within Glacier Bay, we expect fishery closures to:

* Reduce "ghost" fishing that occurs due to lost or abandoned fishing gear;

* Reduce handling damage and the mortality rate of crab, in particular, Dungeness crab;

* Change population size and structure in fish and shellfish populations;

* Increase the occurrence of larger fish and invertebrates which translate to greater reproductive potential since larger fish produce more eggs;

* Increase availability of biomass to predators, scavengers, and decomposers; and

* Reduce by-catch mortality.

If Glacier Bay proves an effective marine reserve, fisheries in northern Southeast Alaska may benefit. As importantly, what we learn about marine reserves in Glacier Bay may assist other management agencies in sustaining fisheries elsewhere.

Science in Glacier Bay

Significantly, the commercial fishery closures present an unprecedented opportunity for the Park Service and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to demonstrate leadership and innovation in protecting resources and ecosystems by testing the effectiveness of marine reserves using Glacier Bay National Park as a living laboratory. Prior to fishery closures in Glacier Bay, there were no marine reserves in high latitude areas, hence no opportunities for biologists to compare fished and unfished areas.  Following Congress’s direction to "cooperate in the development of a management plan for the regulation of commercial fisheries in Glacier Bay National Park," NPS and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game signed a general agreement to begin this effort.   State and federal biologists are meeting regularly to design a research framework and strategy, set goals and objectives, and identify priority research topics.  We are excited about the prospect of working cooperatively with ADF&G to collect and analyze fisheries information that will allow us to consistently and defensibly manage ongoing fisheries and other marine resources in Glacier Bay.

In conclusion, while there will be both negative and positive impacts resulting from the closures of commercial fishing in Glacier Bay, a sincere effort has been made by Congress and the Administration to mitigate the economic impacts and we believe that overall, the benefits will outweigh any losses.  This concludes my testimony.  I would be happy to answer any of your questions.