Isolated Paradise:
An Administrative History of the Katmai and Aniakchak National Park Units
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Chapter 11:
Minerals Management

By most accounts, the area contained within the boundaries of present-day Katmai National Park and Preserve is relatively low in mineralization. The NPS unit extends out over four million acres of Alaskan topography. Considering the acreage involved, relatively few sites of economically-viable mineralization have been located. Those sites, however, contain verifiable quantities of gold, copper, silica, pumice, and other minerals, and those who would hope to develop Katmai's mineral potential have been quick to point out the potential for additional ore bodies. They, and those who have been philosophically opposed to the idea of closing lands to mineral exploration, have often clashed with NPS managers, whose mandate has usually been to discourage mineral exploitation. This chapter chronicles the history of mineral development in the Katmai area.

Early Mineral Exploration

Prior to 1918, the Katmai country was open to mineral exploration and location. The first miners to visit the area crossed over Katmai Pass in 1890. They did not actively prospect, but used the pass on their way from Saint Michael to Kodiak. Josiah Spurr, an explorer with the U.S. Geological Survey, used the same route in December 1898. Following in his wake were a ragtag army of prospectors who crossed over Katmai Pass on their way on their way to the Nome gold fields. So far as is known, none found "pay dirt" along the way. [1]

In addition to the explorers and gold-rush miners who passed through the Katmai country, others arrived on prospecting expeditions. Of particular interest was the area's petroleum potential. Several expeditions during the 1860s and 1870s brought back rumors that oil existed near Katmai Bay. [2] The drilling of an oil well near Puale Bay in 1902 brought forth a crescendo of interest in the area's petroleum resources. During the next two years three more wells were drilled, but nothing of commercial importance was found. By 1906 all but a few diehards had left the area. Operations, however, continued intermittently for years afterward. [3]

In response to the Puale Bay activity George Curtis Martin, a government geologist, surveyed Katmai's shoreline for evidences of coal and oil potential. Martin was told of oil seepages along the shores of Kamishak Bay, especially at Douglas River, and was also told of gas seeps on Gas Creek, at the head of Kejulik River. But he did not visit either one, and cautioned against further exploration. "The geology of the coast ... between Douglas River and Katmai," he wrote, "does not warrant in the slightest degree any petroleum prospecting. Along much of this coast are only volcanic and other crystalline rocks, in which the occurrence of petroleum is an absolute impossibility." [4]

Other resources were sought as well. An 1895 USGS expedition, under the direction of William Healey Dall and George F. Becker, was sent to search for gold and coal along the coast of Shelikof Strait. It found no gold, but did find minor coal deposits near Cape Douglas. On the shore of Amalik Bay, he found three seams of "a pretty good coal." He noted that "The small dimensions of the seam, however, forbid anticipating any commercial future for it." [5] Josiah Spurr, who crossed Katmai Pass in 1898, was not impressed by the gold potential of that part of the Alaska Peninsula. Ralph W. Stone, who looked for coal along the Katmai coast in 1904 as part of Martin's survey, found it in the same general vicinity as his 1895 predecessors. He examined the Cape Douglas coal seams and found that "because of their small extent and bony character" they had no commercial value. He was unable to resurvey the Amalik Bay coal seam. [6]

The 1912 eruption in the Mount Katmai area created a thick ash layer over hundreds of square miles of the surrounding landscape. Some mineral resources, therefore, were doubtless lost, but others were created, and mineral exploration continued unabated. George Martin, who returned to the Katmai coast during the summer of 1912, was effusive about the commercial possibilities for the coastal ash deposits. And an industrial chemical manufacturing company, upon reading one of the National Geographic articles on the subject, was so intrigued that it wrote the magazine and asked where samples could be secured. [7]

Others moved inland in search of hard rock deposits. Around 1912, Charlie McNeil and Norman B. Cook found copper-bearing veins about 17 miles inland on a stream running into a "southwest bight" of Kamishak Bay. (The stream was probably McNeil River.) Z. T. and C. D. Halferty located seven claims in the Kuliak Bay area in 1913 and 1917. [8] In 1915, Fred and Jack Mason discovered placer gold along a small stream, locally called Lonesome Pine Creek, just south of Cape Kubugakli. Two years later, Robert Griggs discovered that "There are some places where one can gather crystals of sulphur, almost free from impurities, by the bushel." In 1918, Alex Grant found placer gold on American Creek; he made several attempts to work the gravels but failed. [9] The same year, the Geological Survey encountered the Shelikof Mining Company working at its copper prospect near Kukak Bay. Of those discoveries, only the Mason claim, which produced a small amount of gold, tin, and molybdenum over an eight-year period, ever witnessed ore production. [10]

In 1916, the National Geographic Society began to lobby various governmental officials to create a national monument in the ash-laden area surrounding Mount Katmai. In order to placate territorial authorities, the officials who roughed out the initial boundaries were careful to exclude known areas with commercial development potential; the southern boundary, in particular, was drawn so as to exclude the Cold Bay (Puale Bay), Cape Kubugakli, and Gas Creek mining properties. The relative lack of activity within the proposed boundaries encouraged park advocates to push for the creation of a monument which prohibited mining. In so doing, they ran counter to territorial tradition. Prospecting and mining were prohibited in most NPS units in the United States. In Alaska, however, both of the units which had been established thus far, Sitka and Mount McKinley, allowed the practice. [11]

After the NPS had decided on a tentative boundary, it asked the U.S. Geological Survey if it had any objections to the proposed monument. The few reports on the area's geology which had been completed thus far indicated the presence of a few deposits, but the vast majority of land under consideration had never been explored. Based on such scant information, the USGS indicated that it would not intercede against the withdrawal, but neither could it muster much enthusiasm for it. Some of its members, including Dr. Martin, were opposed to it, at least until such time as geological studies could be conducted.

NPS Director Stephen Mather was sensitive to the USGS's viewpoints, and repeated them to Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane. The secretary, who was the single most important decision maker, conditionally agreed to the reservation despite the USGS's objections. USGS officials knew that the creation of the monument would not affect their ability to conduct their geological studies. Acting NPS Director Horace M. Albright, who also recognized the Geological Survey's concern, assured Alaska Governor Thomas Riggs that the withdrawal "can be modified later if this is necessary in the interests of the commercial development of Alaska." Albright, reflecting Lane's opinion, felt that it was "just as well to have it [as a monument] pending a thorough investigation by the Geological Survey." [12]

Alaska Governor Thomas Riggs, not surprisingly, decried the existence of the new monument. He was philosophically opposed to the creation of any reservation that limited development possibilities; regarding Katmai, he opposed its creation because he was certain that it contained commercial possibilities. In a letter to Mather in November 1918, he said that

I beg to advise that there are no devastated lands owing to the great eruption, unless they are overrun by lava, the volcanic ash making the soil peculiarly fertile. I am also advised that there are oil indications within the withdrawal, and a short way outside of the lines drawn, there is at present an oil well, driven and capped, awaiting the time when it shall be possible to take up oil lands. [13]

Mining in the Katmai Area, 1918-1945

Soon after Wilson established the monument, the area surrounding the monument became a focus of interest for petroleum developers. On February 25, 1920, Congress enacted a law which allowed Alaska land to be leased for oil exploration purposes. During the next few years, known or suspected petroleum areas were blanketed with oil claims. The Cold Bay (Puale Bay) field, where a well was drilled beginning in May 1922, was the territory's most popular leasing area. By June 30 of that year, 222 entrants had applied for 564,170 acres of Cold Bay oil-lease lands. Leases probably covered the Cold Bay region and stretched northward to Katmai's southwestern boundary. North of the monument, the knowledge that oil seeps had been discovered on the shoreline of Kamishak Bay brought forth a flurry of leases. These leases were scattered along the bay's southwestern shore and also went ten miles up the Kamishak River. The flurry of excitement, however, was all for naught. The few marginally-successful wells drilled in the Cold Bay field were more than twenty miles southwest of the monument. No drilling took place on the margins of Kamishak Bay, and the oil leases were eventually cancelled. [14]

A small mineral development on the west shore of Shelikof Strait was responsible for the first alteration of Katmai's boundaries. In the early 1920s, John J. Folstad began working a coal seam on the western shore of Amalik Bay, opposite Takli Island. (This was probably the location which had been discovered by Dall and Becker in 1895.) In response, Folstad petitioned the government for a permit to develop the site. The NPS, recognizing the value of coal, knew that the petition might well result in pressure to open the entire monument to mining. The agency, therefore, felt it better to remove the area from the monument. On September 5, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge issued Executive Order No. 3897, which excluded 10 acres from the monument. [15]

In 1923, the long-expected Geological Survey expedition finally took place. As noted in Chapter 3, both Walter R. Smith and Kirtley F. Mather led survey parties into the Katmai country. Smith's party described and mapped much of the existing monument, and also fanned out to areas as far west as Dumpling Mountain and as far southwest as Becharof Lake. Mather's party surveyed the area to the north. It covered each of the coastal drainages from Paint River south to Cape Douglas, and also headed inland to survey the Savonoski River, Kulik Lake, Battle Lake, and Moraine-Funnel Creek drainages. The geologists found several mineralized areas in their surveys, most notably in the Paint River drainage and the Cold Bay area. The area within the monument, however, was "very little mineralized." Regarding the reputed petroleum deposits near Kamishak Bay, Mather could muster only a tepid enthusiasm. He felt that a search for petroleum was justified "throughout such of the southeastern portion of the Kamishak Bay region," but urged prospective drillers to first exploit the Cold Bay field first, where the geological structures appeared to be more favorable. [16] For the remainder of the decade, no other mining activities took place either inside the monument or in the immediately surrounding area.

In November 1930, Robert F. Griggs spearheaded an effort to extend Katmai National Monument's boundaries to the north and west. In a letter to an Interior Department official, Griggs gave a broad rationale for expanding the park and noted that there were "no minerals of value" except for a worked-out gold placer at Cape Kubugakli. As part of his expansion recommendations, he took care to avoid the oil-bearing tracts which surrounded Puale Bay, and recognized that the trader at Kanatak, 50 miles southwest of the existing monument and dependent on any oil development that might take place, would be adversely affected by his proposed expansion. [17]

The following January the NPS, in consultation with Griggs and the Interior Depart-ment, laid out the boundaries of the proposed monument expansion. The Geological Survey, when asked its opinion of the area's economic geology, offered a dim view of the area's suitability as a parkland. The agency noted that

the general conditions are such as to indicate the possible occurrence of prospective oil fields both to the north and south of the present Katmai National Monument. Many oil claims have been located in both of these areas, and doubtless the status of permits that have been granted can be obtained from the General Land Office.

In addition to the oil possibilities, gold has been produced from claims in the vicinity of Cape Kubugakli and indications of gold have been found at a number of other points, stibnite, molybdenite, galena, and tetrahedrite--all minerals of economic value, if they occur in quantity--have been reported from veins near Cape Kubugakli. Regarding the area north of the present monument in the Kamishak Bay region, Mather reports a number of metallic mineral deposits in those places where igneous activity not related to recent volcanism has been intense. Conditions analogous to those described by him probably also occur in parts of the unsurveyed regions west and southwest of Cape Douglas, which is included within the boundaries of the enlarged monument. [18]

The Service, in response, offered to pare the size of its proposed expansion by suggesting that the northern boundary become "a line from Hallo Bay westerly to the forks of Gorge and Hardscrabble Creeks." The line west of that point followed that which Griggs had originally proposed. In mid-February, however, the Acting Director of the Geological Survey rejected that compromise. He hardened his previous position and dissented against any changes to the 1918 boundary. The Survey again expressed its concern about the possibilities of oil and gold extraction. On a broader level, the agency stated that it "is keenly interested in having as much of the region as possible kept open for free use, in order to stimulate its development." The USGS felt that the additional acreage was irrelevant to the original intent of the park. [19]

The Service responded to the comments provided by the USGS and other government agencies by excluding the various oil claims surrounding Puale Bay; the new boundary lines, however, were far closer to those in Griggs's original proposal than those drawn in response to the USGS's original criticisms. The revised boundaries, which were justified in an April 22 letter from Secretary of the Interior Ray Wilbur to President Herbert Hoover, thus ignored much of the Geological Survey's concerns about potential oil development. Wilbur concluded that the proposed area "is of greater value from a edu-cational and scientific viewpoint and for the protection of wild life than for economic development." [20] On April 24, 1931, President Hoover signed the proclamation which expanded the monument. A tacit effect of the expansion was its reincorporation of the 10-acre parcel that had been removed from the monument in 1923. (Folstad had long since lost interest in his coal claim.)

During the 1930s, as noted in Chapter 3, a small but stubborn group of trappers resided along the lakes in various parts of the monument. Some prospectors doubtless also entered the monument, and a few of the trappers also prospected from time to time. As a result, three mining sites were located on the margins of the monument. Roy Fure and Martin Mickelson, both of Naknek, found a cinnabar vein in 1934 while traveling up Gorge Creek. Mickelson retorted about 200 pounds of the Gorge Creek vein but found that the mercury it contained was not of sufficient value to develop further. Fure, who continued to prospect in the area, found several more deposits just north of the original find. [21] In 1938, along American Creek, Bill Hammersly found additional placer gold deposits in the same general area where Alex Grant had prospected twenty years earlier. Hammersly continued to work the stream gravels each summer until 1941, by which time he had located 18 placer claims which stretched one to two miles upstream from the monument boundary. He found extensive bench gold deposits; its quantity, however, was insufficient to sustain extended operations under existing conditions. The only other reported gold deposits were located along the shores of Brooks Lake. These deposits, located inside the boundaries of the monument--and thus extracted illegally--were apparently discovered in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Only small amounts were ever found. [22]

The situation was much the same along the Shelikof Strait. As noted in Chapter 3, most of those who were attracted to the area were fox farmers. Once there, however, they sought whatever means they could to scratch out a living. On the north shore of Takli Island, W. E. Baumann located several placer claims beginning in 1931. There is no evidence, however, that either he or others in the area found anything of economic significance. [23]

In 1941, J. C. Roehm, an investigator from the Territorial Bureau of Mines, visited the Naknek Lake region and investigated the mining possibilities for various area properties. Roehm visited the American Creek claims and attempted but failed to visit those along Gorge Creek. He also hiked up into the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Roehm emerged from his survey convinced that Katmai had been needlessly expanded and that mineral development would surely follow a reduction in its boundaries. Based on what he had seen and heard, however, he could generate little enthusiasm for hard rock mining. The NPS, which had little other information on the area, concluded that the monument had a general paucity of economically retrievable minerals. [24]

Attempts to Extract Volcanic Ash

The Katmai area, in all likelihood, would have had little mineral activity had demand been limited to hard rock minerals. Little of interest had been located either in or near the monument. But what Katmai had in abundance was siliceous volcanic ash, otherwise known as pumicite. The 1912 eruption had extruded over five cubic miles of the material, enough to cover a 3,000-square-mile area a foot deep. [25] Because the ash had no commercial value, development interests ignored it, and almost no one felt slighted when the 1918 and 1931 proclamations placed most of the ash deposits within the monument's boundaries.

The value of pumicite, however, began to increase during World War II. Both the army and navy needed base materials in the construction of roads and airfields, and military personnel found pumicite superior to the locally-available sand and gravel. After the war, Alaska faced an unprecedented demand for materials in the building construction industry, and various private sector interests recognized that pumicite might fulfill those needs. In 1946, Gus Sutherland founded the Anchorage-based Alaska Katmalite Corporation and gathered materials from Augustine Island; the same year, Don Goodman and Harold Swank visited the island and took a number of pumicite samples. [26]

Goodman and Swank soon found that the pumicite located on Augustine Island was an inferior material for making so-called "pumi-blocks." Casting about for an alternative, they visited Takli Island, took samples, and found them to be well suited to their needs. They then formed the Pumice Block Company, which was based in Anchorage, and sent a small crew which "was active in developing deposits" on the island. [27]

Goodman and Swank knew that both Geographic Harbor and Takli Island were located in Katmai National Monument and were thus off-limits to mining, but they also hoped that the region's need for building materials might allow pumice removal to take place. To address the problem, Goodman and Swank's attorney, J. L. McCarrey, wrote territorial delegate E. L. Bartlett in April 1947 and explained the company's dilemma. Bartlett forwarded his letter to the NPS, who replied that it had no authority to grant the company a permit. [28] The only option lay in the issuance of an executive order which would withdraw Takli Island from the monument and restore the property to the public domain. He wrote Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug on the matter, hoping that he might be able to prepare an executive order for President Truman's signature. [29] Krug, after consulting with the NPS, the USGS, and the Division of Territories and Island Possessions on the matter, decided that it was best to first study the matter, in order "to assure ourselves that any enterprise along this line ... has a reasonable chance to succeed, as well as to determine the effect of the elimination of this Island from the national monument." He promised that a USGS geologist would be assigned to the task. [30]

A study of the area's ash deposits was completed that summer by the Alaska Territorial Department of Mines, who agreed to assist the USGS in their work. J. C. Roehm, by now an Associate Mining Engineer with the department, visited six sites along the Shelikof Strait coastline: at Takli Island, Kukak Bay, and two sites each in Geographic Harbor and Kinak Bay. After testing samples from each site, he found that Kukak Bay was "best in quality of any noted during the investigation." He further noted that "This [Kukak Bay] deposit could easily be mined with mechanical shovel and is readily accessible to barge loading. There appears to be abundant material in this deposit for a small pumice block operation for several years." [31]

The developers soon constructed a pumi-block plant and were ready to go even before the Territorial Bureau of Mines had completed its report. Their only wish was to supply a critically-needed element to the Anchorage building industry. Environmental degradation, moreover, was not a problem as they saw it. The nature of pumice and the windy conditions prevalent along Shelikof Strait, in their opinion, were such that "no type of excavation, loading or hauling can in any way disfigure any part of this area." Both the developers, and Territorial Delegate Bartlett, were amazed that federal officials would wish to block the operation. [32]

Bureaucratic conflict and legal wrangling, however, prevented them from receiving permission to mine or even receiving answers as to its legality for the remainder of 1947. The USGS, the primary agency which Krug had assigned to the task, needed only to approve the completed report and issue a covering statement; no such statement, however, was forthcoming from the agency. Over at the NPS, meanwhile, renewed debate developed regarding the proper legal course to adopt. One official, repeating the stand originally taken in April, stated that the NPS could not legally issue a mining permit, but another felt that even the excision of the area from the monument would not provide the legal right to mine. [33]

In January 1948, development interests renewed their efforts to have the Katmai coastline opened to pumicite extraction. By this time Don Goodman had sold his interests in the company, and Swank and Ken Hinchey had founded the Ken Hinchey Company, based in Anchorage. Citing an increased demand for pumicite-based materials at Fort Richardson, Hinchey demanded to know the status of the USGS's investigations. The letter eventually reached the desk of Newton Drury, NPS Director, who responded that the USGS was still dragging its heels because of an extended leave taken by the field representative assigned to the project. [34]

Perhaps because of Bartlett's incessant harping, the report which Secretary Krug had requested in May 1947 was finally submitted by the USGS in March 1948. [35] Its results caused the developers to change their strategy. During 1947 they had consistently stated their intention to operate on Takli Island, but when the report's conclusions became known they prevailed upon Bartlett to allow exploitation at one or more sites on the mainland. Delegate Bartlett passed those concerns on to the NPS. [36]

During the spring of 1948, the legal cloud which had formerly hung over pumice extraction began to lift. Officials concluded that if one or more areas were removed from the monument, pumice mining could legally take place. They could not, however, allow mining in the park without specific Congressional legislation which permitted the activity.

Given the continuing economic and political pressures toward development, Director Drury and other NPS officials had to choose one of three courses to follow. Should it stand pat and try to resist development pressures? Should it reduce its boundaries? Or should it allow regulated use? Having little knowledge of the area, they wrote biologist Robert F. Griggs, leader of the National Geographic expeditions, for his opinion. Griggs replied that the latter choice was best. He had little difficulty with the extraction of pumice from Kukak Bay; of greater concern was the safety of those who had to navigate Shelikof Strait. The NPS, in response, tentatively adopted Griggs's position on pumice extraction, and noted that "Kukak Bay appears to offer the best opportunity for initial operations and the least conflict with preservation of primary monument values." Kukak Bay was a good choice for two reasons; not only did the area contain an excellent source of pumicite, but a cannery was also active in the bay. Given a choice, the NPS favored combining two adverse land uses into a single small area. [37]

Bartlett agreed with NPS officials that legislation allowing pumice mining activities should be pursued. Bartlett offered to introduce the legislation, and the NPS initially offered some assistance in drafting it. [38] Little activity, however, took place that year. Agency officials seemed less than enthusiastic in working with Bartlett, and it slowly became apparent that no legislation would be forthcoming any time soon. By mid-December the situation was no closer to a conclusion than it had been a year earlier. The year again ended with Bartlett promising to introduce appropriate legislation legalizing pumice mining. [39] The slow pace of events that year may have been due, in part, to a slackening demand for pumicite as a building material. (Ken Hinchey, who had hoped to develop the Katmai deposits, appears have abandoned his quest in the fall of 1948.) Whatever the reason, Bartlett had little cause to pressure the Park Service on the subject during most of 1949. That November, however, interest in pumice extraction was renewed when Arthur Waldron, the general manager of Anchorage Sand and Gravel, asked to gain access to the area. [40]

During January 1950, the reason for the NPS's dilatory tactics became clear. The agency decided that it would be better to eliminate a small area from the monument, via presidential proclamation, than to have Congressional authorization allowing pumicite removal. [41] Agency officials feared that legislation allowing pumicite mining would set a poor precedent and open the door to widespread mining activities in the monument. In search of an alternative, they discovered that the Materials Disposal Act, which passed Congress on July 31, 1947, allowed pumicite to be disposed by lease or permit if the appropriate area could be eliminated from the monument. An additional reason officials liked the bill was that it gave them the means to restore the lands to the monument at a later date. [42]

Agency officials quickly carved out a 6,000-acre area around Kukak Bay that was proposed for elimination from the monument, and an official in the Department of the Interior's Alaska Field Office was able to tell Waldron that

positive action is in the offing by the Department.... This action is not official, of course, until it comes out under the Secretary's or President's signature, but it does let you know that the Department has not forgotten you and that everything is being done that can be to bring you this about quickly for your use this summer." [43]

Director Drury forwarded the agency's position on to the Secretary of the Interior, who by now was Oscar L. Chapman. [44] The Secretary's staff prepared a suggested executive order, and on May 19 submitted it, along with an explanatory cover letter, to President Harry S. Truman. Chapman recommended that Truman sign the proclamation. [45]

What happened to the proposed proclamation after that point is unclear. Before it reached the President's desk it had to clear the Attorney General, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Federal Register; perhaps because of those delays, the proclamation still had not reached the President by June 9. By mid-July, NPS officials were still convinced that the proclamation would become law. [46] But Truman never signed it.

Two reasons have been advanced as to why the proclamation was never implemented. John Kauffmann, in his study of Katmai's boundaries, has suggested that the Attorney General blocked it because of its shaky legal foundations. [47] Another reason may have been last-minute Interior Department misgivings regarding the necessity of pumicite removal from the monument. As early as November 1949, Department officials had begun to complain that all of the areas which had been surveyed in Roehm's 1947 study were located in Katmai National Monument, and several urged that a renewed search of the coast be made for pumicite deposits outside of the monument. In January 1950, therefore, the U.S. Geological Survey was formally asked to find out whether pumice deposits could be located between Anchorage and the monument. [48] The USGS, in searching their admittedly incomplete records, was unable to find any such pumice deposits. Interior department officials, however, were confident that additional pumice-extraction sites could be located. Chapman's May 1950 letter to Truman, in fact, noted that

since the deposit in Katmai National Monument [at Kukak Bay] is located at a considerable distance from Anchorage through treacherous waters, it is probable that this source can serve only as a temporary expedient, at best. In the circumstances, this Department is hopeful that a suitable site for pumicite removal can be found nearer Anchorage and outside the monument. [49]

Truman himself may have noted that it was inconsistent to lop off 6,000 acres of a national monument while simultaneously suggesting the preparation of studies that might eliminate the necessity to mine Katmai's pumicite deposits. Regardless of who (if anyone) recognized the inconsistency, the practical effect of Truman's not signing the proclamation was a renewed search for accessible pumice deposits.

Robert M. Moxham, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, was commissioned to search a wide area which had been subject to recent volcanism and to find an optimal site for pumice extraction. He undertook field work on the subject in the summer of 1950. His report, which was completed in late 1951 and distributed in January 1952, compared the pumice deposits of Katmai National Monument with those of Augustine Island and the Aniakchak-Veniaminof region. After weighing the attributes of six sites in the monument, two sites on Augustine Island, and four sites in the Aniakchak-Veniaminof area, Moxham concluded that "it appears that the pumice deposits in the Amalik Bay-Kukak Bay offer geological and geographic advantages" over any other sites, either those outside or within Katmai National Monument. [50]

Moxham's report noted, among other things, that an Anchorage company had recently been active removing pumice in the monument. In the summer of 1950 John Grove, who headed the Stock and Grove Company, brought a crew of six into Geographic Harbor; the following year, the company repeated the process in the same location. [51] The company appears to have operated legally because it worked below the high tide line and was thus outside the monument boundaries; it was illegal, however, in that it kept its equipment and a shed above the high tide line without having a special use permit. The NPS apparently had no inkling of its presence during the summer of 1950 (although territorial officials were well aware of it). They caught wind of it, however, that winter. In 1951, George Collins of the Alaska Recreation Survey visited the site and informed other NPS officials on the details of Stock and Grove's operation. Because he lacked a permit, Grove was issued a cease and desist order in early September, and the company permanently shut down its Katmai pumice operations. [52]

By the end of 1950, Bartlett had become aware that pumice mining would not be opened by way of a presidential proclamation. Having lost faith with the Department of the Interior, he returned to the idea which had been dropped a year earlier. On July 13, 1951, he introduced a bill into the House of Representatives--H.R. 4794--which would have allowed a 15-year period for pumicite removal "from such areas as [the Secretary of the Interior] may designate along the shores of Shelikof Strait in Katmai National Monument, Alaska." [53] The bill was quickly approved by Robert F. Griggs and was presented favorably to the Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments. On October 4, the Interior Department wrote the committee that it too had no objection to the bill, provided that such a bill not set a precedent for further mining activities in the national park system. [54]

Conservation-oriented Congressmen soon tried to block Bartlett's bill. Their opposition provoked this outburst from an obviously frustrated Alaska Governor Ernest Gruening:

The whole question of the extreme and fanatical conservatism that is represented by some of our conservationists is going to haunt us repeatedly in Alaska. Katmai National Monument is the result of a volcanic explosion which moved millions, if not billions, of tons of material and scattered it to the four winds of Heaven, some of the dust travelling as far east as Wisconsin. It is pretty fantastic to prevent a worthy commercial undertaking from removing a few tons of pumice from some corner of this vast Monument, which is larger in area I believe than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware, and whose original attractiveness, with its 10,000 smokes reduced to a few or none, has largely vanished. [55]

Despite opposition, the bill remained under consideration for the remainder of the 82nd Congress. Territorial development interests such as Gruening, Bartlett, and the Alaska Development Board all backed the bill. In late 1951 a new company, Pacific Pumice, from Washington state, added momentum to it by requesting a pumice removal permit. [56] Bartlett's influence resulted in committee passage of H.R. 4794 on February 20, 1952, and the full House passed it on March 3. The following day the bill was referred to the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and as Bartlett ruefully described it, members "seemed altogether unwilling to approve the bill, at least in its present form." The Senate bill never got out of committee, and was forgotten for the remainder of the 82nd Congress. [57]

Bartlett, however, was unwilling to give up. At the beginning of the 83rd Congress, on January 13, 1953, Congressman Wesley A. D'Ewart of Montana introduced H.R. 1529, which was identical to the bill (H.R. 4794) which Bartlett had submitted during the 1951-52 Congressional term. [58] Three days later Bartlett submitted a similar bill, H.R. 1801. The House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee ignored Bartlett's bill, but on February 18 it amended and passed H.R. 1529. On March 2, the full House passed the amended bill; two days later it was presented to the Senate. For over a year it seemed destined to the same fate which had befallen it during the previous Congress. But on March 30, 1954 the bill, sponsored by Sen. Hugh Butler of Nebraska, finally emerged from the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and on April 5, 1954, it was passed by the full Senate. [59] The House and Senate bills being identical, it was forwarded to President Eisenhower on April 7. On April 15, 1954, the president signed the bill, and it became Public Law 332 of the 83rd Congress. [60]

The signing of H.R. 1529 marked the end of a seven year struggle to obtain a site for pumicite inside Katmai National Monument. In conformance with the act's provisions, Secretary of the Interior Douglas McKay designated Takli Island (not Kukak Bay, as the studies seemed to suggest) as the area to be set aside for pumice extraction. [61] The long-sought victory, however, was pyrrhic. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, it may be remembered, several companies had indicated an interest in pumice extraction. But by the time the bill became law, that interest had diminished, and one of them went so far as to inform Bartlett that an expanded shale product, called Baselite, had replaced pumice as a building construction material. [62] True to the law's provisions, Takli Island remained open for pumice extraction for the next fifteen years, but no company with an interest in commercial pumice extraction stepped forward. The permit quietly expired on April 15, 1969, and no interest in pumicite development has appeared since then.

Despite the herculean efforts made by both developers and legislators to tap into Katmai's pumicite deposits, few on-the-ground impacts ever resulted. Takli Island was the site of a small operation during 1947, and Geographic Harbor witnessed some activity in 1950 and 1951. The latter operation, which took place along the west shore of the upper harbor, was never very sophisticated; major on-site equipment consisted of a barge, a Caterpillar, a duck (a large, amphibious truck) and a shack on skids. The shack remained for years afterward, but by 1985 all that remained was a large pumice berm, two four-foot pilings, and a few scraps of metal. [63]

Mining Policies and Surveying Activities, 1945-1970

Pumicite was not the only mining-related pressure that NPS officials had to deal with regarding Katmai during the postwar years. As noted in Chapter 3, Bartlett spearheaded a 1947 effort to eliminate the monument as part of an ill-fated statehood bill. [64] By November 1948, pressures to develop the monument had become so great that NPS Regional Director Owen A. Tomlinson told Director Drury that "we believe the Service should seriously be considering the possibility that it will have to submit to legislation authorizing mining in Katmai National Monument in the event substantial evidence is produced indicating that it is a mineralized area." Tomlinson was well aware that both Mount McKinley National Park and Glacier Bay National Monument were open to mining, and he was prepared to allow mining in Katmai as well, perhaps believing that it would ward off calls to abandon the unit entirely. [65]

Several factors had brought pressure on the Park Service to open Katmai to mining. One factor was the obvious frustration that Alaskans felt at having a huge expanse that was off-limits to them, not only for mining and trapping but for recreation and tourism purposes as well. What added additional momentum to the cause was the discovery that a several local residents had located a "rock mineral of high value content" the previous fall. On November 14, 1948, pilot Bill Smith flew Charlie "Red" Robinson, trapper Jim Marlette, and a planeload of supplies to the eastern end of Lake Grosvenor. The location of the ore body is not known; it may have been the cinnabar deposits along Gorge Creek. Their entry into the area, however, was not discovered until the following April. Carlos Carson, the Dillingham-based fish and game agent and deputy NPS park ranger, suspected that their entry was illegal and deduced that their mining activities were as well. Carson dutifully informed his superiors at the Region Four office in San Francisco, which set off a wave of concern. Armed with a stack of regulations, Carson may have asked the miners to cease their operations, or perhaps the miners gave up after investigating the ore body more closely. At any rate, nothing more was heard of their operations. Because of that reason, and because only scattered pressure surfaced during that period to develop the pumice deposits along the Shelikof Strait shoreline, no bill emerged during this period to allow mining at Katmai. [66]

Scattered amounts of other mining activity surfaced during the postwar years. In 1947, George Hadden occupied a cabin on the north shore of Takli Island; he was probably prospecting the same claims which W. E. Baumann had located back in 1931. (Takli Island had been absorbed into the monument in 1942. Mining claims made before that date, however, could still be developed.) [67] Marlette continued to prospect as well as trap, and had another camp along the Kulik River, north of the existing monument. His cabin was later eliminated by Northern Consolidated Airlines personnel, who had established a fishing camp on the river's north side, just west of Kulik Lake, in 1950. [68] (The camp was later moved southwest to its present location.)

The Katmai Project, the interdisciplinary effort spearheaded by the Office of Naval Research in 1953 and 1954, provided an opportunity to investigate the monument's geological and mining resources. As originally outlined, one of the project's six objectives was "the volcanic activity and general geology of the area, including ... the nature and extent of mineral resources in the monument." Activities accomplished in 1953 under this objective were limited to geological and volcanological examinations. [69] The following year, however, the U.S. Geological Survey (one of the project's cooperating agencies) assigned A. Samuel Keller and Hillard N. Reiser to investigate the monument's geology and mineralogical potential. Their study also included a broad surrounding area, including Becharof Lake, Kulik and Nonvianuk lakes, the Kamishak River drainage, and the upper King Salmon River drainage.

Keller and Reiser, who were primarily interested in the area's oil and gas deposits, gained the data for their study primarily by examining aerial photography and perusing existing reports, not by extensive field investigation. [70] To those who wanted to mine or drill, their conclusions were not encouraging. They were able to locate three broad bodies of coal-bearing rocks--west of Cape Nukshak, south of Geographic Harbor, and north of Dakavak Lake--but downplayed the monument's coal mining potential. In a similar vein, they described the location of several known or purported oil and gas seeps, but concluded that "it is unlikely that favorable petroleum strata can be reached at practical drilling depths on most of the structures that could be drilled." Keller and Reiser roughed out their report in 1954. It was not completed, however, until 1956, and it was not published until 1959. [71]

Another report completed in 1954 dealt more specifically with the monument's hard rock mineral potential. G. Donald Eberlein, a mineral deposits geologist with the USGS, prepared a "Statement of Mineral Resource Potential in Katmai National Monument" as part of the Survey's Katmai Project work. The study was based on existing documents and included no field work. It noted that the most promising mineral find was the gold deposit near Cape Kubugakli. Beyond that, however, Eberlein was pessimistic. He concluded that "we cannot rule out the possibility of ultimately finding additional deposits in the Monument ... although the likelihood that such deposits occur is not very great." [72]

The advent of the various Northern Consolidated fishing camps, in 1950, and the recognition that the NPS taking a more active role in managing Katmai's resources dampened the enthusiasm of those who hoped to open the monument to hard rock mining. During the early 1950s few if any petitioned Bartlett on the subject, and the delegate was also worried that Congress would be confused if a bill permitting all forms of mining throughout the monument was being considered at the same time as a bill allowing pumice extraction along the Shelikof Strait coastline. [73]

In mid-April 1954, however, the pumice extraction bill became law, and by the end of the month Bartlett had introduced H.R. 8893, a bill which would have permitted mining in the monument. Nick Zimin, a would-be prospector from South Naknek, requested its submission before Congress. The bill was referred to the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and was not considered further. [74]

Bartlett, undaunted, submitted an identical bill for Zimin, H.R. 250, at the beginning of the next Congressional session in January 1955. An Assistant Secretary of the Interior, however, recommended that the House committee not enact the bill, and the matter was quietly dropped thereafter. [75] The following year Zimin tried one more time; the never-say-die prospector told Governor B. F. Heintzleman that if he could get a prospecting permit "I'll prove that the Katmai area is rich in minerals." Neither Heintzleman nor Bartlett, however, were in a position to help, and no bill was submitted that year. The only gesture of hope that Heintzleman could give Zimin was that "some mining companies" had expressed an interest in investigating known mineral prospects in the monument. Heintzleman, recognizing the power of Alaska's resource industries, knew that if significant mineral bodies could be located, mining companies would request an elimination of that particular area from the monument. But no mining investigations took place. [76] Three years later, a representative of the Alaska Miners Association brought up the subject once again to Bob Bartlett, who by now was a U.S. Senator. Bartlett, by now battle-weary, replied that

In all candor, I must say there isn't a chance whatsoever for this. Over the years I have made a valiant effort in this regard but have been opposed by the NPS and the conservation groups which have been effective in their opposition. [77]

In 1961, mining played an indirect role in a proposed legislative package pertaining to the monument. In February of that year, Ray Petersen of Northern Consolidated Airlines visited Ernest Gruening, one of Alaska's U.S. senators, and convinced him that Katmai needed a road constructed between Brooks Camp and the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Gruening, in turn, convinced the National Park Service to fund the project. The senator awoke to the scenic beauties and tourist potential of the Katmai country, and advanced a proposal to Governor William Egan that Katmai become a national park. Egan, however, rebuffed the idea because he knew that the creation of a national park would further restrict "industrial efforts" to promote Katmai's mineral and oil resources. Egan's Commissioner of Natural Resources, Phil Holdsworth, was trying to convince Egan that the state should advocate looser restrictions over Katmai mining. Holdsworth, a longtime mining man, agreed with the position of the Alaska Miners Association, which was proposing that the boundaries of Katmai be changed so that the heavily mineralized northeast portion could be opened to exploration. Gruening, in such an atmosphere, could see that his park proposal would gain little headway, and it was quietly dropped. [78]

In 1965, Alaska's Congressman, Ralph Rivers, made a similar suggestion. As part of an Alaska parks "wish list," he proposed to NPS Director George Hartzog that a mineral survey be made of the monument. Rivers, like Gruening four years before, hoped to convert Katmai into a national park. Neither the idea nor the mineral survey, however, were considered further. [79]

Those two brief flurries of bureaucratic activity were an exception during a decade of relative calm. No mining activities nor mineral surveying activities took place in or near the monument during the remainder of the 1960s, nor were there any legislative attempts during the period to open the monument to mineral prospecting. [80]

Proposed Offshore Oil Activities, 1960-1980

In 1957, the economy of southcentral Alaska was bolstered by the discovery of oil along the Swanson River, north of Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula. By 1959 there were high production wells on the peninsula, and exploration and development also extended to offshore Cook Inlet, where additional oil and gas fields were brought into production. [81] The enthusiasm generated by these wells caused industry and state officials to look to the oil and gas resources in the Katmai area. As early as 1961, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Phil Holdsworth noted in a letter to Governor Egan that the monument was "nearly surrounded now by oil and gas leases and at least parts of the Monument are of interest to the oil and gas industry." He was plainly frustrated that the monument was off-limits to oil and gas exploration. [82]

Over the next few years oil became an increasingly prominent part of Alaska's economy. By 1965, five oil and eleven gas fields had been developed. Kenai Peninsula, however, remained the most successful production area. Upper Cook Inlet, west of Anchorage, began oil production in late 1965 and was considered to have high future growth potential. The lower Cook Inlet, adjacent to Katmai and also considered a potential petroleum-drilling area, was virtually untouched. The enthusiasm generated from the Kenai Peninsula discoveries had also created interest in Bristol Bay and the Gulf of Alaska. By 1966, seismic crews had already been sent in to check both of these areas. [83]

During the late 1960s, oil production in upper Cook Inlet grew quickly, and for the next few years about 80 percent of the region's oil came from offshore wells. Some small scale oil exploration work was also taking place in the lower Bristol Bay area. [84] NPS officials looked warily at the pace of events going on in the waters east and west of the monument. They recognized that development along Katmai's shores was not imminent. If commercially successful wells were found closer to the monument boundaries, however, petroleum exploration companies were bound to impact on Katmai and its resources. [85]

Oil companies began to send their first field parties into the monument during this period. During the summer of 1966, crews from Standard Oil and Sinclair Oil took part in a geological research program; the location of their field work is unknown. A special use permit, issued by the National Park Service, legitimized their activities. The crews limited their investigations to field surveys and the taking of samples. In 1972, three oil companies were given special use permits to conduct geological exploration along the coast of Shelikof Strait. Oil companies were probably active in the area throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. [86]

With the Prudhoe Bay oil discoveries and the massive efforts made to build the Trans-Alaska pipeline, attention during the first half of the 1970s shifted away from the Cook Inlet and Bristol Bay oil provinces. By 1976, however, lease sales were being proposed for both areas. The proposed Outer Continental Shelf lease sale for Bristol Bay did not directly impact Katmai, either the existing monument or the national park which was then under consideration. It did, however, impact park planning. NPS officials had heard predictions that King Salmon would grow to a town of 25,000 people if oil development in Bristol Bay was successful. They recognized that any such developments would have a significant impact on Katmai's resources. [87]

The proposed oil and gas lease sale in lower Cook Inlet promised more direct impacts to Katmai (see Chapter 5). The Bureau of Land Management had jurisdiction for land beyond the three-mile limit, and in July 1976 proposed a lease sale in which the closest drilling leases would be located just six miles from the monument coastline. As part of the same project, drilling was also proposed near the south shore of Kamishak Bay, which was an "area of ecological concern" as outlined in the Final Environmental Statement for the proposed Katmai National Park. [88] (Two years later, the proposed AEC was added to the monument; in 1980, it became part of Katmai National Park.)

NPS officials, who responded to the draft EIS on the project in August 1976, had two major concerns related the lease sale. First, they worried about the effects of development related to oil extraction, transport, and treatment; specifically, the lease proposal called for the construction of a refinery facility at Cape Douglas. Second, officials were concerned about the effects of an oil spill on the shoreline environments of Kamishak Bay and Cape Douglas. [89]

The BLM responded to comments and issued a final EIS in December 1976. The project EIS was approved, and Secretary of the Interior Thomas Kleppe scheduled a lease sale for February 23, 1977. In the meantime, however, Kleppe was replaced by President Carter's choice for Interior Secretary, Cecil Andrus. Just a few days before the proposed lease sale date, Andrus postponed the sale until October. [90] The postponement gave both developers and protection advocates time to work. In August 1977, Secretary of Commerce Juanita Kreps asked the various federal land managers to identify potential marine sanctuaries "in areas where leasing appears imminent." Russ Dickenson, who was then directing the NPS's Pacific Northwest Regional Office, recommended a marine sanctuary for the waters adjacent to Katmai National Monument. Dickenson's suggestion was directed to officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who managed marine sanctuaries under the 1972 Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act. On October 27, 1977, the postponed lease sale finally took place. Because of Dickenson's action, however, the tracts located closest to Katmai were removed from the sale. [91]

The mid-1970s also brought a revival of interest in the monument as a site for geological explorations. The NPS issued special use permits to Exxon Corporation and Amoco Corporation in 1977 "to conduct bedrock outcropping investigations along the Shelikof Strait coastline." The following year Chevron Corporation and Mobil Corporation were issued special use permits for the same purpose. In 1980 Amoco, Marathon Oil and Chevron were issued special use permits. [92]

Despite all the bureaucratic activity created by, and in response to, the proposed lease sales, no significant onshore or offshore developments have taken place as a result. In Bristol Bay, governmental agencies and oil companies have continued to show an interest in drilling. But opposition to drilling, primarily by fishermen, has prevented large-scale development, and the population of either Naknek and King Salmon has never risen to more than one thousand persons. In Lower Cook Inlet, the lease sale proposed in 1976 did not take place. The marine sanctuary proposed in 1977 was never implemented, either. [93] Drilling has taken place, at times with great commercial success, in upper Cook Inlet. In lower Cook Inlet, however, no serious attempts have been made to implement an oil lease sale since the late 1970s.

Mining and the Alaska Lands Act

The passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, in December 1971, set in motion a series of events which, in December 1980, resulted in the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. As noted in Chapter 5, a major activity which took place during that nine year period was the preparation of a large number of plans and studies. These documents helped determine which Alaskan areas would be added to the National Park System and which regulations would govern the uses of those newly-added lands.

From the beginning, Katmai was part of the planning process. One portion of that process, as it applied to Katmai, was the identification of mineralized areas within the existing monument, a similar identification process in areas being considered for additions to the monument, and the identification of areas where high potential mineralization was likely to occur.

The minerals identification process had actually begun back in 1969, when Bailey Breedlove, a park planner working in the Alaska Field Office, assembled an inventory of mineralized areas in and around the monument. [94] Breedlove's compilation revealed that there had been no active mining in the monument since the pumice operations of the 1950s, and that there had been never been a commercial placer or lode mine within the monument's boundaries. He knew that there was no standard system by which Katmai (or other Alaska) mining claims had been recorded, so there was no way to ensure that all active claims had not been accounted for. Another NPS planner, however, found out that the last proofs of labor for a Katmai claim in one of the three nearby recording districts had been recorded in 1919. Based upon the long period in which Katmai's minerals had lain fallow, the planner felt confident in concluding that no valid mining claims existed within the monument. [95]

The draft master plan was released in November 1971. Before the master plan became final, officials commenced a monument wilderness study. The designation of wilderness for Katmai promised to have no real impact on mining, because prospecting and mineral entry had always been prohibited. Designation would, however, legislatively augment the existing preclusions under Presidential proclamations. The NPS was also quick to point out that "Should it be in the national interest, Congress could disestablish any part or all of the wilderness and the Monument and open the lands to mineral investigation and development." [96] Congress, however, had seldom if ever taken such an action before, and those who coveted Katmai's mineral resources knew that wilderness designation would effectively prevent their commercial development.

As noted in Chapter 5, the draft wilderness proposal, released in July 1972, called for over 90 percent of the monument to be included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. In response to the draft, the NPS received a barrage of criticism from development-oriented agencies and individuals. Both the USGS and the U.S. Bureau of Mines, for example, noted that no detailed geological studies had been done since the mid-1950s, that the most recent study had not been based on field exploration, and that no detailed mineral exploration had taken place during the last half century. The two agency heads were horrified with the NPS's conclusion that no mineral deposits occurred in the monument, because little was known of their extent. To make up for the lack of data, the two agency heads urged the completion of a full-scale, monument-wide mineral survey, which would use methods far more sophisticated than had been employed by the early prospectors and geologists. Only after such a survey, which would also include a determination of the value of geothermal resources, could the monument's wilderness resource be safely decided. [97]

In reply to those and similar criticism, NPS officials stubbornly noted that the 1964 Wilderness Act, under whose provisions the Katmai wilderness study was being written, did not require the agency to conduct a mineral survey. As to geothermal resources, the agency conceded that they might well be excellent, but the mandate set forth in the original (1918) proclamation which established the monument did not permit the development of such resources. The Park Service held firm. Six years later, when ANILCA was signed into law by President Carter, almost all of the acreage included in the 1974 document became designated as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. [98]

Less than a year after given an opportunity to comment on the Katmai National Monument wilderness plan, agencies and individuals were asked to give their opinions regarding a proposed 4,660,000-acre Katmai National Park. The boundaries of the park were drawn, in part, to avoid highly mineralized areas. Those who were familiar with Katmai's known mineral resources, however, were quick to recognize that the proposed park included several sites near the existing monument boundary, including the Kubugakli gold placers and the gas seeps in the Kejulik River drainage. North of the monument, the expanded park would include the various cinnabar deposits along Gorge Creek and Hammersly's gold claims along American Creek.

In addition, the proposed Katmai National Park was to include several new groups of mineral claims, all of which were north of the existing monument boundary. Mineral claims in the area could legally be established prior to August 1971, and prior to that deadline, four copper and gold claims had been located along the south shore of Kulik Lake and six others were clustered in the upper Strike Creek drainage. A site containing an unknown mineral was also located in the upper Douglas River drainage, but no claim had been made there. In one of the NPS's three proposed "areas of environmental concern," there was also a series of unpatented lode claims, known collectively as the Pfaff claim, which were located on 1800 acres of land northeast of Battle Lake. None of the four mineral areas within the proposed park were patented. [99]

In addition to the mineral claims, the proposed park addition contained 224 current oil and gas leases and one current oil and gas lease application, all located north of the existing monument. (Many other oil and gas leases had been applied for in the 1920s, 1950s, and 1960s. All had been terminated or cancelled.) The agency noted that geologists had mapped structures favorable to the production of oil within the proposal area. Based on the information in Keller and Reiser's study, however, the NPS felt that it was "unlikely that practical drilling operations in many areas will be able to reach structural and stratigraphic traps that have the potential for containing oil." [100]

When asked for their comments, in April 1974, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Mines did not like the idea of an expanded Katmai National Park any more than they liked most of the existing monument being converted to wilderness. They again noted the "high grade" deposits near Kulik Lake and Battle Lake, they noted the high geothermal properties of the area, and continued to stress the high (though unproven) mineral potential of various geological structures in the area. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, as expected, noted that the proposed park "appears to us to be a premature course of action and would not be in the best interest of the nation's citizens." The State of Alaska, Exxon, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and other organizations and individuals made similar comments. But NPS officials were unmoved by such arguments, and the Final Environmental Statement continued to nominate for park status each of the known mineral potential areas that had been proposed in the draft document. [101]

In addition to those who responded with written comments, Ernest Pfaff spoke directly to NPS officials of the need to keep a portion of the proposed northern addition open to mining. Pfaff, the Naknek prospector who also held claims northeast of Battle Lake, told NPS staff that he had been prospecting in the area, particularly in the Kulik Lake drainage, ever since 1950. He had found five or six mineral deposits in the drainage during that time, but had recorded none of them. In the fall of 1972, he located what appeared to be a paying prospect north of the upper end of Kulik Lake, but because of the land freeze, he was unable to stake a claim. [102]

Mining at Katmai Since 1978

By the time President Carter had signed the proclamation enlarging Katmai National Monument, in December 1978, the boundaries which had been proposed in 1973-74 had been enlarged in some areas and reduced in others. Each of the mineralized areas noted above were included in the newly-created portions of the monument. The practical effect of the park's creation was to prevent any new prospecting or oil exploration to take place, although the various unpatented mineral claims could legally operate in accordance with the various state, BLM, and NPS regulations.

Soon after the Katmai enlargement, NPS personnel tried to ascertain the number of mining claims in the newly-expanded area. Their search revealed a total of eight claims--four lode and four placer--in three claim groups. They included four placer claims in the Sugarloaf Association group, the Dog #5 lode claim, and three lode claims which comprised the Pfaff claim group. None of the unpatented claims had records of previous mineral production.

Two of the claim groups were declared null and void within a few years of the NPS's acquisition of the area. The Sugarloaf Association gold claims were located a few miles north of Sugarloaf Mountain, on a unnamed tributary to the Alagnak River. Richard Jensen, the claimant, filed for the claim on December 29, 1978, shortly after Carter's proclamation expanded the monument boundaries. The property, however, had been closed to mineral entry on March 15, 1972. Jensen had no legal ground upon which to stand upon, and on May 18, 1983 the BLM ruled that his claim was null and void. [103]

The second claim was equally spurious. On October 1, 1979, Scott Douglas filed for the Dog #5 lode claim, which was located near the Knife Creek Glaciers on the slopes of Mount Katmai. That area had been included within Katmai National Monument in 1918, and had been closed to mineral entry since that time. The BLM had no choice but to declare his claim null and void, which it did on May 9, 1982. [104]

After May 1983, the Pfaff claim was Katmai's only active mining claim group. Ernest Pfaff discovered the lode, located four miles east of Battle Lake camp, in 1964. The mineralized vein, which straddles the border of the park and preserve, consisted primarily of gold- and chalcopyrite-bearing quartz, and also contained malachite, pyrite, and an unidentified silver-sulphosalt mineral. An undetermined about of ore was shipped during the next several years. [105]

No production took place at the claim during the 1970s. In 1978 the claim's ownership was transferred to the National Park Service. Each year thereafter Pfaff, in accordance with regulations, submitted an Affidavit of Annual Labor to the NPS and either an Evidence of Assessment or a Notice of Intent to Hold to the BLM. These regulations did not require him to carry on an active mining operation, and during the early 1980s the mine continued to lay idle. In July 1984, Pfaff transferred his interest in the claims to Hawley Resource Properties, owned by Charles Hawley. In 1985, the new claimants announced that they "may soon propose to reopen" operations at the site. As a result, the NPS sponsored a survey of the fish species, aquatic insect populations, and water resources of the area surrounding the mine. But the new claimant made no further moves to develop its claim. In 1988, the claimant let its interest in the claim lapse, and on May 5, 1989, the Bureau of Land Management declared the claim null and void. [106]

Sporadic oil exploration activity has also taken place in recent years. As noted above, various oil exploration companies had obtained special use permits to conduct geophysical exploration during the 1960s and 1970s in order to test for economically recoverable petroleum in Cook Inlet and Shelikof Strait. That activity has continued, on an intermittent basis, to the present. In 1982, Amoco and Chevron received special use permits; the following year, Arco Alaska obtained a permit. Arco has remained an active exploration company in recent years. In 1991, they established ship-based camps in Kukak Bay and Geographic Harbor and proceeded from there to various parts of the Shelikof Strait coastline; the following year, they returned to the same two spots for further explorations. [107]

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000