Isolated Paradise:
An Administrative History of the Katmai and Aniakchak National Park Units
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Chapter 6:
Management of Katmai National Park and Preserve

The half-decade which followed the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was a relatively strong growth period at Katmai. The park's acreage, of course, was significantly larger than it had previously been. In recognition of a larger park and its elevation to national park status, Katmai's budget enjoyed a healthy growth. Like all of the new or expanded Alaskan park units, Katmai underwent an extended management planning effort. Plans were also developed for the Alagnak Wild River--administratively a part of the new park--and for the two largest development nuclei, King Salmon and Brooks Camp. The problems of Brooks Camp, by far the largest development within the park, were addressed first.

Issues Relating to Brooks Camp Growth

During the late 1970s, while Congress decided how large Katmai and the other Alaska NPS units ought to be, Katmai staff had their hands full trying to manage the acreage they had. The most contentious issue during the period dealt with the growth of Brooks Camp.

As noted in the previous chapter, NPS officials had had misgivings about the appropriateness of Brooks Camp development for years. They had never been enthusiastic about its position as the primary visitor node; suggested primary development sites had included O Creek (1950), the Lake Camp area (1952), Savonoski (1955), Valley Junction (1956), Bay of Islands (1965), Naknek Peninsula (1971), and West End/Research Bay (1973). By the early 1970s, those involved in the master planning effort were openly suggesting that Brooks Camp be eventually phased out. Even so, the agency went ahead with plans to establish a utility system and other infrastructure improvements.

Once utilities had been installed, little more was heard about moving the camp. Instead, NPS officials concentrated their efforts on razing the concessioner's original tent camp. They hoped to see the tent frames replaced by more substantial structures, and hoped to see the camp move from the mouth of the Brooks River to an area less sensitive ecologically. The tent frame camp had not been occupied by camp guests since the mid-1960s. Since that time, the primary occupants had been concessions employees.

The Service had raised concerns about the adequacy of these tent cabins as early as 1974, when the construction of a new employee camp had been urged in exchange for the adoption of a ten-year contract extension. Wien Air Alaska, the monument's concessioner, was not so eager to obtain a long term lease that it was willing to commit itself to a major construction program; therefore, that option was not exercised. [1] Four years later, Wien showed no more willingness than before to allocate funds for the project, and the project was tabled again. In the meantime, however, the floods of 1977 had shown the vulnerability of the site, and the increasing number of encounters between humans and bears in the area raised the concerns of park officials. [2]

By September 1980, the situation had grown so serious that Alaska Area Office began preparing a plan designed to tie the renewal of the concessions contract to the construction of new concessions facilities (see Map 9). In October, it issued a development concept plan (DCP), one purpose of which was "to insure that the concessioner provide for the adequate expansion of concessioner facilities and replacement of inadequate concession employee housing at Brooks Camp." The DCP specifically noted that there were pressing needs for an addition to the Brooks Lodge dining room, the replacement of the concessions housing and maintenance complex, and the replacement of the Brooks Camp store. It suggested that the concessions facilities might be relocated to an unspecified "interior woods site," a "Naknek Lake site," or a "Brooks River view site." The interior woods site, where archeological concerns were relatively low and bear traffic relatively infrequent, was the preferred alternative. [3]

Brooks River area map
Map 9. Brooks River area in March 1983. The path to Brooks Falls had just been cleared, but the concessions camp was still located at the river's mouth. Brooks River, the park's main visitor locus, flows from Brooks Lake to Naknek Lake. Source: National Park Service. (click image for an enlargement in a new window)

Wien, however, had little if any interest in making a major capital expenditure at its Katmai facilities. The airline had not erected any new buildings within the monument since it became the primary concessioner in 1968. Wien officials recognized that the construction of new facilities would cost more than $600,000. They therefore responded to the Service's housing demands with only vague replies. [4]

During the winter of 1980-81, the NPS and the concessioner fought over the need for concessioner facilities. The NPS demanded that Wien invest in them as a prerequisite for contract renewal, but the concessioner refused to consider the investment, and proclaimed more than once its intention of abandoning the concession if the NPS persisted in its demands. By June of 1981, however, Wien had capitulated. It signed a new fifteen-year contract which, among its other provisions, called for the construction of new Brooks Camp facilities. [5]

Shortly after NPS officials signed the concessions contract, the agency prepared a more detailed draft DCP, which was released to the public in January 1982. It laid out the same three alternatives that had been noted in late 1980. In addition, it offered an alternative in which the three guest cabins which faced Naknek Lake would be converted into employee housing and the Skytel would be enlarged. Again, the interior woods site (west of the NPS housing complex) was selected as the preferred alternative. [6]

The January 1982 DCP served as the primary document guiding growth at Brooks Camp over the next several years. Wien sold its interest in the Katmai concessions camps to KatmaiLand, Inc. in October 1982. The new company, renamed Katmailand in 1983, constructed the new concessions complex in 1984-85. In 1984 it expanded the Brooks Lodge dining room, and in 1985-86 it demolished the original Brooks Camp tent frames. [7]

The Park Service, during this period, was an active contributor to Brooks Camp's physical growth. In one major development, the agency was finally able to circumvent the seemingly age-old problem of crossing Brooks River. It will be recalled that boats had been the only method used to cross the river since the camp opened in 1950. Few needed to cross before the Valley Road was completed in 1962; since that time, the continuing growth of visitors to Brooks Camp had made the crossing problem worse. The floods of the 1970s further complicated the situation because it washed away the boat docks along both banks.

In the summer of 1978, NPS personnel tried to lessen the difficulties of the river crossing by installing a boat pulley system. Rollie Ostermick, a seasonal ranger, designed and installed it. The idea was sound, but the system was neither well designed nor well constructed, and did not survive the summer. Edward Stondall, the Alaska Area Office maintenance chief, had another idea. Taking Puget Sound's Hood Canal Bridge as a model, he thought that a floating, removable bridge offered a realistic solution. Stondall designed the bridge during the 1979 summer season. He had to wait in order to gain the necessary funding and approvals, but in 1981-82, he was able to construct the footbridge with funds obtained from the Park Restoration and Improvement Program. [8]

Other improvements followed. In order to allow visitors to Brooks Falls to watch the bears in relative safety, the agency built a bear viewing platform southeast of the falls in August 1982. Prior to its construction, people had watched bears from the right riverbank, and several cases had arisen of bears brushing up against the legs of the visitors. The following year crews rerouted the trail to the platform away from its former route along the riverbank. The new roundabout route followed the road from the floating bridge to a point just east of the Valley Road-Brooks Lake junction; from there a new trail headed northwest to the falls. The former (riverbank) trail remains open but its use has primarily been limited to those who fish. [9] No trails have been cut in the Brooks Camp area since 1983.

Finally, in order to accommodate new seasonal personnel, the NPS built several new Brooks Camp support buildings. In the summer of 1980, it erected three Panabode-style seasonal ranger cabins, which replaced four tent-frame residences which had been laid out in 1967. Three years later, it constructed two new tent frames. [10]

Katmai's budget during this period enjoyed healthy growth. The monument had only three permanent staff--the superintendent, chief ranger, and maintenance foreman--in addition to fourteen seasonal workers. Its 1979 budget was slightly less than $300,000. Two years later, however, the budget had risen to over $350,000, and the 1983 budget had exploded to over $680,000. By that time three new permanent staff (a district ranger, administrative technician, and resource management specialist) had been added (see Appendix B). The park also had almost 20 seasonal workers, a healthy increase over the 1979 staff level. [11] Although Katmai's area, of course, was far larger in 1983 than it had been in prior to December 1978, much of the park budget continued to be spent in and around Brooks Camp. Therefore, it should not have been surprising that the larger budgets resulted in new Brooks Camp improvements. Because Brooks Camp was where most park visitors spent time while in Katmai, Brooks Camp was also the place where the agency spent most of its construction and maintenance funds.

Park Enforcement Activities

Most of the visitation, and most of the attention of park managers, was directed to Brooks Camp and the Valley Road corridor. Beyond that small area, one of the biggest management headaches was poaching. Poaching, of course, was an old problem, and as the 1970s wore on the NPS was able to control the problem better than it had ever done before. The boundary expansion of 1978, however, included many areas which hunters and trappers had been using for years. Most of the licensed guides had areas outside the boundaries that they could use; therefore, they did not challenge the agency's authority on the issue. Others, however, needed more than mere gentle persuasion in order to prevent hunting and trapping within Katmai National Park.

David Morris, who became superintendent in the summer of 1979, knew that his ability to fly about the park was key to the enforcement effort. Prior to beginning his employment, he had learned to fly. He soon recognized that a few people still flew into Katmai each year and poached the wildlife; he also knew that two trappers had long been active along American Creek, and despite the new monument had little desire to leave. One of the trappers, John Neilsen, was persuaded to move his trap lines north to an area within Katmai National Preserve. But John T. ("Trapper Jack") Graham hung on, and the laissez faire attitude which prevailed in the area prevented Morris from quickly enforcing the poaching regulations. As a result, the problem was not resolved until 1984, when Graham finally moved to Naknek. [12]

Pressures related to hunting and poaching resulted in two unsuccessful efforts to change the existing regulations. Both efforts took place in 1983. In March, regional NPS officials moved to modify the interim (1981) regulations relating to access by proposing that selected areas within three Alaska NPS units be closed to various forms of vehicular access. Superintendent Morris, spearheading the Katmai effort, recognized that brown bears were the species most likely to be poached, and that poachers used floatplanes and motorboats to access areas with the heaviest bear concentrations. He proposed, therefore, that aircraft landings be prohibited in the summer and fall in lakes within the Margot Creek and Ukak River drainages, and that wintertime landings be stopped in Idavain, Dakavak, Hammersly and Murray lakes as well as those in the Contact and Angle Creek drainages. In addition, he proposed that the Savonoski River be closed to motorboats and that the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes be closed to all motorized access. [13]

When Morris announced the impending change in regulations, via an announcement in the April 6 Federal Register, he probably felt that such a proposal would arouse little controversy. The four public hearings, all to be held in communities west of the park, were scheduled only two weeks later. The NPS, however, encountered a burst of opposition to its plans. One and all, it seemed, began to attack the bureau for holding the hearings with such little public notice, and many urged that the hearings be delayed. Beyond that, both Native groups and sportsmen attacked the proposed closures. [14] Agency officials reacted by allowing an extended comment period; then, having weighed public comment, decided not to implement the proposed regulations, at least as they pertained to Katmai National Park. [15]

The other effort to change the hunting regulations was legislative. On January 26, 1983, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens introduced S. 49, a bill that would have eliminated the prohibition on sport hunting in eight Alaska national parks and monuments. (The bill, in effect, would have made national preserves out of the eight units.) On February 15, Rep. Don Young introduced a similar bill in the House, H.R. 1493. The bills, which would have allowed hunting throughout Katmai and Aniakchak, were hailed by sportsmen's groups and the guiding community. They were opposed by Native groups, who feared the loss of wildlife and its consequent impact on subsistence lifestyles, and by environmentalists. [16] Stevens and Young were able to obtain scores of co-sponsors for the bill, but the heads of several key Senate Committees opposed it. [17] The bill was debated for three months in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee; it finally emerged from the committee, on a bare-majority vote, in October. But it was never considered by the full Senate due to pressure from conservationists. In the House, H.R. 1493 never made it past the House Interior Committee. [18]

The King Salmon Headquarters Plan

The burgeoning budget growth that characterized Katmai during the late 1970s and early 1980s resulted in more of everything at the park: more permanent personnel, more seasonal staff, more equipment purchases, more office equipment, and the generation of more paperwork. At Brooks Camp, the construction of Panabodes and tent frames, along with the acquisition of several residences from the Fish and Wildlife Service, allowed the agency's housing stock to keep pace (though barely) with the ever-increasing Katmai staff. But at King Salmon, where the permanent staff resided the other two-thirds of the year, little construction had taken place since the original buildings had been laid out in 1964.

In late 1982, the King Salmon headquarters complex consisted of just four main buildings, all located on the western side of the road which divided the NPS parcel. The chief improvements were the administration and maintenance building, where all administrative work took place in a two-room office, and an attached duplex, which was occupied by the superintendent and chief ranger. Both of these buildings dated from 1964. The only other residences were two trailers; one, a double-wide dating from 1974, was used by the maintenance foreman; the other, a single-wide brought in during the early 1980s, housed the administrative technician. [19]

Four other structures were found on the eastern side of the property. They included a small, poorly heated administrative annex and a Butler-style storage building, both of which were obtained in 1982 after being surplussed by the Federal Aviation Administration. That same year, two tent frames were constructed for the use of seasonal employees. [20]

The existing physical plant was clearly inadequate for a park which had six permanent staff, a growing seasonal staff (who worked in King Salmon as well as within the park), and a need for work and storage space which was clearly more than the existing facilities could provide. In response, the agency wrote a Development Concept Plan for the headquarters area. The plan was approved in the fall of 1982 and issued to the public in January 1983. Its proposed alternative called for seven new two- or three-bedroom housing units for the permanent staff, four seasonal housing units, a new administration building, and a new maintenance building. The plan called for the conversion of the existing administration and maintenance building into one used exclusively for maintenance. Slated for removal were the two existing residence trailers, the Butler building, the administrative annex, and the two tent frames. The plan was clearly an ambitious undertaking; cost estimates for implementing the plan totalled $2,780,000. [21]

Despite the severe overcrowding, almost nothing was done to implement the plan. Perhaps the cost of the project, combined with the leveling off of Katmai's budget in the mid-1980s, forced officials to improvise in their search for new housing. The only action taken in the next two years was the removal, in 1983, of an increasingly unsafe single-wide trailer occupied by the administrative technician. In its place a modular duplex was constructed. [22]

Katmai Begins the Management Planning Process

In December 1978, Katmai National Monument was expanded by over 1.3 million acres. The great majority of that land had previously been managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM had had a fairly laissez faire management style over its lands; that style had been constrained since the imposition of the land freeze in the late 1960s and the ANILCA process during the 1970s.

President Carter's proclamation of December 1, 1978, which expanded three existing NPS units and created 10 new NPS-managed national monuments, brought threats of civil disobedience from Alaskans who lived near several of the new and expanded park units. Little if any anti-NPS publicity was directed toward the newly-expanded areas of Katmai National Monument, but NPS officials were quick to recognize that the new parklands were not welcomed by many Alaskans. They also knew that the agency had few enforcement personnel and that more permanent legislation was being deliberated in Congress. For all those reasons, they took a deliberately cautious approach in managing their new lands. In June 1979, the Interior Department issued proposed regulations for the new and expanded national monuments; these regulations permitted traditional subsistence activities (but not sport hunting), the use of aircraft, and the carrying of firearms. [23]

The Alaska Lands Act, signed by President Carter in December 1980, provided specific management direction for each of the new and expanded NPS units. In regards to Katmai, ANILCA noted that "The monument addition and preserve shall be managed for the following purposes, among others: To protect habitats for, and populations of, fish and wildlife including, but not limited to, high concentrations of brown/grizzly bears and their denning areas; to maintain unimpaired the water habitat for significant salmon populations; and to protect scenic, geological, cultural, and recreational features." [24]

Accompanying the Act was a lengthy Implementation Directive from Secretary Andrus. This report, which attempted to translate the goals of the act into specific steps required for its implementation, called for the creation of a broad range of regulations, the preparation of a series of general management plans, and a wide array of other documents. The Act, however, had little enforcement power until interim management regulations could be issued. Proposed regulations for the public use of the new park areas, based largely on those originally promulgated in 1979, were issued on January 19, 1981 (the day before Jimmy Carter was replaced by Ronald Reagan). After the public was given its opportunity to comment, final interim regulations were issued in mid-June. Those regulations, once implemented, became a new section of the government's Code of Federal Regulations. Although several new rules dealt specifically with individual Alaska park units, none dealt specifically with Katmai. [25]

Meanwhile, work began on the creation of general management plans for the various Alaska park units. Several of Alaska's NPS units were provided funding for the commencement of their management plans in Fiscal Year 1982; funding for Katmai that year, however, was limited to that which had been provided for the Brooks Camp and King Salmon development concept plans. [26]

Alagnak River Planning Efforts

Brooks Camp and the King Salmon headquarters complex were the first two areas which received attention by planners after the passage of the Alaska Lands Act. Soon afterwards planners decided to focus their efforts on Alagnak River system. Work on the Alagnak began as part of the general management plan process. In July 1983 an alternatives workbook, which listed management options for the river, was distributed to the public. The public was given time to comment on those options. Planners, however, were required to complete a management plan by the end of 1983. Therefore, they selected the public comments which pertained to the river, and prepared a management plan. The Alagnak River management plan was issued in November 1983.

The Alagnak River, and its tributaries the Nonvianuk and Kukaklek rivers, had been popular with fishermen since the 1960s. During the following decade, float trip enthusiasts discovered the area. Because of its popularity, the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation nominated both the main river and its tributaries as so-called wild rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system. [27]

Several of the Katmai expansion proposals--the administrative proposals of the early 1970s as well as legislative proposals during the late 1970s--called for the addition of large blocks of land both north and south of the middle and upper stretches of the Alagnak River system. The bill which was finally signed by President Carter, however, protected relatively little of the drainage system within Katmai National Preserve. Included in the newly-created preserve was the upper seven miles of the Kukaklek River and all 11 miles of the Nonvianuk River. For the remainder of the Kukaklek River and for the uppermost ten miles of the Alagnak River, only the southern bank was protected within the preserve.

In order to provide greater protection to the Alagnak, Congress, as part of ANILCA, designated all but the lower 18 miles as a wild river. [28] Theoretically, the newly designated wild river was 67 miles long, because it included both tributaries as well as the Alagnak's main stem. In practical terms, however, the creation of the wild river protected only 47.9 miles of the Alagnak: 19.5 miles of river that had already been protected along its south bank, and an additional 28.4 river miles that had been left unprotected on both banks. [29]

Although the Alaska Lands Act incorporated the Alagnak system into the Wild and Scenic River system, the only boundaries Congress provided were upper and lower river boundaries. In order to provide lateral boundaries for the river corridor and to establish management goals, Congress required that the agency produce a river management plan within three years after ANILCA's passage. This deadline meshed well with another ANILCA mandate, that the agency prepare a Katmai general management plan. When planners began preparing the GMP in the summer of 1982, they included the Alagnak River corridor as part of their efforts. That August, the planning team spent a day out on the river and got a first-hand look at its management problems. [30]

By the summer of 1983, planners had decided (again, as part of the Katmai GMP process) upon proposed boundaries for the Alagnak Wild River. In July and August, planners held a series of public hearings on the Katmai GMP and the proposed Alagnak river corridor. By early fall, general management planning had advanced so far that little extra effort was required to complete a management plan for the wild river corridor. The NPS, therefore, separated the public's comments which pertained to the river from those which dealt with the park and preserve. Based on the public comments and agency mandates, the NPS issued the Alagnak Wild River Management Plan that November. [31]

The management plan called for the creation of an NPS strip that was to parallel the river. Provisions in ANILCA had mandated that the agency could acquire an average of one square mile of land for each linear mile along the river. The need to protect natural and visual values, however, gave planners considerable leeway in where lateral boundaries were placed, the result being that those boundaries extended anywhere from one-quarter mile up to two miles away from the river. A total of slightly over 24,000 acres was reserved. [32]

The NPS noted that the river's primary values were fishing, boating, wildlife, and wilderness, and the agency's management plan reflected the importance of those priorities. It proposed no new administrative or visitor facilities, and anticipated making "no actions ... that would change the regenerative capability of natural systems." It hoped to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) "to more precisely define the status of resident fishes within the Alagnak River drainage," and also proposed an archeological survey along the river. No urgency, however, was suggested for either study. [33]

Creation of a General Management Plan

As noted in the previous section, work on a Katmai General Management Plan began in the summer of 1982. That July a planning team from the Denver Service Center, together with staff from the regional office and the park, conducted a field study. An Assessment of Alternatives was prepared and presented to Regional Director John Cook on October 14. Three students from the University of California at Santa Cruz spent several weeks working with the planning team to analyze planning and management problems. [34]

Work continued on the General Management Plan in the summer of 1983. An Alternative Workbook containing four alternatives was prepared and distributed, and a series of public meetings was held in order to solicit comment on the alternatives presented. These meetings were held in King Salmon on July 27, Naknek on July 28, and Anchorage on August 11.

The alternatives presented to the public as a result of the planning efforts that had taken place in 1982 and early 1983 offered strongly divergent directions on how Katmai might be managed in the future. One alternative suggested that existing management should be continued. A second alternative envisioned keeping Brooks Camp's concessioner and camping facilities at their current levels. The NPS Brooks Camp facilities, however, would move to Brooks Lake. Additional campgrounds would be established at Brooks Lake, along the Valley Road, at the Bay of Islands, and in conjunction with the concessioner facilities at Grosvenor Camp, Kulik Camp and Battle Camp. The concessioner would be encouraged to establish a boat service from Brooks Camp to the Bay of Islands area and from Kodiak to development sites along Shelikof Strait.

The workbook's last two alternatives called for more substantial modifications to the existing development pattern. One alternative, which hoped to eliminate the Brooks Camp bear problem, called for the relocation of the camp to "the spruce forest between Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake." It also called for the eventual elimination of sportfishing on the Brooks River. In order to make Katmai more appealing to the budget traveler, the alternative proposed the construction of lower cost hostel-type accommodation and campground shelters. To provide greater park access to local residents, the alternative urged the reopening of fishing areas closed by the 1969 monument expansion, the reopening of hunting and trapping areas closed by the Alaska Lands Act, and the movement, five miles to the east, of the park's westernmost boundary.

The final alternative offered an even more Draconian scenario. It called for the elimination of Brooks Camp, and urged its replacement by a concession-owned and -operated cruise boat operation. Such a service would originate at Lake Camp, and its primary route would be east across Naknek Lake to Research Bay. Visitors, thirty to forty at a time, would stop along the way at Brooks River in order to observe wildlife; they would then go on to Research Bay, where they would remain overnight before continuing by road to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Lake Camp would be connected to King Salmon by shuttle bus service. The Grosvenor Camp concession operation would be eliminated, and aircraft would be prohibited from both Coville and Grosvenor lakes. Access to both lakes would be limited to canoes who had reached the area via the Bay of Islands portage. [35]

A draft plan, which would include General Management Plan, Wilderness Suitability Review, and Land Protection Plan, was expected to be released to the public in the late spring of 1984. Work, however, was delayed. The NPS did not choose its preferred alternative until sometime in 1984, and by the close of that year the GMP was still in the publication preparation phase. [36] The draft plan was finally distributed in March 1985.

The draft General Management Plan provided three scenarios for future park development. Alternative A, similar to the workbook's first alternative, called for a continuation of existing conditions. Alternative B, which combined elements from the second and third alternatives as described in the workbook, called for diversified opportunities in the park and preserve. Alternative C, similar to the workbook's fourth alternative, described a wilderness adventure cruise. NPS planners called for the adoption of Alternative B as the proposed plan.

Under Alternative B, Brooks Camp development was to be kept at the present level for the time being. Eventually, however, all NPS and concessioner facilities would be relocated on a phased schedule to an unspecified area of spruce forest south of Brooks Falls. Boat service on Naknek Lake, provided by private enterprise, would be encouraged. Grosvenor Camp would be enlarged, and an NPS camping area would be established nearby. The camp would be used as a staging area for scenic boat trips and fishing excursions up Lake Coville. Primitive camping areas would also be established at Bay of Islands, the western end of Nonvianuk Lake, and along the Valley Road at the Yori Pass access point. Activities compatible with wilderness designation--canoeing, float trips, hiking, wildlife observation, and sportfishing--would be encouraged throughout the park. Few changes were anticipated in the management of the Alagnak River corridor. [37]

The draft Land Protection Plan, which was issued as an attachment to the draft GMP, identified the various nonfederal lands within the park and preserve, and assigned priorities for acquiring interests in each of these tracts. Based on its value to the park, agency officials designated each nonfederal parcel into one of nine priority levels. The most valuable parcels--those assigned to Priority 1--belonged to four owners or applicants. The State of Alaska owned approximately 75,300 acres of state lands near McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and along the southern shore of Kamishak Bay. A 120-acre Native allotment, originally submitted by Palakia Melgenak (see next section), included much of the Brooks Camp area. Three mining claims, staked out by Ernest Pfaff (and later transferred to Hawley Resource Properties), were located northeast of Battle Lake. And the Russian Orthodox Church owned three small parcels along the Shelikof Strait coastline. The five parcels in Priority 2 belonged to concessioners, the two parcels in Priority 3 belonged to Native corporations, and the forty parcels in Priority 4 were Native allotments. [38]

Public meetings, intended to solicit comments on the draft plan, were held in King Salmon, South Naknek, Naknek, Levelock, Igiugig, and Kakhonak on April 29, April 30, and May 1, 1985. A meeting was also held in Anchorage. The public comment period, which was extended twice, remained open for a total of 135 days. [39] Planners incorporated those comments and issued a revised draft plan, which was released for public review in December 1985. After another 60-day comment period, the final GMP was prepared. David Morris, Katmai's superintendent, recommended the document for approval in June 1986. NPS Director William Penn Mott, however, did not approve it until October. Mott's superior, Assistant Interior Secretary William P. Horn, finalized the document when he signed it on November 7, 1986. [40]

The final GMP differed in several ways from the March 1985 draft. Perhaps the most substantial change was in regards to a development plan for Brooks Camp, which was slightly more tentative than the draft had been. The final plan did not call for the eventual relocation of Brooks Camp; instead, it noted that "long-range plans may require either its relocation or additional restrictions on sportfishing along Brooks River, or both actions may be necessary. Ongoing studies documenting bear/human interactions in the Brooks Camp area will help guide future decisions." It called for the preparation of a second Brooks Camp Development Concept Plan to address such matters as an overflow camping area, a new visitor center, and an elevated boardwalk which would both parallel and cross over Brooks River. [41]

Native Land Claims Become a Major Issue

Natives had lived on the upper Alaska Peninsula for thousands of years, and both before and after the establishment of Katmai National Monument, Natives had used many areas in and around the park. Prior to the 1970s, however, there had been few instances of land-use conflict between Natives and the NPS.

As previous chapters have shown, Natives living in Naknek and the surrounding areas were keenly aware that each of Katmai's acreage expansions had diminished the territory they had formerly used for hunting, trapping, fishing, and berry picking. Several Natives claimed land in the expanded park and preserve. That land, however, was subject to a lengthy granting process, and as late as 1977, only about 130 acres of private land existed within Katmai National Monument--less than 0.01% of Katmai's total land area. Of the seven private parcels, five were owned by institutions (the Russian Orthodox Church, the State of Alaska, and the U.S. Air Force) while the other two parcels were owned by non-Native individuals. Natives, either individually or collectively, owned no land within Katmai National monument.

Events related to the December 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act had a major effect on Native land ownership throughout the state, and Natives in the area surrounding Katmai National Monument took advantage of the revised regulations which made it easier for them to obtain land. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) was aware of the impending appeal of the Native Allotment Act of 1906; it therefore undertook a drive to obtain applications. In 1970 and 1971, organizations such as VISTA and Rural Alaska Community Action Program (RuralCAP) fanned out into rural communities to explain the new regulations, and as a result some 9,000 Native Allotment applications were received. [42] As part of that movement, upwards of 25 Natives applied for Native allotments within the boundaries of present-day Katmai National Park and Preserve. In addition, both village corporations and regional corporations applied for land. By the time President Carter expanded Katmai National Monument in December 1978, Natives had claimed almost 50,000 acres within the newly-declared unit; more than 90% of that acreage had been claimed by Native corporations. Most of the acreage claimed was located at the northern or western end of the newly-expanded monument. [43]

The process by which Natives (both individuals and corporations) acquired their lands was largely in the hands of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management. Before 1978, planners were the only NPS personnel familiar with the acreage that was being considered for Native allotments adjacent to the existing monument boundaries. After 1978, NPS managers treated most of the territory allotted to Natives as private lands; that included lands going through the application process as well as those for which a Certificate of Allotment had been issued.

Most of the lands included within the various Native allotments posed few problems for NPS managers. Few applicants and certificate holders lived on their parcels, and many parcels had no improvements on them. Furthermore, few allotments were located in areas where the NPS had existing or planned developments. Only two potential allotments had potential conflicts for agency officials: the Palakia Melgenak claim, which encompassed Brooks Camp, and the Pomela Peters claim, in the Lake Camp area.

The Melgenak Claim at Brooks Camp

Palakia Melgenak was a full-blooded Aleut who was born in Old Savonoski on July 21, 1877. As noted in Chapter 2, she had fled the Katmai explosion in June 1912, and she had been married to American Pete, another witness to the eruption. On March 31, 1971, the 93-year-old woman applied for a parcel under the terms of the Native Allotment Act of May 17, 1906. The parcel, which covered approximately 120 acres, included the Brooks Camp area, land on both sides of Brooks River, the river itself, and almost one-half mile of Naknek Lake shoreline. Less than a year later, on February 19, 1972, Ms. Melgenak died; Trefon Angasan, Sr. and Ralph Angasan have served as applicants since then. [44]

It took the BLM more than a decade to fully process Ms. Melgenak's claim. During most of that period, the prospects of her heirs obtaining a claim did not appear favorable. In March 1973, the NPS provided the BLM with a brief history of its Brooks Camp operations during the 1950s and 1960s; it also provided them with transcripts of tape recordings (made in 1961) of survivors of the Mount Katmai eruption. Based on that information, the BLM told the NPS that the allotment was in the process of being rejected. The Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ALSC), who represented the applicant, then obtained sworn statements from several local citizens who supported Ms. Melgenak's residence at Brooks River. [45]

The BLM surveyed the 120-acre allotment in July 1975. That November, field examiner Don Whyde reported that, in his opinion, Ms. Melgenak had not satisfied the use and occupancy requirements of the Native Allotment Act. Based on that report and the other collected evidence, the BLM State Office sent much the same message to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in January 1977. In April the Director of the BLM, Frank Gregg, echoed the same message. Ms. Melgenak's claim appeared to be on the verge of rejection. ALSC, however, filed an extensive letter making both legal and factual arguments on behalf of the claimant. [46]

All parties anticipated that a hearing might follow the BLM decision. But no hearing took place, and the BLM largely ignored the parcel for the next five years. Finally, on March 7, 1983, the BLM unexpectedly reversed its 1977 position. It announced that Ms. Melgenak's application had been adjudicated, and that her claim had met the use and occupancy requirements of the 1906 act. [47]

National Park Service officials were stunned by the decision. Based on the 1977 decision, they had been led to believe that the Melgenak claim would not be an impediment to their hegemony over Brooks Camp. Little evidence had been presented to the BLM since the 1977 decision; the NPS, therefore, found it highly illogical that the BLM would have changed its mind. [48]

The NPS, not surprisingly, appealed the BLM's decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). Trefon Angasan and the BLM opposed the appeal. [49] In the meantime, the Bureau of Indian Affairs tried to assert its management authority over Brooks Camp. It told David Morris, Katmai's superintendent, that "these lands have been occupied without consent or approval" of the BIA, and requested that "all monies received by NPS for the use of the land after March 7, 1983 be placed in an escrow account pending final determination of ownership." Confusion over Brooks Camp's legal status prevented the NPS or the concessioner from undertaking any improvements for the time being, and Katmailand as a result had to delay the construction of its employee housing complex for the time being. The decision did not, however, affect the agency's ability to carry on normal managerial activities. [50]

The Interior Department submitted a Statement of Reasons shortly after they filed their appeal, and gave six arguments as to why the allotment should not be granted. Most of those arguments contained information not included in the case file. In December 1983, the IBLA recognized the overall worth of the appeal and concluded that the March decision should be "set aside and remanded for further action consistent with this opinion." Hearings were needed to answer three questions: 1) whether Ms. Melgenak's allotment application was submitted to BIA before December 18, 1971, 2) whether there was sufficient evidence of her use and occupancy of the parcel to justify approval of the application, and 3) whether her entry extended more than 160 rods along the shore of Brooks River. The NPS and the concessioner were given the go-ahead to undertake camp construction projects. [51]

Three months after the IBLA rendered its decision, on February 10, 1984, the BLM issued a contest complaint. It advised ALSC that Ms. Melgenak had not shown sufficient use and occupancy of the lands she claimed. Her heirs, who by now were Trefon and Ralph Angasan, were invited to request a hearing date in order to tell a judge how and when Ms. Melgenak used the parcel for which she had applied. [52] Both sides prepared for the upcoming hearings.

The last of the three questions posed in December 1983 demanded technical evidence and legal precedents that were unlike those needed to answer the other two. In August 1984, therefore, the navigability issue was postponed until the validity of the allotment application could be adjudicated. A month later, ten days of contest hearings were held in order to gather evidence on the first two questions. Hearings were held in Anchorage, at Naknek, and at Brooks Camp. The Angasans organized witnesses to speak on behalf of the applicant; Bill Tanner, who was employed in NPS's Alaska Regional Office, organized the opposing testimony. [53]

The IBLA Hearings Division ingested the voluminous results of those hearings, and on September 12, 1985 issued a decision. Regarding the timeliness with which the application was submitted, Administrative Law Judge E. Kendall Clarke noted that "The record contains sufficient evidence to permit the court to conclude that Melgenak's application was filed with an agency of the Department [of the Interior] prior to December 18, 1971." The application was therefore valid on that point. Regarding the applicant's use and occupancy, testimony by Don Dumond (an archeologist who had conducted extensive work at Brooks Camp) and local long-time residents indicated that the applicant and her husband were living in a cabin south of Brooks River in the 1920s, probably before 1924.

Based on that evidence, Clarke reported that "the court finds contestee to have met the requirement of use and occupancy prior to 1931." The 1931 inclusion of the Brooks Camp area into Katmai National Monument, therefore, had no effect on the validity of Ms. Melgenak's application. But the court did not grant Angasan the entire allotment. It was "thoroughly convinced that contestee made extensive use of the south side [of Brooks River], there is very little evidence of substantially continuous use and occupancy on the north shore." The court, therefore, rejected the applicant's claims to land north of Brooks River. It also rejected claims for the river itself. [54]

Splitting the allotment in two was not what either party had in mind. In a way, the division made sense, because most of the NPS and concessioner improvements were on the north side of the river and the applicant's improvements were on the south side. Neither side, however, was willing to settle for half a loaf. Accordingly, both the NPS and ALSC appealed the IBLA's decision. [55]

After the appeals had been submitted, both sides realized that jurisdiction of the case was far from over. In order to resolve the dispute, the Interior Solicitor's Office and the Alaska Legal Services Corporation tried to arrange an out-of-court settlement. [56] The Interior Department was willing to certificate a 10-acre allotment, south of the Brooks River, in the area surrounding the two existing cabin ruins; it included a 100-foot frontage along the south bank of Brooks River. Several restrictions, however, would be placed on the allotment. The certificate holder, for instance, was not allowed to sell his property to anyone other than his heirs without NPS's permission; he could not erect more than four structures on the property; he could not operate a commercial business; no motor vehicles were allowed; and he could not otherwise deviate from the regulations established for lands elsewhere in the monument. ASLC, in its response, thought that the offer was "totally unacceptable," because Angasan was "unwilling to accept most of the restrictions that the NPS seeks to impose on his title and lifestyle." The ASLC did not reject the offer out of hand, but offered a counter proposal which modified most of the stipulations proposed by the Interior Department. (It insisted, for instance, on the entire allotment south of Brooks River, and the construction of up to eighteen structures on the property.) NPS made no response to the counterproposal, and by June the attempt to short-circuit the legal process died. [57]

Both sides, therefore, geared up for another battle. On June 19, the Interior Department Solicitor's Office gave the IBLA its Statement of Reasons for Appeal, regarding why it should be awarded lands south of Brooks River; one day later, Alaska Legal Services provided arguments on why the applicant deserved title to the lands north of the river. Once those arguments had been presented, both sides awaited a second IBLA decision, which was expected to come sometime in mid-1988. [58]

The NPS felt that the best way to argue against the applicant's claims of early use and occupancy was to show that the cabin which Ms. Melgenak had lived in was built after Brooks Camp had been absorbed into Katmai National Monument. Testimony in the 1984 hearings had suggested that the cabin (which by now was in ruins) had been built sometime after 1912, or perhaps during the 1920s. If the NPS could prove that the cabin had been constructed after April 1931 (the date when Katmai's boundaries were expanded), the applicant could prove no physically-verifiable evidence of her use and occupancy of that parcel. In order to investigate the cabin's age, the NPS brought Gary Ahlstrand, a research ecologist in the agency's regional office and a tree-ring expert, out to the site in October 1984 and had him take core samples of various cabin logs. The following September, Ahlstrand issued a report which concluded that the cabin was constructed "sometime after mid-August 1931." Ms. Melgenak could, of course, have been a seasonal resident for years beforehand; the cabin, however, was apparently built on land which had already been designated as part of a national monument. Ahlstrand's report had been completed by the time the NPS appealed the September 1985 IBLA decision. It was therefore included with the agency's Statement of Reasons which it submitted in October 1986 with a request that a new hearing be held to verify its validity. [59]

ALSC, the attorneys for the applicant, objected to a reopening of the hearing. In a May 1988 decision, however, the IBLA felt it was "apparent that [Ahlstrand's report] and testimony concerning its contents would be important to proper consideration of the issues raised in this appeal." It therefore approved a supplemental hearing, to which ALSC reluctantly consented. [60]

The NPS recognized that the proof offered of the cabin's date had little effect on the overall outcome of the case. For that reason, agency lawyers initially hoped that more extensive testing would not be required. [61] Later, however, they recognized that "additional tree-dating analysis may be necessary to supplement [Ahlstrand's] original report." The recognition that another ruined cabin had been located near the first brought Ahlstrand out to take more core samples. By mid-August, Ahlstrand had written up a revised report on the Brooks Camp cabin ruins; his research showed that the second cabin was built "no earlier than the summer of 1936," which was five years after Brooks Camp had fallen under NPS jurisdiction. [62]

Both sides in the dispute spent the next twelve months finding tree-ring experts and evaluating Ahlstrand's research. By late November, the applicant had chosen Dave Horton, an Area Forester for the BIA, to analyze the collected data. Horton viewed that data at the NPS regional office on January 25, 1989. [63] Horton was later replaced by Dr. Donald L. Marx, a University of Alaska Anchorage professor of business administration and a statistical expert. The NPS initially chose Dr. Charles Stockton, a dendrochronologist and Director of the University of Arizona Tree Ring Laboratory; he was later replaced by Dr. David M. Meko, Stockton's assistant. [64]

Little took place in the case for the next few months. In early July, an administrative law judge set the supplemental hearing for August 30 in Anchorage. [65] Three NPS witnesses--William Tanner, Gary Ahlstrand, and David Meko--gave evidence and testimony about the two ruined cabins. The applicant put forth no witnesses and entered one exhibit into evidence. The NPS concluded, as a result, that the construction date of the two cabins were August 1931 and the summer of 1936. ALSC did not dispute that testimony, but felt "this conclusion in no way refutes the conclusion of Administrative Judge Clarke [in the September 1985 decision] that Palakia was making use of her land long before the 1931 withdrawal." In January 1990, Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer affirmed the construction dates of the two cabins. [66]

Key to the hearing testimony was whether evidence on the second cabin should be weighed by the court. As early as October 1988, Melgenak's heirs objected to "any consideration regarding the construction date of this second cabin," and argued that it was beyond the scope of the proceedings to determine that date. But it was not until the eve of the hearing--August 22, 1989--that ALSC filed a motion to limit the scope of the proceedings to Ahlstrand's first (1985) report. [67] The Hearings Division staff could not rule on the motion before the August 30 hearing. Three months later, NPS attorneys issued its opposition to ALSC's motion. Perhaps in response, ALSC withdrew its original (August 22) motion. The cabin's construction date was not only irrefutable but irrelevant; ALSC therefore dismissed this portion of the case. [68]

Once the administrative law judge had issued his findings of fact in January 1990, all steps necessary for a final IBLA allotment decision had been completed. Administrative Judge Will A. Irwin then considered the case, and on September 24, 1993, he issued his decision. In a clear victory for the National Park Service, Irwin noted that "We reverse Judge Clarke's decision to the extent he approved Melgenak's Native allotment application for the lands south of Brooks River." However, "we affirm Judge Clarke's decision to the extent he rejected Melgenak's application for lands north of Brooks River." Irwin, in sum, rejected all claims that the heirs of Palakia Melgenak had made; C. Randall Grant, Jr., another administrative judge, concurred in Irwin's decision. The NPS, as of this writing, is therefore the uncontested owner of all land in the Brooks Camp area. [69]

It is unknown, at this point, if the claimants will try to appeal the IBLA decision. They are legally entitled to wait as long as six years before appealing the decision to the U.S. District Court. No appeals, however, have yet been filed. A lawsuit, if filed, could well delay final resolution of land status for several years. The NPS, as a result, will be wary of initiating building projects until the litigation is settled.

The Peters Claim at Lake Camp

The Pomela Peters claim proved to be just as troublesome as the Melgenak claim. On November 13, 1970, the mixed-blood Eskimo from Naknek applied for a 160-acre parcel under the Native Allotment Act of May 17, 1906. The parcel was located on the right bank of the Naknek River and less than a mile south of Naknek Recreation Site #2 (the Air Force's former Lake Camp facility). The eastern end of the parcel was located within the boundaries of Katmai National Monument; the remainder was located on BLM land. On her application, Peters claimed to have begun using the land in September 1937. Since that time, she declared that she had spent all but the winter months there engaged in fishing, hunting, and berry picking. [70]

It took the Bureau of Management more than a decade to process Ms. Peters' application. Because of the large number of applications submitted, the process of adjudication and field examination would have taken several years had no complications arisen. Ms. Peters, however, had no previous legal ties and few physical ties to her parcel, and others, with some justification, claimed a portion of the allotment. A 1975 field examination complicated matters. Because the information on Ms. Peters' application was at variance with what the BLM field examiner saw at the parcel, the examiner recommended that her application be rejected. No rejection took place, although processing the application was repeatedly delayed. [71] On March 1, 1984, however, the BLM determined that the applicant had satisfied the use and occupancy requirements of the 1906 act, and the allotment--now reduced in size to 155 acres--was held for approval by the BLM. All signs pointed toward Ms. Peters' parcel being granted. By then, however, the entire parcel had become absorbed within Katmai National Park, and it had also been determined that the parcel contained an unimproved dirt road and a boat launch, the two of which formed the easiest public access point to Naknek Lake. For each of these reasons, it was necessary that the application be adjudicated rather than legislatively approved. [72]

The NPS showed little if any interest in the parcel during the 1970s and early 1980s. One reason for its lack of interest may have been because park staff did not feel that the parcel conflicted with any agency developments. When Ms. Peters first claimed her parcel, she thought that it was located south of the Lake Camp parking lot and dock. It was not until the late 1970s that the BLM realized that her allotment included those improvements. When the BLM issued its decision in March 1984, it provided for a 60-day protest period, and it sent a copy of its decision to the NPS's Alaska Regional Office. Significantly, however, the Service did not protest the BLM's action. [73]

One of the few remaining requirements Ms. Peters needed before gaining title to her land was the execution of a survey. The elderly lady hoped to live long enough to receive her allotment, but she recognized that a government survey might be years in the future. In December 1986, therefore, she speeded up the process by hiring a private engineering firm to survey the eastern end of the parcel. (The remainder had been surveyed in 1964.) [74]

Although park officials had investigated the legal status of the King Salmon-Lake Camp road and the Air Force recreation camp back in 1981, [75] they showed no particular interest in the Peters parcel until November 1988. The maintenance staff hoped to construct day use facilities at Lake Camp and improve the parking lot, but could not proceed until land title was cleared up. [76]

The agency then initiated a series of letters which had as its goal the continued public use of the Lake Camp area. The NPS had no desire to contest Ms. Peters' allotment, but it did hope to continue its jurisdiction over its access route to Lake Camp. On April 6, 1990, therefore, it requested that "the public dock, associated facilities, and access road" be excluded from the allotment. The NPS felt justified in doing so because it contended that the Peters parcel contained 340 rods of navigable shore space along Naknek River, but the 1906 act limited shore space to 160 rods. It also argued that the access road and dock predated the 1937 use and occupancy date claimed by Ms. Peters; as a result, it felt that even if the parcel did not violate the shore space limitation, the agency had the right to include a reservation for Lake Camp's public facilities. [77]

The BLM tried to be accommodating to the Service's request. It admitted that the allotment's shore space might have exceeded that allowed in the 1906 act, and agreed to review the shore space issue. Regarding the road and dock, the BLM invited the Service to submit historical information on "public use prior to and during the allottee's claimed use and occupancy." The BLM decided to cooperate even though the Service had lost its opportunity to protest. The Service had lost its protest rights because it had failed to respond within thirty days of the March 1984 approval decision. [78]

On May 23, Garey Coatney of the NPS responded to BLM's request for historical data by noting (inaccurately, as it turned out) that "the roads in question were built during and immediately following World War II and have been used continuously ever since." [79] He also noted that "Prior to the construction of the roads the area was occupied and used by many persons other than the applicant and access to the river bank for landing purposes was essential to this use." He provided supporting documentation--most of which was already in the allotment file--to back up his contentions and to suggest that the applicant both recognized the public use of the dock area and had attempted to exclude the dock area when she had applied for the parcel. [80]

After the NPS provided its documentation, the BLM took more than a year to complete the adjudication of Peters' allotment application. On September 25, 1991, the BLM decided that the parcel's shore space was only about 119 rods, which was well within the 160-rod limitation. [81]

The BLM, satisfied that Ms. Peters had fulfilled the requirements of the 1906 act, granted Certificate of Allotment No. 50-92-0420, for a 134.34-acre parcel, on July 9, 1992. The certificate was issued to "the heirs, devisees, and/or assigns of Pomela D. Peters;" Ms. Peters had died on February 19, 1991. [82]

Recognizing that the Lake Camp parcel was going to be transferred into private hands, the NPS began, in December 1991, to negotiate with Ms. Peters' heirs for the right to purchase the Lake Camp property. [83] Ms. Peters' heirs, at one point, expressed a willingness to allow public access to Lake Camp. By the spring of 1993, however, they had erected "No Trespassing" signs along the road, and for a few weeks the road was barricaded. NPS officials were advised that the new property owners were strongly divided over the issue of selling either an easement or a portion of the property to the federal government. They responded, therefore, by giving serious consideration to the use of Naknek Recreation Site #2 as a alternate access point to Naknek Lake.

Backcountry Ranger Activities

Between 1980 and 1984, Katmai's budget more than doubled, from about $325,000 to almost $700,000. One result of the increased budget was that the park, for the first time, was able to station seasonal staff in locations away from Brooks Camp. Staff were usually placed at sites where visitor concentrations demanded the enforcement of park regulations. Their numbers, however, were highly sensitive to the budgetary process, and when park budgets levelled off in the mid-1980s fewer backcountry rangers were able to be deployed. [84]

The first Katmai backcountry rangers were used to protect the monument's wildlife during the spring and fall hunting seasons. Rangers were assigned beginning in 1972, perhaps earlier. These "stakeout teams" were dropped off in various remote sites for several weeks each year. The teams continued to be assigned until 1983 and were used again in 1985. [85] Other early "backcountry" rangers were those assigned to Lake Camp. Until 1984, Lake Camp rangers were given other duties, either at Brooks Camp or King Salmon. They were assigned beginning in the late 1970s and continued through 1985.

The first summertime backcountry rangers were deployed in 1978, the last summer before the monument was expanded. Rather than assigning two individuals to backcountry duty for the entire season, the superintendent arranged for each of the interpreters, Brooks Camp rangers, and the Lake Camp ranger to take week-long sojourns into the backcountry. The most commonly patrolled area was the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. [86]

The revolving system of backcountry ranger deployment continued until 1982, when two new ranger positions were established to operate a new camp at the outlet to Nonvianuk Lake. Dennis and Penny Knuckles, who filled those positions, were kept busy advising those intending to float the Nonvianuk River. [87] Rangers continued to staff the Nonvianuk Lake camp until 1988. In 1983, the first rangers were deployed to Big River during its short but furious silver salmon run. They remained there each year until 1988, but never stayed for more than a few weeks. A similar ranger presence was established along the Kamishak River. In 1984, additional rangers were assigned to patrol the far-flung coastal areas of the park. A two-person team was assigned to the Aniakchak coastline in June; in July and August, they conducted week long patrols of all the rivers and bays between Kashvik and Swikshak, utilizing base camps at Amalik, Kukak, and Swikshak Lagoon. Coastal patrols continued through the 1988 season. [88]

In 1985, the Nonvianuk Lake, Big River, and coastal rangers were complemented by the assignment of a ranger to the Grosvenor Camp area. The ranger, Lyndi Denlinger, was asked to evaluate the nature and severity of conflicts developing along American Creek. The abandoned National Marine Fisheries Service cabin was used as a base camp that summer. The following year rangers continued to monitor American Creek activities, but the campsite was moved west to a site two miles up American Creek from Lake Coville. [89]

The late 1980s and early 1990s witnessed the continued placement of personnel in strategic backcountry locations. Nonvianuk Camp has been staffed each year since 1988, rangers were stationed at American Creek from 1988 through 1990, and park personnel were stationed at Fure's Cabin in 1989. A ranger crew resided along Big River and Kamishak River in 1988, and a team was dispatched to the Takli Island-Geographic Harbor area for a short time during the summer of 1989. The March 1989 grounding of the T/V Exxon Valdez resulted in the deployment of additional rangers to accompany the various oil-spill cleanup crews. Personnel were stationed at Fure's Cabin in 1990 and 1991; during the summer of 1991, rangers were also sited near Swikshak Bay and Amalik Bay. [90]

The Katmai Wilderness Plan

The Alaska Lands Act, passed in December 1980, established a 3,473,000-acre wilderness area within the renamed and newly-expanded Katmai National Park. Of the land which had been in the former monument, the bill adopted almost everything that had been recommended by President Nixon in his June 1974 wilderness message. (Of the administrative recommendations of 2,603,547 acres, everything had been accepted with the exception of the 2,000-acre plot which lay between the Valley Road and Naknek Lake.) In addition, Congress added to the wilderness system another 650,000 acres of land which had not been managed by the National Park Service prior to 1978. Altogether, more than 90 percent of Katmai National Park was designated as wilderness. Also, over 60,000 acres of Katmai National Preserve--about one-seventh of the total preserve acreage--became part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

In addition to the lands designated by ANILCA as so-called "instant wilderness," Congress mandated that

Within five years from the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary [of the Interior] ... shall review, as to their suitability or nonsuitability for preservation as wilderness, all lands within units of the National Park System ... not designated as wilderness by this Act and report his findings to the president. [91]

In response to that mandate, the NPS began a renewed study of Katmai's wilderness resources in 1984, and it included a wilderness suitability review in the same process which brought about the Draft Katmai General Management Plan and Land Protection Plan. (Such reviews took place for NPS units throughout the state.) All of the Katmai land which had not already been designated wilderness, a total of approximately 667,500 acres, was subject to the wilderness suitability review. [92]

Given that mandate, the NPS broadly defined those lands which would be considered for wilderness designation. All federal lands which met all of the other suitability criteria were considered suitable. Those lands being selected were suitable if retained in federal ownership but unsuitable if conveyed out of federal hands; their suitability, therefore, was pending. Lands that had been developed according to the criteria set forth in the Wilderness Act were, of course, unsuitable for wilderness. Given those parameters, planners determined that 528,000 acres of the lands being considered--79 percent of the total--were suitable for wilderness. Another 31,000 acres (5 percent of the total) had pending suitability. The remaining 109,500 acres (16 percent) were deemed unsuitable for wilderness designation. [93]

During the 16-month period that elapsed between the issuance of the draft and final Wilderness Suitability Review, the legal status of various parcels changed as did planners' interpretations of their suitability as wilderness. As a result, the wilderness plan that was signed by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior in November 1986 and passed on to the President declared that 491,807 acres in the park and preserve (71 percent of the available acreage) was suitable for designation. Another 29,865 acres (4 percent of the total) had pending suitability, and the final 175,622 acres (25 percent) were unsuitable for wilderness.

In March 1986, during the preparation phase of the final Wilderness Suitability Review, the NPS began a wilderness scoping process, which was intended to help agency officials decide which lands declared to be suitable for wilderness should be recommended for wilderness. This process, which took place for parks throughout Alaska, was intended to identify public and agency concerns and to define the major issues which would influence wilderness decision making. Public meetings were held in over 40 communities across the state; two of those hearings were held in King Salmon on October 16, 1986. [94]

Based on the scoping process, the agency, in June 1988, released a draft Environmental Impact Statement on its Katmai wilderness recommendations. The document noted that the combined park and preserve had 643,448 acres that were suitable for wilderness designation. (The November 1986 wilderness suitability review had declared that only 491,807 acres were suitable, but subsequent changes in the criteria for suitability increased the suitable acreage by over 150,000 acres.) [95]

Four alternatives were identified on how to deal with the remaining wilderness resource. Alternative 1, the no-action alternative, called for no new wilderness. Alternative 2, which was recommended by the NPS, urged the creation of 245,284 more acres in wilderness (38 percent of the study area) and another 49,617 acres for future wilderness consideration. Alternative 3, considered designating 497,539 acres (77 percent of the study area) as wilderness and another 57,000 acres as a potential wilderness addition. Alternative 4, the maximum wilderness alternative, would consider 586,448 acres (91 percent of the study area) as wilderness; the other 57,000 acres (9 percent of the study area) was considered as potential wilderness. [96]

Alternative 2, the agency's preferred alternative, recommended four significant new tracts of wilderness. Those areas included Lake Coville, Iliuk Arm, the northern portion of Naknek Lake (including the Bay of Islands area), and a large block of land located in and around Kulik and Battle lakes. Several small areas along the eastern coast were also recommended for wilderness. The large State-owned tract along the shore of Kamishak Bay and the various Russian Orthodox Church parcels were recommended as potential wilderness additions. No new areas in Katmai National Preserve were recommended for wilderness. [97]

Although the NPS recommended the addition of almost 300,000 acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, it expected few changes in the prevailing activity pattern. Most of the areas proposed for addition were already de facto wilderness. Several areas had a historical pattern of activities (such as motorboat usage or float-plane landings) that would have been contrary to wilderness use patterns outside of Alaska. The Alaska Lands Act and park-specific regulations, however, decreed that those activities were compatible with wilderness designation. [98]

Once the draft EIS had been issued and distributed, the NPS solicited public comments on it. Public hearings were held in Anchorage on July 18, in Arlington, Virginia on July 19, and in King Salmon on July 20. [99] In response to the draft, 68 people attended the various public hearings and 110 letters were received commenting on the draft document. The public was given until August 29 to comment. Congress, however, mandated that the final EIS be issued by September 30. Given just one month to translate the many comments and opinions into a final recommendation, NPS officials were unable to make a thorough evaluation of the received comments. The final EIS, as a consequence, contained the same acreage recommendations as the draft: 245,284 acres of wilderness and 49,617 acres of potential wilderness. [100]

The final wilderness EIS, as promised, was finalized by the Assistant Secretary of the Interior at the end of September 1988. After that point, it was made available for action by Congress. The legislature has not yet acted upon the recommendations contained in that document.

Katmai Land Exchange Proposals

Local interests seized upon the public comment period created during the wilderness review process to try to gain greater access to lands on the park's western boundary. As noted above, ANILCA had decreed that the newly-expanded portions of Katmai National Park would be one of only three newly-created NPS units which did not allow subsistence activities. (The other two areas were Kenai Fjords National Park and the areas added to Glacier Bay National Park. The only other Alaska NPS area closed to subsistence was the pre-1978 portion of Denali National Park and Preserve.) Some local residents demanded subsistence access to the newly-designated areas of the park; they, after all, wanted the same access that was allowed for those living adjacent to most of the other ANILCA park lands.

Bristol Bay Borough officials felt that the best way to redress a historic grievance would be the creation of a new wilderness-plan alternative, the central tenet of which would be a land trade. Taking their cue from the recently-completed Land Protection Plan, borough officials proposed that two plots of land in the northeastern corner of the park be conveyed from the State of Alaska to the National Park Service. In exchange, they proposed that 22,500 acres of NPS land on Pike Ridge (just north of the western end of Naknek Lake) be conveyed to the State of Alaska; in addition, they proposed that the NPS move the park's western boundary in the King Salmon area back to what it was before President Carter issued his proclamation in December 1978. Officials proposed the land trade in order to increase the acreage available for subsistence hunting and trapping activities. [101]

Borough officials felt that they were making a fair, equitable trade that would be advantageous to both parties. The NPS stood to gain more acreage than it lost; the two parcels of State land totalled almost 75,000 acres, all of it eligible for the national wilderness preservation system. The area it stood to give up, however, totalled less than 35,000 acres. It had little if any potential as wilderness. Almost one-third of that total, moreover, was not owned by the NPS, and the agency could exert few management controls over it. The agency, for its part, recognized that a traditional use trail wound along Pike Ridge; because of that trail, it was difficult to manage the ridge in the face of agency regulations which discouraged motorized travel.

The idea of a land trade was not new. It had first been proposed in 1982 by Dick Sellers, a local Alaska Department of Fish and Game employee. He knew that the state had little interest in its land at Kamishak Bay; its Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in fact, had already proposed that the acreage be sold to private interests--and that hunting on that parcel was inconsistent with the management of other Katmai National Park lands. In order to protect the parcel's habitat value, he suggested that the state transfer it to the NPS for "land of equal value elsewhere in the State, most ideally ... from the western side of Katmai National Park." [102] Sellers presented his ideas to David Morris, Katmai's Superintendent. Morris recognized that several areas within the park could be effectively managed as a preserve, and after a brief survey found seven areas which "we would be most comfortable with in preserve status." The area considered most eligible for conversion from park to preserve was a 59,520-acre parcel which surrounded the western end of Naknek Lake. [103] Sellers and Morris were thus in full agreement that a land exchange would be in the best interests of both parties. But the process of effecting such an exchange promised to be long and tortuous.

The state, in response to Morris's study, fashioned a modified land trade proposal. The state still planned to swap federal for state land. It offered, however, to divest itself of both its Kamishak Bay parcel and one located south of McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. In exchange, it hoped to gain title to all of NPS's land south of Naknek Lake in Range 42 and Range 43 of the Seward Meridian; in addition, it hoped to gain all of the land south of that point which had been added to Katmai by Carter's 1978 proclamation and the subsequent passage of the Alaska Lands Act. Adelheid Herrmann, the local Alaska House member, presented Morris with the idea in January 1984. Morris responded by agreeing to present the idea as one of the several alternatives in the park's general management plan, which was then being prepared. [104] Morris cautioned, however, that removing lands from National Park designation would require an act of Congress. [105]

On one key point, the state and NPS had been operating at cross purposes in both the 1982 and 1984 discussions. The state, in each case, had proposed that NPS land be traded for state land, while NPS proposals had called for the acquisition of state land in return for the conversion of NPS land from park to preserve status. Sellers recognized the inconsistency, and in a March 1984 memo offered several possible land trades. He urged that a meeting be held between staff of each of the several agencies involved. [106] That meeting took place on May 2. At that time the NPS made it plain that it did not want to give up its ownership of any Katmai lands. It reiterated its willingness, however, to consider preserve status for the area south of Naknek Lake, and identified parcels in several other Alaska NPS units which it was willing to trade to the state. It therefore appeared that a three-way trade was in the works. [107]

Given the probability of a land trade, ADF&G went out of its way to protect the Kamishak Bay parcel from activities which would have complicated the exchange process. It asked DNR to close the area to mineral entry, it closed the area to brown bear hunting, and it rejected various applications for cabin or tent-frame construction. [108]

The Park Service, however, ran into complications in its attempts to expedite the land trade. It assessed the value of the various properties it was willing to divest to the state, and in September 1984, NPS Regional Director Roger Contor admitted that "It appears ... that at best the National Park Service would have only about 80 percent of the dollar value necessary for the exchange." He anticipated that he would need additional lands with an appraised value of approximately $2 million. He therefore wrote to the Bureau of Land Management, requesting them to "assess the availability of public lands or other interests under [your] jurisdiction that might be included in the exchange and would be of interest to the state." [109] The BLM, however, was less than enthusiastic about the idea, and by early 1985 it appeared that neither NPS nor DNR were actively pursuing the land-trade idea. [110] Although Superintendent Morris had promised that the park's draft General Management Plan would discuss a land-trade alternative, no such alternative was included when the plan was released in March 1985.

The land exchange idea was ignored for the next few years. In 1988, it sprang back to life when Ray Bane, the park's new superintendent, became concerned about the growing pressure to develop fishing camps along the Kamishak River. Several trespass camps, by this time, had already developed near the river mouth, and both Bane and state officials sought a way to deal with the increasing development pressure. Bane met with regional officials and considered various ideas, including a federal-state cooperative agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the extension of McNeil River sanctuary, and transfer of state lands to the NPS. When appraised of Bane's interest in the matter, officials at the NPS and the state Department of Natural Resources recognized the obvious difficulties of the last alternative. Instead, they proposed an MOU for interim management of the Kamishak Bay lands. [111] State DNR officials prepared a draft cooperative land management agreement, but NPS officials were unwilling to accept any agreement in which regulations conflicting with NPS's management philosophy had to be followed. The goals of the two agencies proved to be too disparate, and by October 1989 state and federal officials agreed to postpone further discussion of a cooperative agreement. [112] Neither a land trade nor a cooperative agreement has been seriously pursued since that time.

As has been seen, officials at the local, state, and federal level had been aware throughout the 1980s of the potential advantages of a land trade, and efforts to consummate a mutually advantageous agreement had taken place, off and on, over a seven year period. All had failed. Seen in the light of those events, it appears that the Borough's attempt, in August 1988, to add a land-exchange alternative to the Katmai wilderness plan was not a logical reflection of the historical process which various governmental officials had already undertaken. The Borough's plan was a renewed attempt to suggest a modified version of that which had first been propounded by ADF&G officials in 1982 and 1984. Unfortunately, there was little in the plan which had not already been discussed; it was not surprising, therefore, that NPS officials did not incorporate its ideas into the final wilderness plan.

Park Activities, 1983-1992

Katmai operations, in recent years, have grown by fits and starts. In 1983, its budget was about $680,000, and had more than doubled in just the past three years. For the next six years, however, the budget remained at close to its 1983 figure; from 1983 through 1989, the annual budget remained between $640,000 and $700,000. Given the prevailing inflation rate, Katmai's budget actually declined during the mid-to-late 1980s. Although the budget remained stagnant, the number of permanent staff between 1983 and 1989 jumped from six to nine. (The seasonal staff level remained between 20 and 25.) The deployment of seasonal staff into the backcountry, noted above, reduced their numbers at Brooks Camp to the point that the NPS was no longer able to provide interpretive services on the Valley Road bus tour. Since 1989, however, the park budget has once again enjoyed renewed growth; in 1992, for example, the budget was more than $1,150,000, and the number of permanent positions had increased to thirteen. [113] (See Appendix C.)

As noted earlier in the chapter, the early to mid-1980s witnessed the issuance of two Development Concept Plans. Both plans called for the construction of new buildings. At Brooks Camp, the concessioner responded to the DCP by constructing an employee residential complex and a lodge extension. But at King Salmon, the issuance of the headquarters area DCP resulted in little construction activity. Overcrowding there remained an overwhelming problem.

In the mid-1980s, park officials finally agreed to install new structures at King Salmon, but in doing so they ignored the DCP recommendations. In order to provide more office space, they scouted out areas outside the NPS parcel and applied to lease space in the King Salmon Mall, a two-story business building which was erected beginning in 1985. The mall was completed the following June, and the superintendent, chief ranger, and administrative technician moved into offices on the second floor. Their action freed up office space for the maintenance staff. [114]

A patchwork of other improvements have come to the administrative complex in recent years, but not as the DCP would have envisioned. The Butler Building was removed as planned, but the annex office remained and, in 1986, began serving as a carpenter shop and a storage area for the park library and museum. The tent frames were also not removed; instead, they were converted into cabins in 1985 and 1986. In 1988, two trailers which once belonged to the Fish and Wildlife Service were added just south of the duplex which had been built in 1983, and in 1990 a new tent frame was constructed just east of the administrative annex. Most of the improvements were financed by Park Restoration and Improvement Program funds. [115]

Outside of the King Salmon complex, the NPS has erected relatively few structures in the last few years. Since 1983, the only new Brooks Camp facilities have been a storage shed erected in 1988, an incinerator building erected in 1990-91, and two wall tents built in 1991. In 1992, park staff erected a large bear viewing platform on the south side of Brooks River near the floating bridge. [116] The only NPS facilities built elsewhere in the park in recent years have been seasonal tent camps.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

As has been suggested, many activities kept the small Katmai staff busy, both winter and summer, during the 1980s. In the early spring of 1989, however, an environmental disaster caused all other management activities to be relegated to the back burner for months to come. Shortly after midnight on March 24, 1989, the Tanker Vessel Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, southwest of Valdez. On board was more than 53 million gallons of oil. Within five hours, more than 10 million gallons had spilled into the waters of Prince William Sound. [117]

Much has been written about the spill, and this report is not the place to discuss either the general chronology of the spill nor the ways in which the NPS and other agencies organized themselves in order to contain the spilled oil. Other publications, both by the agency and outside parties, have addressed these points. [118] This section will be limited to a description of how the NPS dealt with the oil which spilled along the Katmai shoreline. Sections in later chapters will describe how oil spill activities shed light on the agency's knowledge of the park's natural and cultural resources.

In the earliest days of spill activities, Interior Department officials, including the NPS, thought that the oil could be contained within Price William Sound. At the request of the Exxon Corporation, an Incident Command Team (ICT) was organized on March 27 and March 28. ICT chief Dave Liebersbach, however, soon found that no one in the Valdez area wanted to utilize the team's services. The U.S. Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Coast Guard, the State of Alaska, and Exxon all chose to use their own resources in fighting the spill. The ICT was therefore relieved from its duties in Valdez; soon afterwards, the NPS called on the team to protect Kenai Fjords National Park. [119]

Most ICT activity for the next several weeks took place in the Kenai Fjords area. Before long, NPS officials began to recognize that the oil would soon move farther afield; some, however, thought that the prevailing currents would impact the shoreline of Lake Clark National Park rather than Katmai. Only a few NPS employees, one of whom was Katmai superintendent Ray Bane, felt that Katmai would be threatened. On April 6, less than two weeks after the Exxon Valdez ran aground, Bane requested ICT assistance in combatting the spill along the eastern shoreline of the park. A list was quickly drawn up which identified the primary areas--harbors, bays, rivers, and lagoons--that needed protection. [120]

During the week which followed, NPS staff wrote a Katmai oil spill contingency plan; the three authors of the plan were Daniel Hamson and Cordell Roy, both Environmental Specialists in the agency's Alaska Regional Office, and Janis Meldrum, Katmai's Resource Management Specialist. In addition, they began to organize a series of teams that would assess the park's coastline prior to the oil's arrival. [121] (See chapters 10 and 12.)

Bane, Hamson, and Roy also sought out a place from which they could organize their park protection efforts. Seward, the existing base of operations for Kenai Fjords work, was one obvious choice; in addition, the three considered Homer and Kodiak. The trio chose Kodiak (over the objection of many in the Anchorage office) because it had good air access, because a wide range of vessels was available, and because it was closest to the Katmai shoreline. The park soon established a Superintendent's Representative at its Kodiak office. [122] The ICT, in recognition of the spread of the spill, also looked for a branch office west of Seward. Bane hoped that the ICT would establish its office in Kodiak. On April 7, the ICT commander announced that branches would be located in Kenai and Homer, and that ICT operations along the Katmai shoreline would be directed from Homer. Three days later, however, an ICT team was dispatched to Kodiak. Spill operations were soon transferred to Kodiak, and by the end of April both the Kenai and Homer branches had closed. [123]

Once an administrative apparatus had been set up, NPS officials readied a series of teams which would assess the coastline's natural and cultural resources before oiling took place. Early organizers, operating out of the Homer ICT office, hoped to send teams out immediately, but so many specialists were at work at Kenai Fjords that few were left over for other NPS areas. Eventually, enough were freed for the task that officials at the Homer ICT were able to organize and train three assessment teams. Between April 15 and 18, the teams sailed off to survey the Katmai coastline. The teams, supported by Kodiak-based helicopters, returned to Homer by April 29. [124]

Small quantities of oil were seen on Katmai's beaches (at Cape Douglas) even before assessment teams arrived for their surveys, but most teams were able to inventory Katmai's coastline while it was still in a pristine condition. On April 18, the first oil was spotted at Kukak Bay, 50 miles south of Cape Douglas; by the end of the month, the first evidences of oil had reached the southern end of the park. Large quantities of oil first reached Cape Douglas on April 26, and reached areas to the south during the following week. [125]

In order to deal with the onslaught of oil, the Kodiak ICT issued an Incident Action Plan on April 16. The plan focused on identifying areas for feasibility and priority of booming. Bane himself, along with an Exxon-contracted booming expert, flew the coastline in order to identify areas suitable for booming. Bane recognized that Katmai's wide bays were largely unsuitable for the technique. He felt, however, that deflection booming, which promised the prevention of some oil from bays, might work. [126]

Because most NPS officials felt that the Lake Clark shoreline was more likely to suffer impact than Katmai, they were unable to place either booms or skimmers in position at Katmai before huge quantities of oil arrived. The Soviet skimmer Vaydagursky, the first oil spill response vessel, was hard at work in Shelikof Strait on April 30. Two days later, the ship was joined by fourteen others, including nine skimmers and two dredges from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The ships' combined effort could do little to stop the onslaught. The vessels collected relatively little oil, and storms which whistled through the strait on May 1 drove oil into areas that had previously been pristine. Some boom was finally laid at Hallo Bay, but it was too late to prevent a heavy infusion of oil. By May 2, the damage was complete. More than 90 percent of the Katmai coastline experienced at least some degree of oil spill impacts. [127]

Little could be done except to begin the cleanup process. On May 10 the first Exxon crew, 40 workers strong, went to Cape Chiniak, just north of Hallo Bay. It spent the better part of a month there, shoveling oil-contaminated materials into bags for removal from the beach. The weather and organizational snafus prevented the deployment of additional crews until mid-May, and it was not until mid-July that cleanup was in full swing along the Katmai coast. [128]

The crews were hired by Exxon, and their duties were limited to the mopping-up of oil. Resource considerations, however, could not be ignored. Because the Shelikof Strait coastline was prime bear habitat, and because the coastal area contained a number of first-rate archeological sites, Superintendent Bane required that a so-called Resource Protection Officer (RPO) accompany each cleanup crew. The RPOs did not prevent negative consequences to area bears; one was shot and killed by a VECO-employed "bear guard," and numerous others were harassed by the mere presence of humans. The establishment of RPOs, however, doubtless prevented greater damage to the area's natural and cultural resources. [129]

By July 27, four of the hardest hit areas of the Katmai coastline had been "treated" or subjected to cleanup work. These were 1) Cape Chiniak and Chiniak Lagoon, 2) Hallo Bay beach and lagoon, 3) the south shore of Cape Gull and Kaflia Bay, and 4) Cape Douglas. Most of these areas, despite those efforts, were not clean; additional work was needed. [130]

Work continued for another month and a half. By early August, crews had removed some 56,000 bags of spoil from 65,000 yards (37 miles) of Katmai beaches. By mid-August, another 18,000 bags of spoil had been filled and 23,000 yards of coastline covered. On September 15, after cleanup efforts stopped, the total count was 95,151 bags of spoil collected from 111,585 yards (approximately 63.4 miles) of Katmai's shoreline. Overall, it appeared that about 320 of the 398 miles of park shoreline had received oil, although only a few beaches had been heavily impacted. Within that area, the spill had killed at least 8,400 birds. [131]

Following the summer cleanup crews was a two-man NPS post-oiling assessment team, which assessed the relative cleanliness of park beaches and guided cleanup priorities. This work, directed from the NPS office in Kodiak, began in May and lasted throughout the summer. The team spot-checked many segments of Katmai's coastline; it remained active until its September 30 demobilization. [132]

Beginning in mid-June, the NPS also brought in a crew of bio-technicians to carry on more comprehensive resource surveys. These studies, funded primarily by Exxon and headed by NPS biologist Will Troyer, gathered information to support the damage assessment process as outlined by the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Specific work involved the creation of long term transects for determining the fate and persistence of oil extruded by the Exxon Valdez. [133]

By the end of the 1989 cleanup season, one and all knew that Katmai's beaches were far from clean, and that more work crews would be required the following summer. In order to identify sites where future cleanup efforts could be best employed, the Department of the Interior organized the Winter Interagency Monitoring Program (WIMP). As part of the program, the NPS set up nine permanent reference stations along Katmai's coast. William R. Miller, an NPS ranger stationed in Kodiak, was assigned to periodically visit those stations and report on the location and quantity of oil. None of the nine stations, however, were visited that winter. [134]

In late March 1990, spring assessment efforts began. Those assessments, funneled through a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) process, laid out what the location and scope of the summer's cleanup work. At the insistence of Regional Director Boyd Evison, the NPS modified many of the TAG recommendations due to the agency's stricter levels of environmental sensitivity. He also insisted that Resource Protection Officers be used again. [135]

In 1990, cleanup took place without much of the fanfare that had characterized the previous season's operations. Crews hired by Exxon were again brought to Katmai's shores. Those crews were seen along the coast throughout the summer; they had arrived by late June and remained until late August. Many beaches which had been cleaned in 1989 did not need further work, and several of those that were visited needed only a cursory cleanup. [136]

The RPOs hired to oversee the cleanup efforts did their best to prevent encounters between bears and humans. Their duties included the prevention of cleanup crews from making indiscriminate flyovers and beach landings that could disturb wildlife, and the monitoring of archeological and historical sites in order to prevent looting. [137]

The RPOs had a mixed record of success in keeping intact Katmai's beach resources from the cleanup crews. Most RPOs established a good working relationship with the Exxon field supervisors. Some of those supervisors, however, were poor managers, and some among the cleanup crews were uncooperative. But as the summer wore on, the overall situation improved, and each of the assigned site cleanups were completed to NPS specifications. [138]

By July 1990, it was becoming increasingly clear to the Coast Guard (which was serving as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator of the oil spill effort) that some areas affected by the spill would be minimally improved by further cleanup efforts. Most beaches still had evidence of oiling, but it was felt that the cleanup was becoming excessively costly in view of the contribution it was making to minimize threats to public health or the environment. By the end of the summer, the NPS largely concurred in that assessment. A September 6, 1990 report by its Katmai Shoreline Assessment Team noted that little additional oil could be removed from park beaches without the use of chemicals, the application of which would compromise water quality. The beaches were sufficiently clean, in fact, that a comprehensive assessment would no longer be needed. A report issued later that month by the regional office's Office of Oil Spill Coordination reinforced those conclusions. It noted that oil still remained in scattered patches along Katmai's coast, but that the cleanup crews had removed the maximum oil possible given shoreline conditions, weather, and environmental constraints. [139]

With the cessation of cleanup operations in September 1990, plans began to be formulated for a cleanup operation the following year. The 1991 cleanup process promised to be a downsized version of what had taken place in 1989 and 1990; the 1990-1991 winter monitoring process, therefore, was also smaller than the previous year's efforts had been. The Kodiak office, which had been active the previous winter, was shut down, and the NPS made no plans to monitor Katmai's beaches. Both Exxon and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducted selected monitoring of oiled beaches that winter, but few if any of those beaches were located within the park. The only real activities, therefore, were planning efforts.

NPS officials emerged from the winter with the decision that no further cleanup would take place on Katmai's shorelines. As they had concluded the previous September, they knew of a few sites, such as a segment of open beach just south of Cape Douglas, where further cleanup would be of some benefit. But they also knew that the local environment would be more harmed by the cleanup process than if the area were left alone. The state, however, felt that treatment was needed at those few sites, and in order to maintain interagency rapport the NPS agreed to having them cleaned. [140] But the NPS insisted that Inipol, a popular bioremediation technique used elsewhere in the spill zone, not be applied onto Katmai's beaches.

The 1991 Katmai cleanup took place under that compromise. Oil was removed manually at first; later, bioremediation took place with Customblen, a chemical found to be less harmful than Inipol. The whole process began in June and was over in just two weeks. [141] The completion of the season's work brought to an end the three-year process of cleaning up the park's beaches. Scientists and park personnel would spend many more years studying the spill's effects on the coastal wildlife and marine resources. The work of cleaning the beaches, however, would be left to nature.

The Brooks River Area Development Concept Plan

In recent years, the NPS has witnessed an accelerating rate of visitor use throughout the park. Most of the park has been largely unaffected by the rising visitor levels. But Brooks Camp, the park's major development site, has proven so popular that problems related to its management, in recent years, have commanded the great majority of the park budget. [142] The two most critical Brooks Camp management issues since the mid-1980s have included bear-human interactions and the sheer volume of Brooks Camp use. The Brooks River Area Development Concept Plan, initiated in 1988, is the method by which the NPS has attempted to confront those issues.

The interaction between bears and humans at Brooks Camp is a problem which has existed since the 1960s. The steady increase in visitor levels since that time has exacerbated the situation. By the late 1970s, the NPS had considered bear-human interaction at the mouth of Brooks River to be such a problem that they prevailed on the concessioner to move its employee complex to an area away from the most common bear travel routes.

In 1982, as has been noted, the NPS undertook the preparation of a Katmai general management plan. [143] The Katmai GMP emphasized resource protection and called for few new developments. The draft plan, which was particularly sensitive to Brooks Camp's clash of resources, called for the camp's eventual relocation; a major reason for moving the camp was to avoid future bear-human conflicts. The final plan, however, was more tentative. It recommended a stabilization of activities at the camp, and recognized that more data had to be gathered about the nature of bear-human interactions before a move could proceed. The final plan also demanded that a Development Concept Plan be prepared that will "address the need for, size, and location of visitor facilities" in the camp. [144]

Dave Morris, Katmai's superintendent, knew that the completion of the DCP would provide a blueprint for Brooks Camp's future. He also knew, however, that the document would take several years to complete. In the meantime, he tried to gather data pertinent to the problem of bear-human interactions at the camp. In 1985, he agreed to sponsor a study directed by Dr. Barrie Gilbert, a biologist at Utah State University. [145] The study, which was completed in 1988, showed (among other things) that the bears which visited the camp in mid-September were less habituated to humans than those who frequented the camp earlier in the season. Safety problems, therefore, were bound to increase if the lodge remained open after the first week in September. [146] Given the results of that study, Superintendent Bane ordered the concessioner to close Brooks Lodge on September 10. [147]

The other trend, the increase in day use visitors to Brooks Camp, has been caused by two factors: the increase of fly-in anglers and other day-trippers during the decade, and the decision to open up the camp as a major package tour destination. By the late 1980s, the increase in visitor levels in such a limited area had become so great that park officials concluded that stringent controls had to be instituted in order to provide visitors with a quality park experience. Creating a development concept plan was the agency's way to confront the rising activity levels.

Statistics reaffirm the exploding popularity of fly-in trips during the 1980s. In 1981, three commercial use licensees brought only about sixty day-trippers to the Brooks Camp area, while eight years later some sixteen licensees flew more than 1,850 visitors to the camp. [148] The package tour, also popular today, did not begin until 1988. The two largest tour operators in the state, Westours and Princess Tours, approached Katmailand in hopes of working out a deal using the company's planes as well as its ground transportation. Katmailand knew that the tour operators could contract with another carrier if agreeable terms were not worked out. The company, therefore, cooperated in providing a new, day-long tour which included both a fly-in trip to Brooks Camp and the Valley of the Ten Thousand Smokes bus tour. [149]

With growth at Brooks Camp came the demand for more regulations. The concentration of people there had long concerned planners; efforts had been made during the Mission 66 planning process, as well as the Master Plan process of the early 1970s, to shift new development to another area. By the mid-1970s, park officials had begun to worry that the summertime visitor-use levels were impinging on the health of the local bear and fish populations. This concern was confirmed by Dr. Gilbert's research findings. [150]

By the early 1980s, a broader concern was being registered among park officials because they encountered a wide variety of Brooks Camp-area public use problems, ranging from the scarcity of firewood to complaints of noise pollution. [151] These problems began to worsen when guests staying at lodges outside the park began to arrive in increasing numbers. As early as 1985, park officials recognized that the camp was becoming too crowded, [152] and in the late 1980s the advent of tours from the major tour operators exacerbated the worsening situation. One of the worst of those problems related to Brooks Camp air traffic.

Ray Bane, who assumed the superintendency in the summer of 1987, vowed to meet those problems head-on. Noting that "existing facilities in the Brooks River/Camp area are being stressed by visitor uses and demands," he initiated a series of management actions designed to ease the strain of overcrowding. Bane required that all pilots fly at least 1000 feet over the Brooks Camp area; he prohibited step-taxiing and takeoffs within 200 feet of the beach; and he imposed, and enforced, a limit of one fish per day on Brooks River. [153] He also saw to it that the Development Concept Plan which had been called for in the recently-completed General Management Plan should be initiated.

The effort to create a Brooks River Area DCP began with an all-day meeting in February 1988. To provide data for the plan, the agency contracted with the University of Washington to assess visitor use and attitudes at the camp. In addition, park resource management personnel evaluated various potential development sites. [154] By 1990, continued work by park staff, regional staff, and the DCP planning team had resulted in the creation of a revised set of alternatives. [155]

The agency issued an alternative workbook in the summer of 1991. The plan's Alternative 1, which called for continued development in the existing area, would allow new NPS housing and a visitor center at the camp. Alternative 2, slightly more restrictive, would add new concessioner cabins and the NPS visitor center while reducing the number of NPS residences. The two remaining alternatives would raze all camp improvements, by both the concessioner and the NPS, north of Brooks River. Alternative 3 called for the removal of both NPS and concessioner facilities to Iliuk Moraine, while Alternative 4 called for the conversion of Brooks River into a day use area, a reduction in NPS facilities, and the elimination of all concessioner facilities. [156]

Public meetings pertaining to the DCP were held in June and July 1991, and the public was given until September 15 to comment. The planning team spent the next several months digesting the public's opinions. Those comments showed a wide diversity of opinion; some advocated the two alternatives which would have removed all Brooks Camp facilities, but just as many were happy to have few if any modifications to the existing camp. The team then began to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement which would include a preferred development alternative. [157]

It appeared obvious to some, particularly to researchers and NPS field staff, that the number of visitors to Brooks Camp needed to be reduced. But many entrenched elements--the concessioner, outdoor sports groups, influential clients, and some members of the NPS hierarchy--were strongly opposed to any change in the status quo.

Based on the power possessed by those who like Brooks Camp the way it is, many felt that the NPS would recommend in its draft EIS that the camp not be moved. During the winter of 1992-93, however, a series of events took place which further jeopardized the camp's viability as a visitor node.

The problem was fuel leakage. As noted in chapters 4 and 5, a generator and 300 gallon underground fuel tank had been installed at the camp in 1956; then, in 1974-75, the R. D. Peterson Company, on an NPS contract, had constructed a complete utility system. Among its other provisions, the contractor installed two 8000 gallon underground diesel storage tanks near the NPS warehouse, a 2000 gallon underground diesel tank near the new generator building, a three-inch fiberglass underground fuel line connecting the 8000 gallon tanks to a fill box along the shore of Naknek Lake, and several two-inch fuel lines which connected the diesel tanks to most of the camp buildings. The contract also resulted in the installation of a 16-foot-deep water well, which was located near the lake shore east of the generator building. [158]

The fuel system worked properly for the next several years. By 1981, however, park staff recognized that the water they drank had a diesel taste. Maintenance personnel surmised that fuel leaking from the 2000-gallon tank or the adjacent two-inch line had entered the water table. To circumvent the problem, they abandoned the old water well and installed a new one 100 yards into Naknek Lake and due east of the warehouse. They made no attempt, at that time, to investigate the leak near the generator house. [159] In 1991, new problems erupted. Park staff decided to remove the 300 gallon tank which had been installed back in 1956; during the removal process, they found oil contamination underneath the old tank. That same summer, a fuel line ruptured near the Skytel. Over on the south side of Brooks River, personnel noted spilled fuel near the diesel and gasoline tanks in the agency's parking lot. They also suspected that leakage was taking place along the line which connected the parking lot to the boat dock. [160]

The NPS, alarmed by the accumulating leakage, tried to determine its extent. In early 1992, it hired a testing firm which found, much to the agency's chagrin, that the soil in the area east of the generator building was heavily contaminated. The soil near the ranger cache and Skytel was also sullied, though to a lesser extent. To gain more information on the problem, NPS staff then conducted a tank tightness testing project, which attempted to isolated the weak links in the fuel delivery system. To their dismay, they found leaks throughout most of the system, both tanks and lines. None of the six large tanks were found to be devoid of leaks, and leaks were also detected in the fuel lines. Based on that knowledge, NPS officials laid out a two-year plan that called for the removal of the entire fuel distribution system. They also proposed a long-term remediation program in order to cleanse the soil of oil-borne pollutants. [161]

In January 1993, the existence of the Brooks Camp fuel leakage, along with similar problems in Glacier Bay National Park, were broadcast to the statewide media. Agency officials had made no attempt to hide the extent of the damage, but the problem was publicized at the same time officials were weighing the various alternatives in the Brooks River Area DCP. That problem, combined with others at the camp--migrating bears, a world-class archeological site, the sheer number of people in such a limited area--suggested to park officials that the camp should be moved. [162]

When this manuscript was completed, in the spring of 1993, the NPS had made no final decision as to whether Brooks Camp would be moved. But regardless of what decisions are made when the development concept plan is completed, it is unlikely that existing conflicts will diminish any time soon. If the DCP recommends the removal of Brooks Camp, the political process that will likely ensue may escalate into a major confrontation, either within the agency or between the agency and outside pressure groups. If it recommends the status quo, however, the existing resource conflicts will only worsen in the future. When viewed in retrospect, the present DCP may likely be seen as an opening volley in a long-term engagement.

David Morris, seen standing by a Stationair 6 at King Salmon airport in this August 1985 photo, was the superintendent of the Katmai and Aniakchak NPS units from August 1979 until April 1987. (David Morris Collection)

drying salmon on racks
In notes that accompanied this September 5, 1940 photo, biologist (and photographer) Victor Cahalane remarked, "Drying salmon on racks at the mouth of Brooks River. Aleut Indians come here every August to sieze red salmon and dry a winter's supply for themselves." During the 1980s and 1990s, the Natives' historical use of the area would loom as a major NPS management issue. (NPS Photo Collection, Cahalane neg. 357)

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000