Isolated Paradise:
An Administrative History of the Katmai and Aniakchak National Park Units
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This study has been evolving for a long time. William S. Hanable, a historian in the Alaska Regional Office, began work on it in the spring of 1988. It was originally intended to be a history of Katmai's bear policies; shortly afterwards, the study's scope was broadened into a general administrative history. Because of the nature of ongoing management problems, it was intended that the main themes of that management history would be Brooks Camp, bears, and fishing. An additional chapter or two would to be devoted to remaining aspects of park management.

Mr. Hanable completed three chapters--on Brooks Camp, Bear Management, and Fish and Aquatic Resource Management--during the winter of 1988-89. He was steering them through the in-house peer review process when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef in the early morning hours of March 24, 1989. In response to the accident, regional office management immediately dispatched Mr. Hanable to the field in order to document the agency's role in fighting the ensuing oil spill. Despite the frenzied pace of activity of the next few months, he was able to revise the three chapters he had completed but was unable to complete the remainder of the study. Mr. Hanable left the agency in November 1989.

The author was assigned to complete the task which Mr. Hanable began. It was decided to retain the chapters which pertained to fish and bear management (chapter 8 and 9); although the material in those chapters has been somewhat revised, he should be considered the primary author of both. The material which was originally presented in the Brooks Camp chapter has been disseminated into several chapters of the present work. The present author is indebted to Mr. Hanable for gathering a large amount of research material. His thorough, exacting research made the compilation of this work far easier than it would otherwise have been.

As defined by Release No. 4 of the agency's Cultural Resource Management Guidelines (NPS-28), an administrative history "describes how a park was conceived and established and how it has been managed to the present day." As such, an administrative history normally provides an extensive discussion of the public pressure, and legislative and administrative activity, that take place prior to the designation of a new park unit. Such a history also includes a broad investigation into the successes and failures of park management. That investigation usually includes the relationship between NPS managers and concessioners.

In the case of Katmai, two previous volumes make a full discussion of park administration unnecessary. In August 1971 the NPS published a historic resource study entitled Embattled Katmai: A History of Katmai National Monument. It was written by John A. Hussey, a historian working at the agency's Western Service Center in San Francisco. In his study, Mr. Hussey provided an extensive history of the Katmai country prior to the June 1912 volcanic eruption. He also did an excellent job of describing the eruption and its aftermath, and gave an excellent accounting of the scientific expeditions, pressure-group tactics and legislative maneuvering which resulted in President Wilson's proclamation of September 1918 which established Katmai National Monument. Because Mr. Hussey provided such a thorough account of the pre-1918 period, the present volume will not try to tread the same ground; instead, it merely summarizes it. The reader who wishes more details on the early history of Katmai would be well advised to read Mr. Hussey's fine work.

In addition, there is little need in the present study to concentrate on relations between the National Park Service and the various commercial entities which have utilized the Katmai area. In 1992, the author completed Tourism in Katmai Country: A History of Concessions Activity in Katmai National Park and Preserve. This study discusses the agency's relations with its primary concessioner, with various park inholders, and with those who have utilized limited commercial permits and commercial use licenses. A brief history of early tourism to the area is also included.

The author is indebted to all of those who assisted him in compiling this volume. This volume, indeed, is a collective effort; he asked for help from scores of people, and virtually everyone he contacted was helpful and generous. As has been described above, this study was begun by William Hanable. He, first and foremost, deserves thanks for gathering much of the primary and secondary material used in this study.

Because this history documents the actions of a government agency, the author based much of his research on files available at federal government archives: National Archives and Records Administration repositories, the NPS office in Anchorage, and the park office in King Salmon. Those particularly helpful in providing access to those files included Tom Wiltsey and Bruce Parham of the NARA branch in Anchorage; Richard Fusick, with NARA in Washington, D.C.; Barry Mackintosh, the NPS bureau historian in Washington; David Nathanson, the NPS Librarian at the agency's Harpers Ferry Center in West Virginia; Janis Meldrum, a former Katmai/Aniakchak employee now employed at the NPS office in Anchorage; Melanie Heacox, at Denali National Park and Preserve.

Much data, however, was gathered outside of federal channels. Particularly helpful in providing that data included Dean Dawson and Larry Hibsphmann of the Alaska State Archives, in Juneau, Bruce Merrell and Dan Fleming at Loussac Library in Anchorage, Dennis Walle at the University of Alaska-Anchorage Archives, Barbara Walton at the Denver Public Library; Barbara Minard at the Columbia River Maritime Museum; Julia O'Keefe, at the Santa Clara University archives; and Jill Schneider, at the U.S. Geological Survey's Branch of Alaskan Geology in Anchorage. Special thanks go to Theodor (Ted) Swem, a retired NPS official living in the Denver area, who shared his meticulous recollections and provided appropriate files on Katmai history. The staff at Katmai National Park and Preserve was very helpful in providing information on specific problem areas.

In order to provide help during the editorial and proofreading process, several individuals in the agency stepped forward to offer their assistance. They included Ross Kavanagh in the Anchorage office; former superintendents Gil Blinn, Alan Eliason, and Ray Bane; former park employees Janis Meldrum, David Manski, and Kathy Jope; and current park employee Mark Wagner. Jack Hession, who has long served as the Sierra Club's Alaska Representative, was similarly helpful in clearing up the intricacies of the legislative fight that led to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

The author briefly interviewed several superintendents and other park employees regarding specific administrative issues related to park management. Unfortunately, time constraints prevented a greater oral history element in this study. It is suggested that park or regional staff organize such a program in the not-too-distant future. The logical subjects for interviews would be permanent and seasonal park staff, Anchorage-based officials with responsibilities over the park, local concessioners, and longtime residents of the various towns and villages which surround the park.

It will be noted that scores if not hundreds of place-name locations are scattered through the volume, and many may be unfamiliar to readers. The more commonly-used place names can be located in the agency's standard interpretive brochures which are freely available to park visitors. All names used are the official names used by the U.S. Board of Geographic Names; if specific locations for less familiar names are needed, it is suggested that the reader consult either an appropriate USGS quadrangle or a copy of Donald Orth's fine volume, Dictionary of Alaska Place Names.

In closing, it needs to be noted that the draft of this document was completed during the summer of 1993. Money for printing, however, was not available until this year. Because of that delay, and because much of the author's work was based on Mr. Hanable's original research, this document is not up-to-date. Park staff have noted, quite correctly, that several resource issues that emerged in the early 1990s have not been covered, and only scattered notes on park activities since mid-1993 have been included. Therefore, the reader should be forewarned that any issues covered during the 1990s may be less than complete.

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Last Updated: 24-Sep-2000