online book
cover to Admin History





NPS in Alaska Before 1972


current topic Response to ANCSA, 1971-1973


NPS in Alaska, 1973-1980





The National Park Service and the
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980: Administrative History

Chapter Three:
Response to ANCSA, 1971-1973
NPS logo

A. March 17, 1972 (d)(2) Withdrawals

In December 1971 Secretary of the Interior Rogers C.B. Morton announced the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. In implementing the national interest lands provision therein, he cautioned, we must avoid the mistakes of the past, and "do things right the first time." [1]

Interestingly, despite the significance of ANCSA, few in the Interior Department seemed to have closely followed the bill, and considerable uncertainty regarding the ramifications and interpretation of the act existed. At the same time, all quickly recognized that the deadlines imposed upon the secretary of the interior in the act demanded immediate action by all involved. [2] On December 21 Assistant Secretary Nathaniel P. Reed directed NPS Director Hartzog and Spencer Smith, his counterpart in the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife, to initiate the process of identifying and prioritizing lands for preservation. They were, he said, to "ignore sovereignty," and report their findings to him by late January. [3] The same day Hartzog appointed Theodor Swem, Assistant Director for Cooperative Activities, to coordinate the Park Service's Alaska effort, promising him an unusual degree of freedom of action. Smith had already dispatched a staff member in his office to Alaska to gather information, and had appointed Robert L. Means to coordinate the efforts of the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife. [4]

The appointment of Swem to coordinate the Park Service's efforts in Alaska was a fortunate one. He had been deeply involved there since the early 1960s, knew the park resources, and was quick to grasp the opportunity offered the Service in ANCSA. He and Larry Means had worked together previously, moreover, and shared a common approach to Alaska. They quickly developed a working relationship that resulted in an unusual degree of cooperation between their agencies. [5] Although rivalry over areas in Alaska would surface from time to time over the years, particularly at the local level, a spirit of active cooperation between the two agencies dominated the nine-year effort to implement the national interest lands provision of ANCSA. [6]

On December 23 Swem notified NPS offices of the Alaska project, the procedure the Service would follow, and the role different offices would play. On December 27 he requested Richard Stenmark of the Alaska Field Office in Anchorage to travel to Washington to work on preliminary identification of NPS interest areas. [7]

Stenmark arrived in Washington on January 2, met with Swem the next morning, and began work that day. [8] Swem gave him considerable flexibility in identifying interest areas and the acreages necessary. In fact, the only restrictions under which Stenmark worked were the 80,000,000-acre limit for d-2 withdrawals, pending state selections, and presence of existing federal reserves. [8] The presence of the Naval Petroleum Reserve on the North Slope, for example, prevented extending the northern boundary of the Gates of the Arctic interest area as far north as Stenmark would have liked, and prevented the Service from identifying other areas of interest on the Arctic Slope and Eastern Brooks Range. [10]

Stenmark attempted to apply the principles embodied in the recently developed National Park System Plan to Alaska, and delineate interest areas according to the themes outlined in that document. Along with the existing areas, the lands initially identified would form a system of national parks and monuments in Alaska that would include a broad spectrum of scenic, scientific, cultural, and recreational values. [11]

By January 4 Stenmark had completed initial identification of NPS interest areas, and his list was being reviewed by officials in the Washington office. Included among twelve natural and ten historical and archeological areas initially identified were a number that had long been considered as having National Park System potential. Other areas included one of the largest explosive craters in the world (Aniakchak), an area that included one of the most remarkable examples of arctic sand dunes along with important archeological sites (Great Kobuk Sand Dunes-Onion Portage), and an area representative of the highlands of central Alaska (Tanana Hills):

Natural Areas

Wrangell Mountains - St. Elias Range15,800,000
Gates of the Arctic15,700,000
Mt. Mckinley N.P. Additions4,000,000
Lake Clark Pass3,500,000
Katmai N.M. Additions900,000
Tanana Hills1,200,000
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes - Onion Portage260,000
Imuruk Lava Field300,000
Nogabahara Sand Dunes92,000
Unga Island6,000
Aniakchak Crater167,000
Mt. Veniaminof276,000


Historical and Archeological Areas

Klondike Gold Rush - Eagle28,400
Amchitka Island6,400
St. Lawrence Island6,400
Ipiutak - Point Hope6,400
Wales Complex6,400
Yukon Island6,400

86,000 [12]

Prior to passage of ANCSA the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife had identified twenty-nine areas in Alaska as having nationally significant fish and/or wildlife values. [13] Between December 22 and January 7, that agency refined its list to twenty-two areas totaling 54,190,000 acres. Included in the 106,391,000 acres the two agencies identified by January 7 were 5,717,000 acres of overlapping interest lands on the Seward Peninsula, Bristol Bay, Aniakchak Crater, Bear Lake, and Copper River-Bremner River. Although the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation was not involved at this time, the NPS and BSF&W proposed withdrawing 10,000,000 acres for study for possible inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System. [14]

Between January 7, when the two agencies first presented their proposals to Assistant Secretary Reed, and March 15 the agencies themselves and departmental representatives reviewed and refined the proposals. On January 11 Reed forwarded a revised version to Undersecretary William Pecora. [15] On February 1 the agencies presented their recommendations to the department's Alaska Land Selection Task Force to Coordinate Federal Land Selections in Alaska, a committee comprised of assistant secretaries, solicitor, and legislative counsel. [16] On February 10 the agencies made their initial presentation to Secretary Morton. In the next several weeks the proposals were revised, option papers prepared, and on March 2 Assistant Secretary Reed made his final recommendations to the Secretary. [17]

Additionally, agency and departmental leaders heard from Native leaders, state of Alaska officials, conservationists, and other federal agencies with an interest in Alaska lands—Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Mines, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. [18] The comments of the various groups and agencies did have an important effect on the shape of the preliminary 17(d)(2) withdrawals in March. After meeting with conservationists on February 28, for example, both the NPS and BSF&W added the Noatak, the largest complete river system unaltered by man in the United States, to their lists of interest areas. [19] Based upon input from other agencies, moreover, potential mineral lands east of Bornite on the south slope of the Brooks Range, small areas on the south side of Mount McKinley, and certain lands in the Wrangell Mountains region would not be included in the preliminary 17(d)(2) withdrawals. [20]

In the final analysis, the preliminary d-2 withdrawals made in March 1972 would be the product of considerable negotiation and compromise. Pressures outside the Interior Department, not simply the assessment of resources values by agency professionals, determined the shape of those withdrawals.

Chapter Three continues . . .


Last Modified: Tues, Jan 9 2001 10:08 am PDT

ParkNet Home