Denali National Park and Preserve

A lush, green picturesque view of mountains in Denali.

In 1980, an unprecedented bill was signed into law. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, commonly known as ANILCA, set aside approximately 100 million acres of land and resources for enduring protection throughout Alaska. It tripled the size of Mt. McKinley National Park, and the area was renamed “Denali National Park and Preserve."

To ensure the continuation of the opportunity for rural residents to engage in the subsistence uses of resources in Denali National Park and Preserve, the National Park Service (NPS) has adopted the following mission statement to guide its activities. Subsistence will be managed as a legislated use consistent with the provisions of ANILCA (Section 202(3)), the Organic Act of 1916, and enabling legislation to:

  • Protect the opportunity for qualified local rural residents to continue traditional subsistence activities;
  • Recognize that subsistence ways of life differ from region to region and are continuing to evolve, and where appropriate, park management practices may reflect regional diversity and evolution;
  • Promote local involvement and participation in processes associated with subsistence management;
  • Ensure that management practices involving the utilization of public lands adequately consider the potential for restriction of subsistence uses and impacts upon subsistence resources;
  • Ensure that management of park resources is consistent with the conservation of unimpaired ecosystems and natural and healthy populations of fish and wildlife, incorporating scientific data and principles with traditional knowledge and cultural values; and
  • Promote effective communication and mutual understanding of subsistence uses and related cultural and social values, and park purposes and protection, between NPS, subsistence users, the State of Alaska and the public.

To hunt, trap and fish for subsistence in Denali National Park you must:
Live in a Denali National Park resident zone community - Cantwell (limited to 3-mile radius of the Cantwell post office), Minchumina, Nikolai and Telida.
Live inside Denali National Park boundary
Have a subsistence use permit (§13.440 permit) issued by the superintendent.

To subsistence hunt, trap and fish in Denali National Preserve and on other federal public lands you must:Be a rural Alaska resident
Have a positive customary and traditional use determination for the species and area where you want to harvest fish or game.

Both the Denali National Park and Preserve are open to subsistence hunting, fishing and trapping under the Federal Subsistence Management Program administered by the Federal Subsistence Board.

To be eligible to hunt, fish or trap in Denali National Park, you must be a rural resident with a positive customary and traditional use determination, and live either inside the park boundary or in a resident zone community or have 13.440 subsistence use permit.

Rural residents who live outside the park or resident zone communities may apply to the superintendent for a subsistence use permit, also known as a 13.440 permit. To receive this permit you must demonstrate that you have been or are a member of a family that has a history or pattern of using the park for subsistence purposes at the time ANILCA was passed in 1980 without using an aircraft for access. This can be done by telephone or face-to-face interview with park staff. 

To be eligible to hunt, trap or fish under federal subsistence regulations in Denali National Preserve, you must be a local rural resident. A local rural resident is any person who maintains their primary permanent home in or near the preserve. People who are eligible to participate in the Federal Subsistence Management Program in the park are considered local rural residents and are also eligible to subsistence hunt, trap and fish in the preserve.

You must also have a positive customary and traditional use determination for the area and species you intend to harvest. Customary and traditional use determinations are made by the Federal Subsistence Board and are based on the community or area in which you live. Customary and traditional use determinations are listed in the Federal Subsistence Management Program regulation books for the harvest of wildlife and the harvest of fish and shellfish.

ANILCA also specifies that preserves are to be managed in the same way as parks and monuments with the exception that sport hunting is allowed in preserve areas. As a result, guided and unguided sport hunting under State of Alaska regulations is permitted in Denali National Preserve.

This presents subsistence users with a choice in the preserve; they can hunt, trap or fish under federal subsistence regulations or state regulations. The primary difference being that federal regulations often have longer seasons and larger bag limits than state regulations to provide a greater subsistence opportunity.

Customary and traditional (C&T) use determinations are made by the Federal Subsistence Board. C&T determinations identify wildlife species and fish stocks taken customarily and traditionally for subsistence purposes. They also identify who is eligible to harvest those species of fish and wildlife and where they may be taken.

A positive C&T determination means only residents from certain regions, communities, fishery management areas or wildlife management units may harvest a species in a particular area.Before going out to hunt, trap or fish for subsistence in the park or preserve, check to see if the community or area where you live has a "positive" C&T determination for where you intended to harvest fish or wildlife. C&T determinations are listed for each wildlife management unit and fishery management area in the federal subsistence regulation books. The park and preserve are located in the Yukon-Northern Area Upper Yukon River, Kuskokwim and Cook Inlet fishery management areas and overlap multiple wildlife management units including 16A, 16B, 19D, 19C and 20C.

When there is not enough of a species in an area for all user groups to harvest, C&T determinations identify who has priority to take that species under the federal subsistence program. ANILCA §804 includes the following criteria to differentiate among qualified users in times of shortage:
1) Customary and direct dependence upon the fish or wildlife populations as the mainstay of livelihood;
2) local residency; and
3) availability of alternative resources.

Regardless of the type of hunt - whether a state general hunt under State of Alaska hunting regulations or a federal subsistence hunt - a state resident hunting license is always required for hunters age 16 and older. A permanent identification card issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) for residents age 60 and older also satisfies the requirement for a state license. 

In addition, some hunts require a federal or state registration permit. Federal registration permits can be obtained at the NPS office in Denali Park or if you live outside Denali Park, by contacting park staff at (907) 683-2294. State registration permits are available through the ADF&G website. Federal and state permits required for federal subsistence hunts can also be picked up at the NPS office in Denali Park.

Everyone issued a registration permit, including those who did not hunt or were unsuccessful, must turn in a harvest report within the time period specified on the permit. Harvest reports provide resource managers important information about the relative health and abundance of wildlife populations as well as harvest effort.

To trap for subsistence resources in the park or preserve, you must have a state trapping license and comply with federal trapping regulations, which can be found in the back of the federal subsistence regulations booklet for the harvest of wildlife. 

Additionally, NPS regulations define a trap as "a snare, trap, mesh, wire or other implement, object or mechanical device designed to entrap or kill animals other than fish." For this reason, free-ranging furbearers may not be taken with a firearm on NPS lands, including the park and preserve, under a trapping license. However, free-ranging furbearers may be taken with a firearm under a hunting license consistent with seasons and harvest limits in the federal subsistence hunting regulations.

You don't need a fishing license to subsistence fish under the federal subsistence management program; however, a state subsistence fishing permit is required to harvest salmon.

If you are a federally qualified subsistence user, you may designate another federally qualified subsistence user to hunt moose or caribou or take fish on your behalf. Using a designated hunter or fisher allows residents who are unable to hunt or fish for themselves to acquire the meat and fish they need for subsistence.

You can designate only one person to hunt or fish for you at one time. Designated hunters and fishers may hunt or fish for more than one recipient, but cannot have more than two harvest limits in their possession at any one time. All designated hunters and fishers must get a designated harvest permit (FWDESG) and return a completed harvest report.

Moose, caribou and fish taken by designated hunters and fishers count toward the person's harvest limit for whom the wildlife or fish is taken. Any species of fish allowed for subsistence uses in an area may be taken under a designated harvest permit.

Any person designated to harvest moose, caribou or fish for another federally qualified resident must deliver the meat promptly to the recipient. In addition, they cannot charge for their services or claim any part of the wildlife or fish for themselves. 

Non-commercial cutting of standing timber (green logs greater than three inches in diameter at ground height) is allowed for appropriate subsistence uses such as house logs or firewood, when certain criteria are met. A permit is required and can be obtained from park headquarters. Gathering of dead or downed wood for firewood is allowed without a permit. No commercial use of green logs or firewood harvested or collected in the Park and Preserve is allowed. Live timber less than three inches in diameter may be harvested by federally qualified subsistence users without a permit.

No permit is required for the non-commercial gathering of berries, mushrooms, and other plant materials by federally qualified subsistence users.

Off-Road Vehicles. Off-road vehicles (ORVs) are generally not permitted for subsistence within NPS lands, but their use may be permitted in specific areas if such vehicles are determined to have been traditionally employed for subsistence purposes in specific areas. 

Airplanes. May be used to access Denali National Preserve for the taking of fish or wildlife under the federal subsistence management program. They may also be used to access the preserve under state regulations. Airplanes are not permitted to access the park for subsistence uses. Subsistence users may not land outside the park, in the preserve or on private lands such as inholdings or Native allotments and walk into the park to take fish and wildlife for subsistence.

Snowmachines, Motorboats and Other Means of Nonmotorized Surface Transportation. Motorboats and other means of nonmotorized surface transportation, such as dog teams, may be used for any purpose, including subsistence, in the preserve. Snowmachines for traditional activities, including subsistence, and travel to and from villages and homesites may be used when there is adequate snow cover (at least 6 to 12 inches of snow).

Subsistence users are responsible for being aware and respecting the ownership status of lands they are engaged in subsistence activities. Crossing private lands, other than legally reserved public access easements, without the permission of the landowner, as well as camping or hunting on such lands without permission is trespassing.

  • call for proposals to change regulations is issued by the Federal Subsistence Board. The call for proposals to change wildlife hunting and trapping regulations is issued in January of odd numbered years. The call for proposals to change fishing regulations is issued in January of even numbered years.
  • Regional Advisory Councils meet with the public to develop proposals for their region. Proposals to change fishing and hunting regulations are submitted.
  • Proposals are published for review and public comment.
  • Proposals are analyzed by Federal staff to examine the biological and socio-cultural effects of each proposal. A preliminary conclusion is offered for consideration by the affected Regional Advisory Council(s).
  • Regional Advisory Councils meet to review the analyses and discuss public comments on proposals for their region. The Councils develop recommendations to the Federal Subsistence Board based on the analyses, tribal, ANCSA corporation, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and public comments, and their own knowledge of subsistence needs and uses.
  • The Interagency Staff Committee meets to review proposals and Council recommendations and develop its comments for the Federal Subsistence Board. The Interagency Staff Committee is made up of senior staff from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game participates to provide the State's perspective on proposals.
  • The Federal Subsistence Board meets in January (Fisheries) or April (Wildlife) to take action on the proposals. For each proposal, the Board considers the Regional Advisory Council recommendation(s), staff analysis, tribal, ANCSA corporation, Interagency Staff Committee, Alaska Department of Fish and Game and public comments. The Board can decide to adopt, reject, modify or defer action on any proposal.
  • New regulations are published and distributed to the public. Regulations are in effect for two years. Fishing regulations take effect April 1. Hunting and trapping regulations take effect July 1.

How Changes are Made to Federal Subsistence Regulations
The Federal Subsistence Board determines which subsistence wildlife and fish species are open to harvest, which communities and areas are eligible to harvest, harvest limits and seasons, the methods by which an animal or fish may be taken, and other management measures.

  • The Board consists of officials from the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Forest Service and two public members who possess personal knowledge of and direct experience with subsistence uses in rural Alaska. A representative appointed by the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture serves as the chair.
  • The Federal Subsistence Board relies heavily on the input from local subsistence users when considering regulatory changes. Subsistence users can participate in the development and review of regulations by submitting proposals to change regulations, commenting on proposals submitted by others and testifying at public meetings. Regulations are subject to change every two years.
  • Opportunities to participate in the development of federal subsistence regulations occur throughout the year. To find out the specific date when proposals must be submitted or for more information consult the Federal Subsistence Management regulations booklet or call the Federal Subsistence Management Program staff at 1-800-478-1456.

NPS regulations may supersede all federal and state subsistence hunting, trapping and fishing regulations.

News from Denali National Park and Preserve

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    Last updated: June 1, 2022