Encyclopedia of the Arctic Alaska s National Parks - PDF by NPS


									                                Encyclopedia of the Arctic
                                 Alaska’s National Parks


The National in Alaska serve a number of purposes and respond to a diverse variety of
constituencies. Foremost among park purposes is the preservation, insofar as it is
possible, of natural and healthy ecosystems. Parks also function to provide for visitor
experiences to educate the public, to allow for wilderness experiences and to interpret the
historic and cultural experience of Alaska. Parks also provide the opportunity for
scientific research across a broad range of biological and social science disciplines. In
addition, some park lands are also designated as preserves where sports hunting and
trapping, under an appropriate regulatory regime, are permitted. The Alaska National
Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) also provide for the continuation of
traditional subsistence hunting, fishing and gathering of natural resource on park lands by
eligible rural residents. The allowance for sports hunting and subsistence pursuits is
atypical of most national parks in the U.S. but these practices help define some of the
unique attributes and difficulties faced by park managers in Alaska.

Managers face a constant balancing act requiring decision making with imperfect and
incomplete information. For example, a complex management structure is needed to
balance preservation of natural resources with the consumptive uses allowed under
subsistence access. In addition, these consumptive activities may conflict with park
visitors seeking solitude and a wilderness experience. At the same time the volume of
tourists in some parks may impinge on the health of some natural resources. Park
management is a constant tension between protecting park resource and allowing access
to them.

Alaska Federal Lands:

At 1,518,807 square kilometers (about 365,000,000 acres) Alaska is the largest state in
the union and is equal to about 20% of the size of the combined lower 48 states. More
remarkably less than one percent of the total land area is owned by private entities. A
perusal of Table xx indicates that the federal government has land management
responsibilities for about 978 million square kilometers or nearly two thirds of the entire

Owner                              Km2 (in millions)    Percent of Total
U.S. BLM                                    374                      25%
U.S. Fish & Wildlife                        305                      21%
National Park Service                       205                      14%
Forest Service                              94                       6%
State                                       343                      23%
Native                                      142                      10%
Military & other Federal                    11                      1%
Private                                      4                       <1%
                           Total           1,477                     100%

The National Park System Within Alaska:

The National parks and preserves in Alaska comprise over half of the land set aside for
parks in the entire United States. The vast majority of all federally managed land in
Alaska is inaccessible by road. The following table details the size (in km2 ) of the larger
national parks within Alaska.

Major National Parks/Preserves in Alaska                 Park       Preserve     Total area km2
Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve                  555,151     1,884,295      2,439,447
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve                       -        11,270,733     11,270,733
Cape Krusenstern National Monument                     2,629,380           -       2,629,380
Denali National Park & Preserve                        19,190,510   5,401,199      24,591,709
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve           30,449,175   3,839,102      34,288,276

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve            13,052,724    234,257        13,286,981
Katmai National Park & Preserve                 14,870,863   1,694,475       16,565,338
Kenai Fjords National Park                       2,714,088        -          2,714,088
Kobuk Valley National Park                       7,085,229        -          7,085,229
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve           10,671,287   5,695,315       16,366,602
Noatak National Preserve                             -       26,588,401      26,588,401
Wrangell-St.Elias National Park & Preserve      33,685,678 19,639,172        53,324,850
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve               -       10,224,782      10,224,782
                                                     -            -              -
                                                     -            -         221,375,817

Administrative History of Alaska’s National Parks:

Prior to 1972 the National Park Service (NPS) had administrative responsibility for only
four areas in Alaska. These four areas, created mostly by executive action, totaled about
30,534,615 km2. In 1910, President Taft, invoking the Antiquities Act, established Sitka
National Monument to protect significant cultural resources, recently damaged by
vandalism, that were related to the Tlingit-Russian battle of 1804 (Willis 1985:2). The
establishment of Mt. Mckinley National Park (at 5,698,176 km2) in 1917 was largely due
to the efforts of Charles T. Sheldon, a big game hunter (and conservationist), and the
Boone and Crockett Club of New York City. Although large game animals, including
Dall sheep, could not be hunted within park boundaries, the park could act as a refuge
and source of breeding stock for the surrounding country (Catton 1997:94).

The establishment of Mt. Mckinley National Park had met substantial opposition in
Congress (for reasons independent of the merits of the action) and officials in the newly
created NPS were concerned that attempts to create additional parks through
Congressional action might rebound against the NPS. Accordingly, Katmai National
Monument, at 4,403,095 km2 acres, was set aside by the executive action of Woodrow
Wilson in 1918. Wilson, under lobbying from the National Geographic Society and the
NPS, set aside Katmai as an area important “in the study of volcanism”. Despite the

vociferous objection of the Territorial Governor Thomas Riggs, Jr., the editors of the
Juneau Empire and other Alaskans, Calvin Coolidge, once again invoking the Antiquities
Act set aside 4,713,945 km2 acres in southeast Alaska to create the Glacier Bay National
Monument. Spurred by the efforts of the National Ecological Society, Glacier Bay was
set aside as a significant resource for scientific research into tidewater glaciers.

A key component in developing the huge oil deposits on the North Slope of Alaska and
especially with respect to the construction of the 700 mile pipeline that would bring the
oil to Valdez, an open water port, was closure and quit claim to existing or pending land
claims. Under the Statehood act of the 1950’s Congress provided for the selection of 104
million acres by the state of Alaska but did not resolve Native aboriginal claims.
Currently some State selections are still being finalized.

The issue of Native claims was addressed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
(ANCSA) of 1971. ANCSA provided a cash settlement of nearly one billion dollars and
the right to select some 44 million acres. The distribution of money and the selection of
lands would be conveyed to 200 Village and 12 Regional corporations established by the
Act. ANCSA terminated existing land freezes resulting from litigation, permitted further
filing of state selections and the development of the North slope oil fields. Conservation
and environmental groups were also concerned about the disposition of lands within
Alaska. Section 17(d)(2) of ANCSA authorized the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw
up to 80 million acres for parks, wildlife refuges, forests and wild and scenic river

In 1971 the Alaska office of the NPS completed a proposed “National Park System
Alaska Plan” that listed historic, natural and recreation areas for possible inclusion in the
National Park System. Many of the proposals from this plan were incorporated in the
withdrawals made by Secretary of the Interior Roger Morton under the terms of the
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

The Alaska National Interest lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980 was a
negotiated Congressional compromise between Native, state, mining, sports and
environmental interest groups. Environmental groups saw a doubling of the National
Park and Wildlife Refuge systems and a tripling of the National Wilderness Preservation
system. Mining interests saw the opening of Prudhoe Bay with concomitant huge profits.
The state benefited from development of oil as currently 85% of its revenues come from
royalties and taxes on North Slope oil development. Native groups, under Title VIII,
were allowed to continue hunting and fishing for subsistence purposes in any area
traditionally used in the past regardless of whether that area now exists as a “conservation
system unit” (CSU). CSU’s include parks, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, forests and
so forth.

Sports hunting interests also benefited from ANILCA in that section 203 amended the
National Park Service Organic Act of 1916 to permit hunting in areas designated as
national preserves.

The rationale for establishing National Parks, Preserves and Monuments in Alaska:

The following section provides a brief description of National Parks within Alaska,
including the rationale for their establishment as contained in ANILCA the enabling

Table xx is provided to reduce the substantial redundancies contained in the description
of park purposes enumerated in Title II (of ANILCA). One example of the legislative
language is provided to convey a sense of this broad sweeping act.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, … The preserve shall be managed for the following

purposes, among others: To protect and interpret examples of arctic plant communities, volcanic

lava flows, ash explosions, coastal formations and other geologic processes; to protect habitat for

internationally significant populations of migratory birds; to provide for archeological and

paleontological study, in cooperation with Native Alaskans, of the process of plant and animal

migration, including man, between North America and the Asian Continent, to protect habitat for,

and populations of, fish and wildlife including, but not limited to, marine mammals, brown/grizzly

bears, moose and wolves; … to protect the viability of subsistence resources; and in a manner

consistent with the foregoing, to provide for outdoor recreation and environmental education

activities …

Several park purposes specifically mentioned in ANILCA:

1. protect the natural habitat of wildlife resources and to conserve wildlife populations.

2. “in cooperation with Native Alaskans, to preserve and interpret evidence of prehistoric
and historic Native cultures”

3. study, interpret and provide educational activities concerning natural and cultural

4. to provide for and protect recreational features and activities

5. to permit “Subsistence uses by local residents … in accordance with the provisions of
Title VIII.”

Note: the absence of an “X” does not necessarily mean that this activity is not allowed or
does not exist, e.g., Katmai, Lake Clark, Noatak, Wrangell’s and Yukon-Charley all
permit some form of Title VIII subsistence, in contrast subsistence activities are not
permitted in the original Mt. Mckinley National Park but are allowed in the new
ANILCA additions to the renamed Denali National Park.

Purposes of ANILCA National Parks in Alaska                                                4. To        5. Allow
                                                            2. Preserve 3. Provide for     provide for subsistence
                                               1. Protect   & Protect   research into      or to protect access
                                               Habitat &    Archeologic natural & cultural recreational under Title
                                               Wildlife     al resources processes         activities   VIII

Aniakchak National Monument & Preserve               x                           x                             x
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve                 x           x               x               x             x
Cape Krusenstern National Monument                   x           x               x                             x
Denali National Park & Preserve                      x                                           x             x
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve         x                                           x             x
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve                 x                          X*
Katmai National Park & Preserve                      x                          X*               x
Kenai Fjords National Park                           x                                           x
Kobuk Valley National Park                           x           x                                             x
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve                x
Noatak National Preserve                             x           x               x
Wrangell-St.Elias National Park & Preserve           x                                           x
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve               x           x               x

X* purpose mentioned in pre-ANILCA

Aniakchak: The Aniakchak Caldera, the result of a series of eruptions (the latest in 1931)
is one of the finest examples of a dry caldera in the world and contains many volcanic
features including lava flows, cinder cones, and explosion pits. In addition, ANILCA
mentions the unique purpose - “To maintain the caldera and its associated volcanic
features and landscape…”

Bering Land Bridge: The Preserve is a remnant of the land bridge that connected Asia
with North America more than 13,000 years ago. During the glacial epoch this was part
of a migration route for people, animals, and plants. In addition, the preserve is tasked
with protecting and interpreting “examples of arctic plant communities, volcanic lava
flows, ash explosions, coastal formations and other geologic processes…” Inupiat
speakers from neighboring villages continue to pursue marine and terrestrial mammals
and manage reindeer herds in and around the preserve.

Cape Krusenstern National Monument: The monument is a treeless coastal plain dotted
with sizeable lagoons and features a series of 114 beach ridges that present in sequence a
detailed record of 9,000 year of prehistoric human use. A road to the Red Dog zinc mine
run by the Cominco corporation crosses the northern boundary of the monument. In
addition the monument was set aside to “protect and interpret a series of archeological
sites depicting every known cultural period in arctic Alaska; to provide for scientific
study of the process of human population of the area from the Asian Continent…”

Denali Park and Preserve: Denali Park features North America’s highest mountain,
20,320-foot tall Mount McKinley, its six million acres also encompass a “large mammal”
sub-arctic ecosystem, which continues to provide a laboratory for research into the
natural sciences. (see also: pre-1972 history and Table xx ,above). However, under
ANILCA the park’s name was changed from Mt. McKinley to Denali and the new
additions were to “be managed for the following purposes, among others: To protect and
interpret the entire mountain massif, and additional scenic mountain peaks and

formations; … and to provide continued opportunities, including reasonable access, for
mountain climbing, mountaineering and other wilderness recreational activities…”

between a National Park and a National Preserve is that sport hunting and trapping are
permitted only in the Preserve. ANILCA provides for subsistence hunting and trapping in
the National Park for local rural residents. All hunting and trapping activities are subject
to State and Federal laws.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve: Gates of the Arctic lies entirely north of
the Arctic Circle and comprises several congressionally recognized elements, including a
national park, A national preserve, wilderness areas, six Wild Rivers and two National
Natural Landmarks. It includes the scenic headlands of the Brooks Range which is the
northernmost extension of the Rocky Mountains. Barren-ground caribous and grizzly
bears make a living on the thin tundra soils. Two indigenous groups have close
affiliation with the region – Athabascan speakers of the spruce-taiga forests and
Nunamiut Eskimos, caribou hunters of the high mountain valleys. Congress is almost
lyrical in describing its intended purposes – “to maintain the wild and undeveloped
character of the area, including opportunities for visitors to experience solitude, and the
natural environmental integrity and scenic beauty of the mountains, forelands, rivers,
lakes, and other natural features; …”

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve: Contains impressive tidewater glaciers. The
Bay has experienced at least four major advances and retreats and serves as an outdoor
laboratory for contemporary research. Part of a world heritage site with three other
coterminous parks it forms part of the largest internationally protected area in the world
(see Wrangell-St. Elias). The Huna Tligingit are closely affiliated with the park. Voted
in Consumer Reports as the highest rated National Park in the U.S. Formerly a monument
it was re-designated as Glacier National Park under ANILCA.

Katmai National Park and Preserve: Mt. Katmai had a tremendous eruption in 1912
which led to its collapse and the formation of thousands of fumaroles that emitted steam
hot enough to melt zinc. This area, which became known as the Valley of Ten Thousand
Smokes, now has only a few active vents remaining. (see also: pre-1972 history and
Table xx ,above)

Kenai Fjords National Park: the park is crowned by the 700-square-mile Harding
Icefield, one of the four major ice caps in the United States. This icefield may be a
remnant of the Pleistocene ice masses once covering half of Alaska. The park's wildlife
includes mountain goats, moose, bears, wolverines, marmots and other land mammals
that have established themselves on a thin life zone between marine waters and the
icefield's frozen edges. Bald eagles nest in the tops of spruce and hemlock trees.
Thousands of seabirds, including puffins, kittiwakes, and murres seasonally inhabit the
steep cliffs and rocky shores. Kayakers, fishermen, and visitors on tour boats share the
park's waters with stellar sea lions, harbor seals, Dall porpoises, sea otters, humpback,
killer and minke whales.

Klondike Gold Rush, National Historical Park/Skagway: This park celebrates the
Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98 through 15 restored buildings within the Historic
District. The park also administers the Chilkoot Trail and a small portion of the White
Pass Trail. All through the summer and on into the winter of 1897-98, stampeders poured
into the newly created Alaskan tent and shack towns of Skagway and Dyea - the jumping
off points for the 600-mile trek to the goldfields. During the first year of the rush an
estimated 20,000 to 30,000 gold-seekers spent an average of three months packing their
outfits up the trails and over the passes to the lakes. The distance from tidewater to the
lakes was only about 35 miles, but each individual trudged hundreds of miles back and
forth along the trails, moving gear from cache to cache. Once the prospectors had hauled
their full array of gear to the lakes, they built or bought boats to float the remaining 560
or so miles downriver to Dawson City and the Klondike mining district.

Kobuk Valley National Park: Kobuk Valley National Park is encircled by the Baird and
Waring mountain ranges. Sand created by the grinding action of ancient glaciers has

been carried to the Kobuk Valley by both wind and water. Dunes now cover much of the
southern portion of the Kobuk Valley, where they are naturally stabilized by vegetation.
River bluffs, composed of sand and standing as high as 150 feet, hold permafrost ice
wedges and the fossils of Ice Age mammals. In addition to the purposes detailed in
Table xx ANILCA states that:

       The park shall be managed …to maintain the environmental integrity of the
       natural features of the Kobuk River Valley, including the Kobuk, Salmon, and
       other rivers, the boreal forest, and the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, in an
       undeveloped state …

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve: this park has been described as the Alaskan
Alps, it is the confluence of two mountain ranges, the Alaska and Aleutian and features
jagged peaks, granite spires, glaciers and two active volcanoes. Lake Clark, itself is fed
by hundreds of waterfalls and is part of an important red salmon spawning ground that
may see ten million fish return in a year. In recognition of this the ANILCA legislation
documents one of the purposes of Lake Clark is “…to protect the watershed necessary
for perpetuation of the red salmon fishery in Bristol Bay…”

Noatak National Preserve: the park and preserve are encompassed by the largest
undeveloped mountain-ringed river basin the United States. The Noatak River is
classified as a national wild and scenic river, and offers unique wilderness float-trip
opportunities - from deep in the Brooks Range to the tidewater of the Chukchi Sea.
ANILCA states that the preserve will be managed in such a way as “ to maintain the
environmental integrity of the Noatak River and …to assure the continuation of
geological and biological processes unimpaired by adverse human activity…”

Sita National Historic Park: as briefly mentioned in pre-1972 park history section the
park became a national monument in 1910 to commemorate the Battle of Sitka fought
between the Tlingits and the Russians. All that remains of this last major conflict between

Europeans and natives of the Northwest Coast is the site of a Kiks.ádi Fort. A
combination of Northwest Coast totem poles and temperate rain forest are combined on
the scenic coastal trail within the park. Refurbished and maintained within the park is the
Russian Bishop's House, one of four surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture
in North America. This original 1843 log structure contains living quarters and the
Chapel of the Annunciation with accompanying icons.

Unalaska, The Aleutian World War II National Historic Area: birthplace of winds…
cradle of storms… this area encompasses the historic footprint of the U.S. Army base
Fort Schwatka and is located on Amaknak Island in the Aleutian Island Chain of Alaska.
The fort was one of four coastal defense posts built to protect Dutch Harbor (the back
door to the United States) during World War II, the fort is also highest coastal battery
ever constructed in the United States. In 1996 Congress designated this National Historic
Area to interpret, educate, and inspire present and future generations about the history of
the Aleut or Unangan people and the Aleutian Islands in the defense of the United States
in World War II.

Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park: The Chugach, Wrangell, and St. Elias mountain
ranges converge into this, the largest unit of the National Park System. The park-
preserve includes the continent's largest assemblage of glaciers and the greatest collection
of peaks above 16,000 feet. Mount St. Elias, at 18,008 feet, is the second highest peak in
the United States. Adjacent to Canada's Kluane National Park, the site is characterized by
remote mountains, valleys, wild rivers, and a variety of wildlife. One glacier, the
Malaspina, is larger than the state of Rhode Island. The Kennecott Mine townsite is a
national historic landmark within the park. Wrangell-St. Elias along with Kluane
National Park (just across the boarder in Canada) together with Glacier Bay and
Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park in British Columbia form a 24 million acre
wilderness that has been designated a world heritage site.

Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve: located along the Canadian border in central
Alaska, the preserve protects 115 miles of the 1,800-mile Yukon River and the entire
Charley River basin. A number of historic sites within the park document the importance

of the Yukon River during the 1898 gold rush. paleontological and archeological sites
provide insight into the environment of the region. Peregrine falcons nest in the high
bluffs overlooking the river, next to the Athabascan community of Eagle Village.

Ecosystems of Alaska National Parks.

A map entitled the Unified Eco-Regions of Alaska completed in 2001 describes the
tremendous variety of climatic and environmental regimes that exist within the state.
Conceptually describing Alaska ecosystems as grading from east to west and south to
north then one encounters the coastal maritime habitat of Glacier Bay and Kenai Fjords,
with wet climates, relatively moderate fluctuations in seasonal temperatures and modest
winds. Katmai experiences a similar but slightly cooler maritime climate while Lake
Clark’s continental climate is moderated somewhat by similar maritime influences.

On the eastern border of Alaska north of these maritime climates we find the towering
mountains of faulted and folded sedimentary rock that comprise Wrangell-St. Elias
National Park. These mountains intercept an abundance of maritime moisture, mostly in
the form of snow, and as one moves northward from the Gulf of Alaska the park
(controlling for altitude) exhibits the severe temperature differentials characteristic of
interior Alaska.

Moving further north into central interior Alaska, Denali National Park and Yukon-
Charley Preserve, are incorporated within the Intermontane Boreal zones. This zone is
characterized by low moisture, large seasonal fluctuations in temperature and increased
susceptibility to fire regimes.

With the exception of the Boreal zones defined by altitude, the northern crescent of
national parks, exemplified by Gates of the Arctic, Noatak Preserve and Kobuk Valley,
experience a dry continental climate with long cold winters and short cool summers.

Frigid winter conditions are reinforced by cold-air drainages from the Brooks Range.
Thin to moderately thick permafrost underlies most of the area.

Cape Krusenstern combines a moist polar climate, fine-grained sediments and continuous
permafrost with high ice contents. Thawing permafrost is widespread and creates a thaw-
lake cycle that forms a diverse mosaic of wetlands including marshes, wet meadows and
riparian shrublands.

The following table, derived from the AKSO NPS GIS site characterizes the various
ecosystems found in the larger national parks of Alaska.

Major National Parks/Preserves in Alaska                                       Coastal
                                                                               Hemlock- Bottom
                                                           Wet       Alpine    Sitka     Spruce
                                               Moist Tundra Tundra   Tundra    Spruce    Poplar

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve                                     1         1
Wrangell-St.Elias National Park & Preserve          3                    1                   3
Kenai Fjords National Park                                               2         3
Katmai National Park & Preserve                     1                    1         3
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve               3                    1
Denali National Park & Preserve                     1                    1
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve                                   1                   3
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve                1            1       2
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve        1                    1
Noatak National Preserve                            1            3       1                   3
Kobuk Valley National Park                          3            3       1                   3
Cape Krusenstern National Monument                  1            2       2

Key: 1 significant habitat by area
     2 secondary habitat by area
     3 tertiary habitat by area

The Alaska Natural Resource Program’s Strategy for the Future.

Many consumptive and nonconsumptive uses, such as subsistence and visitation, must be
balanced. Alaska parks encompass millions of acres, and resource managers must be dedicated to
tackle complex and politically sensitive issues with small staff and limited funding. The primary
challenge is to provide for appropriate and mandated uses without compromising the health and
integrity of the ecosystems protected within the parks.

With 54 million acres to manage in Alaska, the National Park Service has a unique opportunity to
protect entire ecosystems. No other region has such opportunities. Alaska parks preserve an array
of resources, values and uses. The parks span arctic tundra, marine ecosystems, and boreal
forests; include designated wilderness and wild and scenic rivers; encompass volcanic and glacial
systems; and provide habitat for an array of wildlife and fish. Our responsibility is to protect the
natural resources of Alaska parks. In Alaska, park resource managers are challenged with creating
a management infrastructure that can effectively span vast park areas; they must be innovative
and resourceful, rely on partnerships and central office staff, and leverage funding and support.
When Congress expanded and designated the Alaska national parks with the passage of ANILCA
in 1980, our representatives considered the variety of human uses and made provisions to allow
for appropriate opportunities to continue. Subsistence and sport harvest of fish and wildlife occur
in many areas. Nearly 2,000 patented and unpatented mining claims exist within park boundaries.
Reasonable access is permitted to pursue activities like subsistence hunting and mining and to
reach private inholdings. State, Native, and private landowners own large areas in the parks and
may have different land use objectives. Consequently, lodges, logging, and industrial operations
occur within the boundaries of the parks. Natural resource management gains importance in the
face of complex land use patterns.

The integrity of Alaska national parks is important to the expanding economic growth in the state.
Tourist development and gateway communities are increasing. Park visitation has steadily
increased in the past two decades. Visitation reached a record of 2.14 million in1999, a 200
percent increase from 1989 and a 480 percent increase from recorded levels of 1980. Natural

resource protection can be as basic as cooperating with neighboring communities to maintain
fresh drinking water, preventing bear/human incidents, and providing toilets for visitors.
Development exerts pressures on the conditions of ecosystem health, biodiversity and wilderness
attributes in the parks. Managers need science-based tools and information to manage ecosystem
processes for the long term, while effectively responding to immediate issues.

Science-based management is hampered by the difficulties of conducting ecosystem-scale studies
of visitors and effects in the vast and remote Alaska parks. We currently lack basic inventory
information that will provide baseline data for future monitoring. Natural resource management
needs to be coordinated among parks and central offices and cooperators to make the best use of
small staff and limited funds and to benefit all parks in Alaska. Professional development of
resource managers is essential to provide them the education and leadership skills to deal with the
challenging tasks ahead.

ANILCA mandates preserving unrivaled scenic and geological values, wildlife populations and
habitat, unaltered ecosystems, wilderness values and recreational visitor use, opportunities for
scientific research in undisturbed ecosystems, and providing opportunities for subsistence use of
resources. Balancing resource use and preservation is paramount to Alaska national parks.

Four Regional Priorities
Eleven Focus Areas

1 Preserving Alaska’s Ecosystems
  State of the Park Resources—fully develop and implement an inventory and
monitoring program for Alaska parks.
  Backcountry and Wilderness Resources—coordinate regionally to create an effective
program and comprehensive management plans.
  Coastal Resources—develop knowledge sufficient to protect resources and processes
through cooperative management strategies.
  Partnerships Across Boundaries—participate in ecosystem management opportunities
at local and regional levels.

2 Visitation and Access
  Visitor Use—develop methods to establish visitation goals and levels of use that
balance visitor use with resource protection.
  Transportation and Access—anticipate and plan for appropriate transportation and
access methods, levels and infrastructure.

3 Balancing Preservation and Consumption
  Subsistence and Sport Harvest—provide opportunities for traditional and customary
uses while maintaining natural and healthy
  Non-Federal Ownership—address non-federal ownership consistent with park
legislation and sound resource management principles.

4 A Scientific Foundation for Park Management
  Living Laboratories—seek collaborative research opportunities and broadly share
scientific results with visitors and educational
  Bringing Information Resources into the 21st Century—develop information
management strategy to make new and existing data
readily accessible.
  Fostering Professionalism—develop and support a professional workforce qualified in
resource management and protection.

The four regional priorities and 11 focus areas described in the body of the document are a
consensus opinion of the most important areas to attend to in the near term.

Baseline ecosystem health and trends information is lacking for most Alaska national parks.
Inventory techniques and monitoring protocols established in other states are not always
appropriate for very large, remote geo- graphic areas. Taxa groups with the largest baseline

information gaps include plants, birds, small mammals and fisheries. These data deficiencies are
consistent for all of the ecological networks in Alaska

How Big is Big Enough?

William Newmark in his article in Conservation Biology (1995, Vol. 9, No.3),
“Extinction of Mammal Populations in Western North American National Parks” used
sighting records from 24 parks in the western U.S. and two provinces of Canada to
compile a mammalian species checklist through time. In general he found that smaller
parks such as Bryce canyon (36,000 acres), Lassen Volcanic (106,372 acres) and Zion
(146,597) National Parks had each lost close to forty percent of their larger mammal
species, either through direct human persecution or through random effects that seem to
impact small island (or isolated “inland” areas) populations harder than other areas. In
contrast larger park clusters such as Yellowstone (2.2 million acres) and Grand Teton
(310,000 acres) had lost only one species the wolf. Although recent events concerning
the buffalo at Yellowstone may belie these conclusions, it is interesting to note, as Table
xx above indicates, none of the parks and preserves in Alaska are less than twice the size
of Grand Teton and ten are equal or up to six times greater than Yellowstone.

Obviously the parks in Alaska vary from those in the Lower 48, they exist in sub-arctic
and arctic environments with concomitant differences in productivity, in number of
species and so forth. And although they are large “islands” they are not insulated from
pollution moving east from Russia or born north on oceanic circulation patterns. In
addition, over fishing of stocks in coastal Alaska, habitat destruction of neotropical
migrant birds. Equally problematic are the movement of large-scale ungulates such as
the 500,000 individuals in the Western Arctic Caribou Herd (WACH) that migrate far
beyond the boundaries of even Alaska’s gigantic parks. Newmark’s findings are not
definitive, issues such as habitat diversity and its influence of extinction’s still need to be
settled. Nevertheless his generalizations are suggestive.

Finally, parks in Alaska differ in another aspect from similar lands in the Lower 48 in
their allowance of human harvest and consumption of wildlife populations (subsistence).

Human Consumptive Uses and Minimum Viable Populations:

The concept of minimum viable population (MVP) is linked to Newmark’s question of
how much acreage provides the minimal critical area for an ecosystem by asking the
additional question how many of a resource population are needed to remain viable. One
answer came from a paper done by Mark Shaffer who used data on Grizzly Bears
gathered by the Craigheads in Yellowstone National Park. Shaffer reasoned that if you
save enough land to sustain the population numbers of species at the top of the food chain
then you have probable saved enough to sustain the whole food chain (web). Shaffer’s
work helped clarify what factors may bring about extinction in small populations. He
identified two general sets of pressures.

One set of human generated pressures Shaffer termed “systematic pressures”. Quammen
thinks these pressures such as sport hunting, bounties, pesticides, destruction of habitat
and so forth can be predicted and controlled.

Another set of less predictable pressures that work on small populations are termed
“stochastic perturbations”. In Quammen’s (1996:516) terms these perturbations

       are those that elude human prediction and control, either because they are
       genuinely random or because the result from nonhuman causes so intricate and
       obscure as to seem random. Stochastic perturbations introduce uncertainty into the
       fate of a population - and the smaller he population, the greater the uncertainty.

Schaffer’s work indicates four general types of stochastic uncertainty:

•   demographic - variations in birth and death rates or gender ratios.

•   environmental - including fluctuations in weather, in food supplies, predation,
    competition and disease.

•   natural catastrophes - fire, floods, earthquakes.

•   genetic - genetic drift, genetic load on small populations

All four of these stochastic processes, either individually or in combination can bring
about extinction in small populations. Although one can debate the validity of Shaffer’s
estimates for MVP his discussion did indicate a critical insight - invoking any numerical
standard involves societal standards not just predictions from biological and ecological
models. Political and cultural issues help determine critical parameters regarding
preservation and security of a species in an ever changing environment.

In addition, this considerable acreage supports a variety of flora and fauna that have been
harvested for subsistence purposes for a number of millennium. Existent rural
communities continue to be dependent on these resources and the continuity of their
harvest practices on NPS managed lands is guaranteed under ANILCA. It needs to
pointed out that the harvest of these resources (fish, large and small mammals, berries,
plants and so forth) are embedded in a series of social relationships that make the activity
far more important than just a nutritional equivalent.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)


The social and cultural categories with which people organize and understand their
environment are critical for any agency involved in ecological stewardship. An
understanding of how other cultures categorize the natural world and their relationship to
it is crucial for communication, for legitimate dialogue on resource management issues
but most importantly it is necessary for the long term “health and sustainability” of any

In Alaska federal agencies have been tasked with the responsibility of managing
consumptive uses of natural resources on federal lands. The regulatory framework
[including the determination of eligibility, access and seasons and bag limits] may have
little overlap with traditional practices. In fact, research conducted by Georgette,
Pedersen and others indicate rural communities located on or adjacent to federal lands
continue to harvest resources in a manner that largely ignores the federal regulatory
framework. This discrepancy between the “virtual reality” of the regulatory framework
and actual behavior has serious consequences for all parties involved. It is the intent of
this paper to provide a description and analysis of some traditional behaviors, and the
knowledge, values and attitudes that underlie these behaviors. It is hoped that an
understanding of these behaviors and values will create an awareness that allows for a
constructive dialogue between land managers and local community members. In turn this
dialogue may help to bridge the gap between regulation and practice and provide a
legitimate process to insure the health of the resources in which we all share a vested

The first part of this paper provides a brief overview of the practices and values that
constitute Traditional Ecological Knowledge [TEK]. The second part of the paper uses
several concrete examples from Alaska (which contains half of the US park acreage) to
demonstrate that some concepts such as “healthy”, “natural” and “sustainable” are
culturally defined. This section will argue that to ignore the ethnocentric content of these
assumptions creates a process that is ultimately self-defeating with respect to a resource

manager’s overall objectives. In short the intent of this paper is to demonstrate why an
awareness of TEK is crucial to park or refuge management and ecosystem stewardship.


Alaska’s population is extremely skewed with respect to residence. About 80% of
Alaska’s 550,000 residents live in the major metropolitan areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks
and Juneau. The remaining 20%, or about 120,000 individuals, live in about 200 small
rural communities. The vast majority of these rural communities have less than 300
people. About 120,000 rural residents qualify (see discussion of ANILCA above) for
subsistence hunting and fishing on federal lands.

In addition, in contrast to the Lower 48 states, federal lands held in refuges and parks
may actually constitute sufficient acreage to sustain evolving “ecosystems”, although, as
we shall see, even in the vast acreage of Alaska human influences permeate the

                          Alaska's Population 1990: Rural/Urban by Ethnicity

                                                                             Rural Native Population


      Urban Non-Native Population
                                                                 29,81            Rural Non-Native Population

                                                                          Urban Native Population

            Note: About 117,000 (21%) Rural
            Residents Qualify for Subsistence
            Hunting and Fishing on Federal

As one can see from Chart xx above, the State Supreme Court decision to enfranchise
both rural and urban residents has the potential to exert tremendous harvesting pressures
on wildlife populations. However, this potential is more hypothetical than concrete given
the concentration of human populations in three major urban areas, the lack of road
system throughout much of Alaska and the fact that transportation costs makes the
harvesting of non-local resources prohibitive. Although sports hunters will pay up to
$10,000 to obtain a grizzly bear and proportionally less for other species.

What is Subsistence?

[]Critical to all this logrolling was an accommodation between the federal and state
governments as to who would manage fish and game on federal lands. Key to Native

negotiations in ANILCA was the provision for a subsistence priority (over sports and
commercial activities) for rural (not Native) residents in the harvest of fish and game on
public lands. Under ANILCA the State of Alaska could manage wildlife resources on all
public lands and long as it was in compliance with the subsistence priority granted to
rural residents. In 1982 State Boards of Fisheries and Game adopted regulations
creating a rural subsistence priority.

[]After the passage of ANILCA sports hunters, mostly drawn from urban areas, were
unhappy with the priority given to rural residents. For a variety of reasons, which we
will discuss below, they classified rural residents as being essentially similar to
themselves. To them the issue was a debate over civil rights. Thus despite the many
compromises inherent in the negotiation of ANILCA this interest group wished to reopen
who had the right to harvest resources, especially under circumstances in which the
resource might be of limited availability. It is ironic to note that the Congressional Acts
that had opened up oil development, which in turn had provided for Alaska’s economic
boom, probably also provided the economic infrastructure that allowed urban hunters to
live in Alaska.

Based on a lawsuit strongly supported by sports hunting groups, e.g., the Alaska Outdoor
Council, the State Supreme Court in 1989 in McDowell v. State ruled that State laws
granting a subsistence priority based solely on residency was unconstitutional under the
State Constitution. In July of 1990 as a result of the McDowell decision the federal
government assumed management of subsistence activities on federal public lands.

The current harvest of fish, game and other wildlife resources by both sports and
subsistence entities in Alaska is considerable.

                                 Wild Resource Harvest by Alaska Residents 1994

                                                                               Total Pounds Harvested
                                                                                   Rural Residents

                                                                43.7 Million

                                   9.8 Million

        Total Pounds Harvested
            Urban Residents

And while sports interests usually focus on a few species such as the high profile land
mammals of moose, caribou and trophy species such as brown bear, Dall sheep and
mountain goat; subsistence harvesters, as documented below, take resources from a wide
variety of species, with fish (including salmon and various non-anadromous species)
being the keystone resource category. Chart xx documents the resource composition of
subsistence harvests for the state.

                  Composition of Wildlife Harvests By Rural Alaskan Households, 1990's

                                              2%               Marine Mammals


                                                                                         Marine Mammals
           Fish                                                                 Game     Birds
           60%                                                                  20%


The contribution of wildlife resources, both from the standpoint of nutrition and
economics, to rural individuals within Alaska is enormous. Chart xx indicates the per
capita contribution, in pounds, for various regions of Alaska. Note, the average U.S.
per capita consumption of meat, fish and poultry is about 225 pounds per year.

                                            Per Capita Wild Resource Harvest (lbs.)
                                                   Selected Alaska Regions

             Western Alaska

         Rural Interior Alaska



               Kodiak Island                                                                               Per Capita (lbs.)

             Rural Southeast
                                                                                                        Note: Average Per
 U.S. Store Bought Meat/Fish                                                                            Capita
                                                                                                        Consumption of
          Rural Southcentral                                                                            Fish/Meat/Poultry
                                                                                                        in U.S.



                                 0   100   200       300         400         500      600   700   800

Chart XX above shows the high dependency on wildlife resources for regions within
Alaska. The Arctic region (of which the Northwest Arctic is a part) averages about 650
pounds per person per year in the consumption of wildlife resources. It is apparent that
the most substantial part of an individual’s diet comes from subsistence products. As an
example of the great dependence Alaskan rural communities have on wildlife resources
we have selected four communities from the northwest portion of the state to illustrate the
great economic costs associated with not having access to these resources.

Rural Northwest Arctic communities are accessible only by air. Bulk items such as food
are extremely expensive to transport. Anchorage’s food costs are about 25% greater than
food costs for an average city in the US. And while Anchorage food costs are about 25%
greater than most cities in the Western US, the rural communities of Northwest Alaska
have food costs more than twice that of Anchorage.

With per capita incomes ranging from $5,000 to $14,000 the total replacement cost of
wildlife resources, in the four communities that have detailed harvest data, range from
13% to 77% of the total per capita income for that community.

                                                  Kotzebue Deering Noatak Kivalina
Per Capita Income - 1990 Census                       $13,906            $7,272   $7,089   $4,968
Replacement Cost $3/lb                                $1,779             $2,016   $1,383   $2,283
Replacement Cost $5/lb                                $2,965             $3,360   $2,305   $3,805

   Replacement Cost of Subsistence Products as Proportion of Per Capita Income

                                                      Replacement Cost $5 as
                                                      Proportion of Income
                                                      Replacement Cost $3 as
                                                      Proportion of Income







           Kivalina         Deering          Noatak              Kotzebue

And while the nutrition and economic aspects of wildlife harvests seem the critical issue,
in fact, it is the social relations in the harvest, processing, and sharing of these resources
that is of paramount concern to the rural Native Alaskans of the region.

Subsistence resources and the activities associated with the harvest of these resources
provide more than food. Participation in family and community subsistence activities,
whether it be claming, processing fish at a fish camp or seal hunting with a father or
brother provide the most basic memories and values in an individual’s life. These
activities define and establish the sense of family and community. These activities teach
how a resource can be identified, methods of harvest, efficient and non-wasteful
processing of the resource and preparation of the resource as a variety of food items.

The distribution of these resources establishes and promotes the most basic ethical values
in Native and rural culture - generosity, respect for the knowledge and guidance of elders,
self-esteem for the successful harvest of a resource and family and public appreciation in
the distribution of the harvest. No other set of activities provide a similar moral
foundation for continuity between generations.

The single most respected and reinforced role for young men in the community is to be a
successful hunter who distributes the fruits of that success widely within the community.

Food preferences are the most conservative behaviors in any culture. The unique
preparation and special taste of foods encountered by children as they grow up stays with
them forever. Years later the taste and smell of certain foods evoke memories of family
and belonging.

The 20% of the state’s population that is “rural” harvests about 44 million pounds (or
about 80%) of the total wildlife consumed each year. Although large amounts of

resources, especially fish, are taken from state lands, it is reasonable to estimate that
about 30 million pounds of wildlife resources are extracted from lands managed by
federal resource managers.

The vast scale of the Alaska landscape when combined with the small number of
enforcement personnel has significant implications for agency control and authority. In
the huge areas of the sub-arctic and arctic regions regulating the harvest of wildlife
resources on a day-to-day basis often devolves to the local communities and their
customary and traditional practices. Communities and regional entities often request that
their local knowledge of a resource be included in resource management decisions. For
their part, most land managers realize that to achieve their conservation objectives and to
be effective managers requires the incorporation of local perceptions and values in their
management decisions. It is at this interface that anthropologists can make substantial

Integral to all this discussion is the awareness that management of natural resources is a
process framed by social attitudes, cultural beliefs, multiple jurisdictions and a variety of
vested economic and political interests. Ethnography and other social science
methodologies can help us to understand and communicate the importance of these
vested interests to resource managers.

       Intimate knowledge of traditional resource use will allow NPS managers to
       respond to stakeholders in culturally appropriate ways. (“Ecosystem
       Management in the National Park Service 1994:15)

Cape Krusenstern National Monument: … The monument shall be managed for

the following purposes, among others: To protect and interpret a series of

archeological sites depicting every known cultural period in arctic Alaska; to

provide for scientific study of the process of human population of the area from

the Asian Continent, in cooperation with Native Alaskans, to preserve and

interpret evidence of prehistoric and historic Native cultures, to protect habitat for

seals and other marine mammals; to protect habitat for and populations of, birds,

and other wildlife, and fish resources; and to protect the viability of subsistence

resources. Subsistence uses by local residents shall be permitted in the

monument in accordance with the provisions of Title VIII.


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