Twenty-seven Years Ago, Eight National Parks Came to Be

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park was one of eight national parks created through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. NPS Photo by Charles Westerlage.

Never before have, and probably never again will, so many national parks come into existence on the same date. Given birth by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act were Denali, Gates of Arctic, Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias national parks.

Long in coming, and highly controversial for the amount of land it would put off-limits to mining, logging and other extractive and consumptive industries, the act signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on December 2 added 43 million acres to the national park system. President Carter actually had moved in December 1978 to protect these lands by resorting to the Antiquities Act to protect them as national monuments. A highly unpopular move in Alaska, the president's actions spawned protests across the state.

While today there remains some friction and controversy in Alaska over ANILCA, the national park system benefits from the protection of some amazing landscapes.

* Gates of the Arctic National Park, which contains approximately 7,052,000 acres of public lands and Gates of the Arctic National Preserve, which contains approximately 900,000 acres of federal lands. The park and preserve shall be managed for, among other things, maintaining 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, forestlands, rivers, lakes, and other natural features; to provide continued opportunities, including reasonable access, for mountain climbing, mountaineering, and other wilderness recreational activities, and; to protect habitat for and the populations of, fish and wildlife, including, but not limited to, caribou, grizzly bears, Dall sheep moose, wolves, and raptorial birds. Subsistence uses by local residents shall be permitted in the park, where such uses are traditional.

* Kenai Fjords National Park, which contains approximately 567,000 acres of public lands. The park shall be managed for, among other things, maintaining unimpaired the scenic and environmental integrity of the Harding Icefield, its outflowing glaciers, and coastal fjords and islands in their natural state, and; to protect seals, sea lions, other marine mammals, and marine and other birds and to maintain their hauling and breeding areas in their natural state, free of human activity which is disruptive to their natural processes. The legislation allows the secretary of the Interior to develop access to the Harding Icefield and to allow use of mechanized equipment on the icefield for recreation.

* Kobuk Valley National Park, which contains approximately 1,710,000 acres of public lands. The park shall be managed for, among other things, maintaining 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; to protect and interpret, in cooperation with Native Alaskans, archaeological sites associated with Native cultures; to protect migration routes for the Arctic caribou herd; to protect habitat for, and populations of, fish and wildlife including but not limited to caribou, moose, black and grizzly bears, wolves, and waterfowl and to protect the viability of subsistence resources. Subsistence uses by local residents shall be permitted in the park. The Interior secretary has the authority to permit aircraft to continue to land at sites in the upper Salmon River watershed.

* Lake Clark National Park, which contains approximately 2,439,000 acres of public lands, and Lake Clark National Preserve, which contains approximately 1,214,000 acres of public lands. The park and preserve shall be managed for, among other things, protecting the watershed necessary for perpetuation of the red salmon fishery in Bristol Bay; to maintain unimpaired the scenic beauty and quality of portions of the Alaska Range and the Aleutian Range, including active volcanoes, glaciers, wild rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and alpine meadows in their natural state, and; to protect habitat for and populations of fish and wildlife including but not limited to caribou, Dall sheep, brown/grizzly bears, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons.

* Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, which contains approximately 8,147,000 acres of public lands, and Wrangell-Saint Elias National Preserve, which contains approximately 4,117,000 acres of public lands. The park and preserve shall be managed for, among other things, maintaining unimpaired the scenic beauty and quality of high mountain peaks, foothills, glacial systems, lakes, and streams, valleys, and coastal landscapes in their natural state; to protect habitat for, and populations of, fish and wildlife including but not limited to caribou, brown/grizzly bears, Dall sheep, moose, wolves, trumpeter swans and other waterfowl, and marine mammals, and; to provide continued opportunities including reasonable access for mountain climbing, mountaineering, and other wilderness recreational activities. Subsistence uses by local residents shall be permitted in the park, where such uses are traditional.

* Glacier Bay National Monument, by the addition of an area containing approximately 523,000 acres or Federal land. Approximately 57,000 acres of additional public land is hereby established as Glacier Bay National Preserve. The monument also was redesignated as Glacier Bay National Park. The lands are to be managed for, among other things, protecting a segment of the Alsek River, fish and wildlife habitats and migration routes and a portion of the Fairweather Range including the northwest slope of Mount Fairweather.

* Katmai National Monument was enlarged via the addition of an area containing approximately 1,037,000 acres of public land. Approximately 380,000 acres of additional public land was established as Katmai National Preserve. Additionally, the monument was redesignated as Katmai National Park. The monument addition and preserve shall be managed for, among other things, protecting 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.

* Mount McKinley National Park, through the addition of approximately 2,426,000 acres of public land, and approximately 1,330,000 acres of additional public land is hereby established as Denali National Preserve, and then redesignated as Denali National Park and Preserve. The park additions and preserve shall be managed for, among other things, protecting and interpreting the entire mountain massif, and additional scenic mountain peaks and formations; protecting habitat for, and populations of, fish and wildlife including, but not limited to, brown/grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, wolves, swans and other waterfowl, and; to provide continued opportunities, including reasonable access, for mountain climbing, mountaineering and other wilderness recreational activities. That portion of the Alaska Railroad right-of-way within the park shall be subject to such laws and regulations applicable to the protection of fish and wildlife and other park values as the Interior secretary, with the concurrence of the secretary of Transportation, may determine. Subsistence uses by local residents shall be permitted in the additions to the park where such uses are traditional.

Comments

It might be worth mentioning, that two National Monuments, Becharof National Monument and Yukon Flats National Monument, were downgraded to Wildlife Refuges in the same act of legislation. They are in the jurisdiction of the FWS.

Congratulation to all those amazingly beautiful parks.
However, it's easier to create a national park than to keep and protect one !!!
How is it in God's name possible that i.e. Katmai National Preserve today
is a favourite grizzly slaughterhouse for all those so-called sports hunters.
Instead it should be protected and admired for its beautiful nature and all wildlife
that have Katmai as their natural habitat !!!!
Look at it, don't destroy it !!!