Issues Facing National Parks of Alaska

Climate Change 

Recognized as "ground zero" for global warming, Alaska and its national parks are feeling dramatic effects from our changing climate. Alaska's parks provide a living laboratory where this natural phenomenon can be observed (mostly) absent of direct urban & development influences as temperatures rise.  Glaciers are rapidly retreating and the reduction of the polar ice pack is having an impact on wildlife and coastal communities from increased storm damage to the shoreline. The arctic tundra's permafrost is melting, resulting in a loss of wetland ponds vital for waterfowl, and changes in vegetation will cause wildlife to move further north in search of food. Climate change issues in Alaska were recently highlighted in NPCA's report Unnatural Disaster: Global Warming and Our National Parks. Read more about NPCA's work on climate change issues and our report on wildlife and climate change.

Wildlife Management 

Another significant issue facing the wilderness integrity of Alaska's parks are the state of Alaska's hunting regulations, which apply on the 19 million acres of national preserve lands where sport hunting is allowed. The Park Service's Management Policies make it very clear that the Park Service cannot "engage in activities to reduce the numbers of native species for the purpose of increasing the numbers of harvested species (i.e., predator control), nor does the Service permit others to do so on lands managed by the National Park Service." Yet, the state has steadily relaxed hunting regulations on national preserve lands over the past decade causing an increase in the annual harvests of predator species (i.e., wolves and bears). NPCA actively engages with park managers to find solutions to these highly controversial (and often emotional) wildlife management challenges, beginning with our 2006 Who's Counting? report that emphasizes the need for sufficient harvest data and our 2008 Minding the Gap report that details the need for additional funding to support scientific research in order to make sound wildlife management decisions. Currently, the state of Alaska’s wildlife management allows specific hunting practices that target wolves and bears in order to grow more moose and caribou for hunters. To make it easier for hunters to kill wolves and bears, the state authorizes certain objectionable hunting methods, like baiting and snaring. Read more about this issue >

All Terrain Vehicles 

Unlike parks in the Lower 48 where most forms of off-road vehicles are prohibited, ANILCA allows snowmobiles and other motorized craft for access to inholdings, subsistence, and traditional activities.  While NPCA recognizes that motorized access is necessary for some rural Alaskans to maintain their rural lifestyle within national park boundaries, there are ongoing legal questions about recreational ATV riding in Wrangell-St. Elias and recreational snowmobile riding in Denali.

Denali National Park & Preserve just finalized a plan to allow limited all-terrain vehicle (ATV) access for subsistence hunting on several trails near Cantwell. NPCA supports limited ATV access for subsistence hunting, as long as there is little damage to park resources. And at Glacier Bay National Preserve, where limited ATV use is allowed under ANILCA for commercial fishing purposes, the Park Service is evaluating the existing trail system to see which trails to keep open and which to close. Read more about these and other access issues on page five of our Fall 2007 Field Report (PDF).

Mining

NPCA closely monitors new and emerging issues that threaten park integrity from beyond park boundaries.  The pristine waters of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve help protect spawning habitat critical to the legendary sockeye salmon fishery of southwest Alaska's Bristol Bay.  Advanced exploration at the Pebble Mine site, a massive copper/gold/molybdenum deposit, is occurring only miles from Lake Clark's southern border. Also encroaching upon Lake Clark are proposals for coal mining and hydro-electric development just north of the park.

Cape Krusenstern National Monument Contaminated by Heavy Metals

The Red Dog Mine in northwestern Alaska has had a profound and detrimental effect on Cape Krusenstern National Monument, created in 1980 to protect tremendous archeological resources. Nineteen miles of the 52-mile haul road that runs from the mine to a coastal port site is in the national monument. In 2001 and 2004 National Park scientists found astoundingly high levels of cadmium, lead, and zinc in moss for well over 15 miles on either side of the road corridor through the monument from "fugitive dust"—ore dust blown from trucks traveling the road. NPCA is opposed to a proposed mine expansion until studies prove contamination is no longer occurring and past contamination is either cleaned up, or found to have few effects on the ecosystem of the national monument.

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If you'd like to be notified of opportunities to take action to protect Lake Clark, Alaska's park wildlife, or any number of issues affecting America's and Alaska's national parks, please sign up for news and email updates from NPCA.

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