|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||July 23, 2003|
|Contact:||Jim Stratton, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 907-277-2637
Andrea Keller, National Parks Conservation Association, P: 202-454-3332
New Study Reveals Denali Landscape in Good Shape
“Denali’s natural landscape is in outstanding condition. The park is a model for the protection of other national parks,” said Jim Nations, Ph.D., vice president of NPCA’s State of the Parks® program. “But the only way to keep Denali in superb condition is to directly confront threats to the park’s majestic landscape and cultural treasures. If we don’t, this icon park will no longer be an icon, and the experiences of thousands of visitors will suffer.”
According to NPCA’s new State of the Parks report, current overall conditions of Denali’s natural resources rated 94 out of a possible 100, the highest score of any park that NPCA has assessed to date. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1976, Denali National Park and Preserve attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually, inspired by the massive scale of the park’s mountains, sweeping natural landscape, and abundant wildlife. The majority of visitors tour the park via its highly successful bus system, which allows more than 80 percent of those who take the bus to see grizzly bear, caribou, and Dall sheep. However, Denali’s high score could be significantly downgraded if a proposed 90-mile road or railroad is built on the park’s northern side. NPCA warns that the construction would significantly alter Denali’s wilderness character and disrupt the fragile park ecosystem.
“This is an economically foolhardy project with no demonstrated need beyond lining the pockets of a few select consulting and construction companies,” said Jim Stratton, NPCA’s Alaska regional director, noting that this threat earned Denali a place on NPCA’s 2003 list of America’s Ten Most Endangered National Parks.
Denali’s often-overlooked cultural resources received a poor rating of 56 out of 100. Of particular concern are the park’s archaeological sites, likely to hold clues to a better understanding of how and when the Americas were populated. Without a full-time archaeologist and adequate funding, most sites remain unexamined, unprotected, and unappreciated by visitors. Denali also lacks a full-time museum curator, so 88 percent of the park’s 340,000 archival documents, including historic photographs, are not processed and are inaccessible to researchers, staff, and park visitors.
“Without additional staff and funding to protect the park’s cultural heritage,” Stratton added, “the rich history of this land and the people that survived here will neither be fully realized nor protected for future generations.”
NPCA launched the landmark State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country. The product of a yearlong analysis, Denali National Park: A Resource Assessment, is the eighth NPCA State of the Parks report.