Feature in National Parks Magazine

Feature in National Parks Magazine

In December 1980, in the final days of his administration, President Jimmy Carter signed into law what is commonly known as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). A work in progress for nearly a decade, since the 1971 passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, ANILCA is perhaps the most significant single piece of conservation legislation in the history of this country. In a post-ANILCA world, Alaska now possesses approximately 70% of all national park lands in the United States and some 85% of national wildlife refuge lands. In a related note, Alaska now possesses some 56% of all lands designated as wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Aside from creating several entirely new national parks and expanding the boundary of some existing parks, as well as creating several new national wildlife refuges, Title VIII of ANILCA also established a rural subsistence priority for the harvest of fish and wildlife on federal public lands in Alaska. What exactly does that mean? Let’s break that down into a few components.  First, the term “subsistence” refers to a traditional way of life where primary food sources are fished, caught, hunted or gathered – everything from the traditional gillnet harvest of salmon to collecting berries, eggs and edible plants, to the hunting of moose and caribou. Second, Congress indicated that the term “rural” would refer to those smaller communities and remote locations that were places other than the larger urban areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and some other communities. Third, the “priority” would be in place in those times where there is a shortage of the resource and decisions need to be made as to who gets the first (or only) opportunity to harvest – commercial and sport users would have to give way to the subsistence harvest of rural residents. Finally, the “federal public lands” would include most of those new lands created in ANILCA (but exclude the core original parts of some of those existing parks that were expanded, like Denali and Katmai).

In its Winter 2014 issue of National Parks, the National Parks Conservation Association has published an article highlighting the impact of ANILCA on the subsistence way of life for rural Alaskans. I am pleased to note that three of my images, including the opening double-page spread, are included in the article.  All of the images were captured in or near Lake Clark National Park & Preserve and were captured as part of the fieldwork for my upcoming book, “Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.”

 

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