As a result of comments already received on their User’s Guide, the National Park
Service (NPS) has extended the comment period on draft two until September 1, 2006.
Many individuals who own land within the boundaries of Alaskan national parks remain
unaware of the entire guide process. NPS does not have a mailing list of all inholders
who cross park lands to reach their homes and it is difficult for them to research
land ownership since recording of land documents is not mandatory.
NPS Regional Director Marcia Blaszak and Deputy Regional Director Vic Knox came
to McCarthy July 17, 2006 to meet with ROW advisory board members. We were encouraged
by a change in their perspective on the access issue. After reading comment letters
about draft two, including one strong letter from Governor Murkowski, Director Blaszak
is now considering the use of a permanent easement for each existing access route,
coupled with a certificate of legal access, rather than mandating use of the standard
NPS right-of-way permit used nationwide. We propose that these certificates be attached
to each parcel rather than the landowner to provide permanence and to avoid transferability
problems as a result of sale or inheritance. The Director’s office is now researching
their regulations to see if they are authorized to grant easements in perpetuity.
Senator Ted Stevens wrote an important letter to Director Blaszak on July 18, 2006
questioning the application of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment
procedures to our Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) 1110(b)
inholder access. Senator Stevens states, “Having participated in the development
of ANILCA, I know NEPA does not apply. Congress did not intend that NEPA apply to
that Section as evidenced by the use of the phrase, ‘Notwithstanding any other provisions
of this Act or other law...’” Stevens requested that, “...NPS begin a rule-making
process to amend existing regulations to provide that NEPA does not apply to access
inholdings in national parks in Alaska under Section 1110(b).” He also is willing
to pursue legislation to accomplish that goal.
NPS has already begun the NEPA assessment process in Wrangell - St. Elias Park (WRST).
They have selected several routes in the McCarthy/ Kennicott, Chokosna, and Nabesna
areas, walked and GPSed the trails, and performed site surveys to record vegetation,
braiding, and wetland issues. They hope to begin formulation of their first programmatic
environmental assessment (PEA) this winter, which would serve as a model for future
PEAs of other routes until all existing rights-of-way have been included. Although
NPS has offered to eliminate fees for standard environmental assessments (EAs), residents
with more complex routes or substantial new routes would face fees for environmental
impact statements (EISs). Senator Stevens’ proposal would greatly simplify the access
authorization process and provide security for the future.
Rule-making or legislation could also provide permanence for their fee waiver policy,
legitimize the use of permanent easements, ensure perpetuity, and authorize the attachment
of an access certificate to each parcel. NPS has been reluctant to introduce new
rule-making to change their regulations saying the process is lengthy and cumbersome
and open to suggestions and criticisms nationwide, including hard-line comments
from environmental groups. They would prefer to find a solution within their current
We encourage you to make your comments known to Director Blaszak and Senator Stevens
at this stage of the process. Their addresses are included below for your convenience.
Permanent easements with access certificates attached to the land would give residents
the peace of mind they need to access their properties without future NPS negotiation
or interference. Elimination of NEPA compliance would abide by the true intention
ANILCA law, greatly streamline the process, remove the threat of high EIS fees, and
provide security for residents needing 1110(b) access for new routes in the future.
Now is the time for all residents who cross NPS land to reach their property to
come forward, if they have not done so already. Please make sure that NPS WRST Lands
Manager Danny Rosenkrans (phone 907-822-7240) knows who and where you are. Notify
neighbors who may be unaware of the draft process. Certificates of legal access will
be issued in one sweeping move for all routes on the ground in the very near future.
We want to ensure that no one is left behind and forced to deal with NPS on a case-by-case
basis after the fact.
Also, check Rick and Bonnie Kenyon’s website at www.wsen.net in late August or early
September to view information for the new ROW blog that we are developing. The site
will be packed with, among other things, new information as it happens, historical
ROW documents, and a message board for comments.
Thanks to your help, we are making great progress!