Po Box MXY - McCarthy #63B
Glennallen, AK 99566

            March 8, 2004

Gale Norton
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Re: ROW Testimonials Citing Inappropriate NPS Behavior in the WRST

Dear Ms. Norton:

Residents Of the Wrangells (ROW) formed during the summer of 2003 when concerned residents and users of the Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST) wished to address increasing tensions with the National Park Service (NPS.)
Since that time, through meetings in McCarthy, Glennallen and Slana, radio talk-shows, the internet, newspaper articles and word-of-mouth, the ROW organization has reached out park-wide to establish membership and listen to other grievances. We have become aware of many present and past cases of questionable NPS behavior in our area. These cases involve right-of-way closures and restrictions, permit fee requirements for in-holders, aggressive land acquisition, denial of land access for lakefront properties, intimidation of residents and hunters, selective NPS enforcement, airplane harassment, crippling impact study requirements, litigation through entrapment, and other problems.

We greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet in Anchorage with Alaska congressional officials, DC staffers and land rights group representatives in early November of 2003. For thirty years, Representative Young and Senator Stevens have championed Alaskan’s ANILCA rights and we are grateful for their positions in the past.

The packet which follows includes the first group of testimonials documenting this  NPS behavior written by WRST residents and forwarded to ROW.  They are preceded by a summary page which briefly paraphrases each account for your convenience and followed by a sampling of anonymous ROW Questionnaire responses, a letter distributed by NPS Superintendent Gary Candelaria, and relevant press releases. Other testimonials will be forwarded to you as they are received by ROW. Many people hesitate or refuse to come forward to tell their stories because they fear retaliation or hold NPS concessionaire permits and wish to keep them; therefore, our task is taking some time.
 Our organization appreciates the direct line to our legislators and government officials that you have given us. The coming year brings increased NPS pressure in the WRST on a number of fronts. Residents who were promised reasonable access to their homes along rights-of-way constructed and used long before the Park was established are now losing that access due to crippling permitting processes, annual permit fees, and costly environmental assessments. The traditional way of life promised by ANILCA which struggles to exist in the WRST is systematically being challenged by the NPS on access, subsistence, and other issues.  The NPS is aggressively buying land acreage in the Park and those who turn down their offers or resist their methods are often intimidated or harassed with a snarl of bureaucratic red tape, frequent visits from armed, flack-jacketed rangers, or treetop flyovers of their homes.

 We respectfully request that an investigation into NPS practices in the WRST begin immediately. We sincerely believe that Superintendent Candelaria and his staff have used inappropriate and extreme behavior to acquire land, deny access, close trails, litigate by entrapment, re-interpret regulations, monitor residents’ movements, and harass and intimidate residents with rangers and aircraft. These things ought not be happening! Please let us know how we can work together and how you can help us right these wrongs!


       Susan E. Smith, Chairman
      Residents Of the Wrangells

cc: Congressman Richard Pombo, House Resources Committee
Senator Pete Domenici, Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
Drue Pearce, Senior Advisor to the Secretary-Alaska Affairs,  Dept. of the Interior
Camden Toohey, Special Asst. to the Secretary,  Dept. of the Interior
Congressman Don Young, U. S. House of Representatives
Senator Lisa Murkowski, U. S. Senate
Senator Ted Stevens, U. S. Senate
Nathan Bergerbest, Legislative Aide, Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
Patricia Heller, State Director, Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
Bob Walsh, Alaska Field Representative, Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
Saga Verble, Director of Constituent Services, Office of Senator Ted Stevens
William Sharrow, Special Assistant, Office of Congressman Don Young
Paula Easley, Resource Development Council
Ray Kreig, Kantishna Inholders Association

                                      Go To Testimonial Packet

                                                 ROW Home               Back to Official Correspondence