May 4, 2006
Governor Frank Murkowski
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001
Dear Governor Murkowski,
The residents of Wrangell-St. Elias Park (WRST) are extremely grateful for your efforts to help us work with the National Park Service (NPS) to settle our access issues in the park. Your April, 2004 letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton was a turning point in our struggle for NPS recognition of our rights granted by ANILCA.
Largely due to your letter, draft one of a User’s Guide for inholders was released last year. As State ANILCA Coordinator Sally Gibert so succinctly commented, the draft had many flaws and fell far short of meeting inholders’ needs. Last fall as the comment period for draft one drew to a close, late WRST Superintendent Jed Davis called a few of us from the McCarthy area to a small meeting. He informed us that he was going to his superiors to seek assurances that there would be:
- No inholder permits
- No fees or environmental assessments (EAs)
- An access document attached to the land in perpetuity.
Two weeks before his death, Jed again called several of us to his home for a short meeting to outline the changes he was able to accomplish in draft two. He was able to waive fees at the policy level and offer a programmatic EA (PEA), at NPS expense, to satisfy NEPA requirements. However, Solicitor’s Office lawyers in D.C. took a hard line and insisted that we use the same right-of-way permitting system as the rest of the country, including regulations which allow revocation. This point alone should reinforce the fact that typical inholder permits will not work in Alaska. Jed also commented that he almost convinced them to accept the perpetuity issue, and that was certainly worth pursuing further.
Our organization backs your suggestion that a Categorical Exclusion be used to eliminate the need for NEPA compliance. We ask for rulemaking changes to clarify that any inholder fees are inappropriate, rather than a waiver policy easily changed by future administrations. We suggest implementing a documentation procedure to identify and describe existing rights-of-way, followed by the issuance of a permanent document, attached to the land, guaranteeing access in perpetuity.
Danny Rosenkrans, WRST Lands Manager, spoke at a May 3 draft two comment meeting in McCarthy. He said issuing a permanent document attached to the land constitutes granting of property rights, an action outside of NPS jurisdiction. We argue that without such a document, we have an encumbrance upon our parcels due to the uncertainty of the access issue.
We ask that you again use your influence to intervene on our behalf to protect Alaskan citizens’ access rights under ANILCA. Residents can only go so far in working with this huge federal bureaucracy without the continued overt support and influence of the State. As long as D.C. lawyers insist that Alaska use the same right-of-way regulations as the rest of the nation, we will never have a mutually agreeable settlement. We need a permanent solution, supported by rulemaking, which guarantees each parcel’s right-of-way for landowners and their successors so that our heirs will not have to address this issue in the future. We would also like to see the State push for NPS recognition of RS2477 rights-of-way in light of the recent Gale Norton memo.
We ask for you to again come forward to clarify and defend our access rights before they are lost forever as a result of this User’s Guide that NPS encourages us to accept with few modifications.
Susan E. Smith
Chairman, Residents of the Wrangells
cc: Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator
Ted Stevens, U.S. Senator
Don Young, U.S. Congressman
Nathan Bergerbest, Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
Bob Walsh, Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski
William Sharrow, Office of Congressman Don Young
Saga Verble, Office of Senator Ted Stevens
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