- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The nation’s northernmost national park says its new management plan will have to consider the effects of a new industrial road to the mining district of Ambler, the first road that would be constructed within its Maryland-sized boundaries.

An amended general management plan for seldom-visited Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, a project that began in 2009, lists concerns about wildlife movement, effects on subsistence activities, the spread of invasive species and visitor experience should a road ever be built. Last month, Gov. Bill Walker put a half-dozen high-profile state projects including the Ambler Road on hold due to a yawning budget deficit.

The amended plan also documents a mid-1990s land exchange between local Native corporations and the National Park Service, which was completed in an effort to work with the residents of Anaktuvuk Pass. The 358 people of Anaktuvuk Pass, which lies within the Gates of the Arctic, rely on subsistence fishing and hunting, with many using all-terrain vehicles for hunting.

“We saw a conflict arising because the use of all-terrain vehicles (is) not permitted in the park,” said Gates of the Arctic Superintendent Greg Dudgeon. The park service “avoided the problem of impeding on their subsistence lifestyle” by exchanging land with local Native corporations, he said.

Alaska Natives have hunted caribou on the land for centuries.

But the plan, which is available online, isn’t final yet, with the park service seeking public comment.

Public hearings will be held in Anchorage on Feb. 17 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Campbell Creek Science Center, and in Fairbanks on Feb. 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center. A third public hearing will be held in Anaktuvuk Pass but the time has not been set yet, park spokesperson Rebecca Talbott said.

This is the first time the general management plan has been amended in nearly 30 years, and the update is expected to last at least 15 years, the park service said.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is the most northern park in the U.S., lying completely within the Arctic Circle. At 8.4 million acres, it’s the second largest in the country. Dudgeon describes Gates of the Arctic as a “black belt wilderness park” with “wild as wild can be” characteristics. The park has no maintained trails or roads and in 2013 saw fewer than 12,000 visitors.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com


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