National Park Service (NPS) is the planning to hold listening sessions, and would like to hear from people who use any parts of the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Session are scheduled for four communities in the vicinity of the park this summer, but additional sessions are anticipated later for more than a dozen communities including Anchorage and Fairbanks. Given the importance of aviation for access to most of the park, individual pilots, as well as businesses that rely on aviation should participate in this effort.
Management plans often drive what happens in national parks. Periodically NPS updates these plans, using the opportunity to evaluate how the park is being used and what pressures it is experiencing. Part of that process involves hearing from the wide range of people that use the park, be it for hiking, mountain climbing, camping, flight-seeing or exploring the historic mining operations that once took place in the Wrangells. This the largest park in the nation, at something over 13 million acres in size, with few roads and trails, making the airplane a key tool for access.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park has a network of public use cabins, many of which are only available by aircraft. The aviation community has a history of working with NPS to help maintain some of the strips used to reach these cabins. This July 13-15, the Recreational Aviation Foundation is organizing a work party to maintain the Peavine Bar Airstrip. For information, or to participate, see: http://theraf.org/civicrm/event/info?id=398. This is a good opportunity to help improve this infrastructure, while having some fun at the same time.
NPS started a “backcountry” plan in 2015, and held an initial set of listening sessions. Since that time, key positions at Wrangell-St. Elias have turned over, including the superintendent. As the new management team evaluated the previous work, they discovered that a number of the comments received were focused on the frontcountry—or more developed and accessible parts of the park. Consequently, Superintendent Ben Bobowski is interested in hearing from stakeholders, to learn about their issues and concerns for all parts of the park. Once they have a better handle on stakeholder issues, they will decide what type of a plan to develop.
How to be involved
If possible, participate in any of the listening sessions currently scheduled. Comments may also be provided by email at: [email protected] or through the NPS planning website: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/WRSTListens. As the planning process proceeds, AOPA will follow it closely, and may be asking your input on aviation issues related to this park that encompasses everything from active volcanoes to massive glaciers and ice fields. It is a national treasure, and the airplane provides one of the few ways to reach its most distant features.