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National Park Service issues call to action

Seeks ways to protect special places, wildlife

Posted: December 5, 2012 - 12:04am
Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica speaks during an open house by the National Park Service at Centennial Hall on Tuesday as they prepare for the service's 100th Anniversary in 2016.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica speaks during an open house by the National Park Service at Centennial Hall on Tuesday as they prepare for the service's 100th Anniversary in 2016.

As the National Park Service approaches 100 years of service it is seeking input from the public on ways it can protect special places and how it can better engage and educate park uses.

To this end the Park Service held a two-hour public discussion at Centennial Hall Tuesday afternoon. About a half dozen Juneau residents attended the question and answer.

National Park Service Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica and John Quinley of Park Service Public Relations came to Juneau for the event.

Tina Brown, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said she looks to the National Park Service to protect federal lands from state Board of Game interests.

“We have taken some actions in respect to Board of Game,” Masica said. “Not over play our hand, but not underplay our hand.”

Masica said the Park Service has to pick its battles. It took up the issue of extending a Denali National Park wolf trapping and hunting buffer zone with the Board of Game and instead lost the buffer completely, she said.

“We know we’re going to have policy differences and you have to duke those out,” Masica said. “But at the same time maintain a good effective working relationship. We’ll continue to do that as well. Not let places were we have differences stand in the way.”

Attendees recommended the park service increase its entrance fees and run the parks more like a business model. They also recommended a trail and visitors center out at Indian Point.

Juneau Resident and owner of Weather Permitting whale-watching tours Greg Brown recommended the Park Service talk about Alaska wildlife in respect to its value to wildlife viewers, not just its value to hunters or trappers.

Wildlife viewing is “growing at incredible rates,” Brown said, in total around $200 million a year in the state. Depending on the species and location, an animal can have a viewing value of over $100,000, he said.

“If you go out and shoot it, it’s gone,” Brown said.

He offered the Park Service the idea of allowing school-aged youth the option to “adopt” a bear or wolf.

A recent survey counted the lowest number of wolves in Denali National Park in a quarter century.

The Park Service has found in previous discussions in Anchorage, Fairbanks and other larger Alaska cities that “climate change, access to parks, predator control, subsistence, a lack of diversity among our employees and visitors and using technology to a greater advantage are important to Alaskans.”

Trail work is a great way to get young people to care about the Park Service for the rest of their life, National Parks Masica said.

The service is also soliciting ideas for bringing national parks into the classroom through social media.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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