Sea otters, Glacier Bay National Park

Keep Glacier Bay Wilderness Wild!
Comments Due March 17

The National Park Service (NPS) has released for public comment a new draft Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan and environmental assessment (EA) for the Glacier Bay Wilderness in Alaska. While there are some good aspects to the draft Plan, the NPS also has disregarded the Wilderness Act in the various ways it proposes to develop and degrade Glacier Bay. Your help is needed by March 17 to urge the NPS to strengthen this plan and keep the Glacier Bay Wilderness wild.

Glacier Bay National Park is located in the panhandle of Alaska along the Gulf of Alaska near the town of Gustavus. It covers 3.2 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords. Glacier Bay is a homeland of the Tlingit people, a National Park, a designated Wilderness, a Biosphere Reserve, and a World Heritage Site that offers unlimited adventure and inspiration from sea to summit. The magnificent Glacier Bay Wilderness encompasses 2.6 million acres of Glacier Bay National Park. 

Glacier Bay Wilderness is one of the wildest places in the entire National Wilderness Preservation System. And while the draft Plan and EA have many good components, they also contain many features that disregard the Wilderness Act at the expense of the wild character of Glacier Bay. The NPS wants to do the following:

  • Create zones in designated Wilderness, and in particular create a less-protected “Shoreline Access Zone” where development for communication and research installations, trail and campsite constructions, and other degradation can occur. 
  • Build  a new VHF radio tower and up to 10 repeater towers, all 40 feet tall, in Wilderness. 
  • Open the door for more commercial activities such as mountaineering in Glacier Bay, despite the Wilderness Act’s prohibition on commercial services. 
  • Despite the law’s prohibition on aircraft use unless it is essential for protecting Wilderness, NPS wants to routinely fly and land helicopters in the Wilderness because it’s quick and convenient, despite the cost to wildness. 
  • Allow almost any kind of research (including that which “requires exceptions for Wilderness Act, section 4c prohibited uses”) to occur within the Glacier Bay Wilderness, even if that research violates the Wilderness Act and degrades wilderness character. 

Your letters are needed by March 17 to convince the NPS to create a better plan, one that keeps the Glacier Bay Wilderness wild. Please use this link——to access the park planning website, and urge the NPS to prohibit its proposed activities that will degrade the wild character of the Glacier Bay Wilderness. Use your own words, but try to include the points listed below:

  1. 1. Do not develop trails and campsites where they don’t currently exist. Don’t adopt the proposed zoning system if it means some areas will be administered to allow degradation of wilderness character. 
  2. 2. Do not build communications towers and repeaters in the Glacier Bay Wilderness. These are structures and installations that will degrade the area’s wild character and violate the 1964 Wilderness Act. They would also require servicing by helicopters that also violate the Wilderness Act and would further degrade Wilderness.
  3. 3. Do not allow new commercial mountaineering in the Glacier Bay Wilderness. The Wilderness Act bans commercial uses, and does not require the NPS to facilitate all possible recreational uses.
  4. 4. Eliminate the use of helicopters in the Glacier Bay Wilderness. Conduct a cumulative effects analysis of all the current helicopter use in the Wilderness, including that for the Remote Automated Weather Stations (RAWS) that the NPS approved in 2015 but which is not once mentioned in the draft Plan and EA.
  5. 5. Allow only research in the Glacier Bay Wilderness that is compatible with Wilderness. Do not allow research that “often requires exceptions for Wilderness Act, section 4c prohibited uses.”

Comment here:

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Photo: NPS/Becky King 

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