Ptarmigan Tracks

The Newsletter of Camp Denali,
North Face Lodge & Parkside Guest House

Online Version 2018

Denali Planning Proceeds Under New Paradigm

The process of planning is well rehearsed in Denali, but the ground rules for park planners and the public have changed. Two initiatives, a Winter and Shoulder Season Plan and a Wonder Lake and Kantishna Recreation Plan, are moving forward under new secretarial and executive orders claiming to streamline the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Under these orders, National Park Service (NPS) planning guidelines will sideline public process unless planners actively commit to it.

The Winter and Shoulder Season Plan’s visionary document presents a spectrum of ideas around access, facilities and commercial opportunities designed to improve and broaden visitor experience. Off-season visitation to the Park has increased a whopping 350% in the last five years. Currently the quiet off-season provides a welcome respite for wildlife and our gateway communities. Improved access and opportunity must proceed cautiously in order to protect wilderness and wildlife values. Look for a draft plan out for public review this May.

In one sense, the Wonder Lake and Kantishna Recreation Plan is a long-awaited comprehensive management plan for the Kantishna, but “recreation” is only half of the NPS dual mandate. So far, the Park’s vision includes trail and remote campground development, a roadside commercial use campground and possibly breaking ground for a new, consolidated NPS administrative site. We are discouraged the NPS did not undertake a thorough and transparent visioning for this plan inclusive of conservation priorities. Among the goals of Denali’s 1986 General Management Plan for the Kantishna were protections for seasonally migratory wildlife and purposeful buy-back of available private land to ensure limited development and preservation of the area’s remote, wilderness character, a vision further supported by the 2006 Backcountry Management Plan.

The recreation plan’s burgeoning scope is not yet public, but the draft is scheduled for May 2019. In addition to sustaining the area’s conservation goals, we hope the Park prioritizes long-overdue trail remediation and improvements to current visitor services, and stops short of putting the Kantishna “up for sale.”

Back to Online Version 2018

Photo credit: Linda Sparks