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How they came to be by Jonathan B. Jarvis & T. Destry Jarvis The following excerpts from National Parks Forever: Fifty Years of Fighting and a Case for Independence (2022, University of Chicago Press), by Jonathan B. Jarvis and T. Destry Jarvis, are shared with permission. They are taken from chapter 2, “Alaska: Doing it Right the First Time.” Jonathan Jarvis was director of the National Park Service from 2009-2017. His brother, Destry, has worked in lands conservation for decades. While traveling thirty miles to another creek or valley in Virginia was an adventure, we vicariously visited wild country through the writings of Zane Grey, Sigurd Olson, and Wallace Stegner. We traveled west with Ward Bond on “Wagon Train” and experienced nature up close with Walt Disney. But Alaska called to us as the ultimate adventure. Little did we know that, one day, we would have the opportunity to not…

A lone bear stakes out his fishing territory beneath Brooks Falls in Katmai. Photo by Michelle Theall. Alaska’s eight designated national parks cover over 41 million acres. For scale, that’s twice the size of all of the Lower 48 national parks—from Death Valley to Big Bend—added together. National parks are considered the crown jewels of each state—important enough to be protected for all—and Alaska is no exception. It just, well, has a bigger crown. Alaska is romanticized and revered for its wildness, its vast and forbidding landscapes, and its almost mythic number of creatures. The diverse flora and fauna here exist among famous mountains, but also unnamed and unclimbed peaks and salmon-rich rivers and remote streams. There’s a reason these areas are protected: their wild beauty and wonder represent the best Alaska and, thus, our country, has to offer. Visiting all of the parks requires some logistical gymnastics—ideally broken down…

An Alaska Wolf’s Final Journey On the peaks above the Coleen and Sheenjek Rivers, where patches of bare ground dotted the south-facing hillsides and meltwater plunged toward both rivers, hardy Pasque flowers swayed in the breeze. Golden eagles, having returned from southern wintering areas, circled the summits seeking ptarmigan camouflaged in the rocks. A few ground squirrels, fresh out of hibernation, skittered their alarm calls as the wolf trotted by on the trails carved by migrating caribou. The wind carried the scent of grizzly bears, awake from their long winter sleep. Now the wolf had more competition to consider; the scent of winterkill was irresistible to bears and wolves alike.  By now the Wanderer had already traversed the territory of many other wolves, crossing the tracks and trails of hunting wolves several times on his journey into the snowy mountains. Each time, he stopped to investigate the scent, looking for…

Initiative brings new ideas on public lands management National parks and wildlife refuges are revered as places to find healthy habitat, clean water, and opportunities for recreation and reflection. But the story of our public lands is also marked by mistreatment and displacement of Indigenous people, including here in Alaska. Now, in a project called the Imago Initiative, Indigenous people, federal policy makers, and conservationists are re-thinking how to manage public lands to better align with Indigenous traditions. And they’re starting at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s largest refuge. Meda DeWitt of The Wilderness Society explains that the initiative is meant to foster on-the-land dialogue that integrates Indigenous knowledge and perspective into existing public lands management. Last summer, DeWitt was among a group of Indigenous representatives, conservation group leaders, and agency officials who discussed the initiative while camped in the remote refuge for over a week. “When you’re…

In Search of the Porcupine Caribou Herd Text by Doris Hausleitner Images by Peter Mather We peer out at the Yukon River from the dusty roads of Dawson City. “The smoke is definitely worse,” Jonathon concludes. “I see less of the other shore today than I did yesterday.” It is the end of June, and wildfire season has come early to the Yukon and Alaska. Aggressive fires burning north of Fairbanks have already changed our original plan—to fly into the Kongakut River in Alaska and hike to the Firth River in the Yukon with the hopes of intercepting the migrating Porcupine caribou herd. Now the fires burning between Dawson City and Old Crow and problems changing our landing permit into Ivvavik National Park are threatening to thwart our plans completely. Our team is a diverse group. I’m a wildlife biologist and instructor at a local college in southeastern British Columbia.…