From: alra@governance.net
Subject: Pilgrim's Access Battle Gains National Support

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400 – Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087 – Fax: 360-687-2973 – E-mail: alra@landrights.org or
alra@governance.net  Web Address: http://www.landrights.org 
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE – Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-210-2357 – Fax: 202-543-7126 – E-mail: landrightsnet@aol.com

Pilgrim's Access Battle Gains National Support

Today, the American Land Rights Association and the Pacific Legal Foundation joined together in support of the Pilgrim family of McCarthy, Alaska in their effort to gain overland access to their property.  The Pilgrim's have gained support from all over America due to the National Park Service harassing and restricting access to property owners and recreational use all over America - a win for the Pilgrims is a win for all America.

First is a statement from ALRA outlining National Park Service abuses, then a statement from PLF which gives a background on their case.
Monday, November 3, 2003 Contact: Mike Hardiman 202-210-2357

From American Land Rights Association:

Shut Out The Public,
Waste Tax Funds,
Destroy the Environment

(Photos and much more background are available at www.landrights.org/ak)

Recent actions at the Wrangell-St. Elias Park (WSEP) include:

SHUT OUT THE PUBLIC: WSEP shut down it's McCarthy Visitor Center in 2003, claiming it did not have $27,000 to operate the facility for the 13 week summer season (it is closed the rest of the year due to severe weather conditions).

SEE PHOTO - tourists were greeted with locked doors, boarded up windows and a "CLOSED" sign slapped across the entrance.

WASTE TAX FUNDS: Despite it's alleged budget woes, WSEP did manage to locate $270,000 - TEN TIMES what it would have cost to keep the Visitor Center open - to bring in a para-military SWAT Team as part of its dispute with the Pilgrim family over use of a hundred year old mining road which crosses park property.

SEE PHOTO - funds were used for leasing helicopters (apprx. $800 an hour) and other equipment, relocating personnel from across the United States and other costs over a three week period this summer, with additional aerial and ground harassment since.

DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT: Under NPS guidance, WSEP personnel have clear-cut a swath of virgin timber nearly two miles long and eleven feet wide as part of a boundary survey of the Pilgrim property. Stakes with orange ribbons are usually used in order to minimize disturbance to the environment, but NPS wanted to "show who the boss is around here," according to an eyewitness.

SEE PHOTO - This near-permanent scar on the landscape damages the park viewshed for many miles in all directions, and is far, far worse than any damage the Pilgrim family may have done by using an existing mining road to haul supplies to their property.


PLF Sues Park Service to Preserve Family’s Only Access Road to Alaska Property

Contact: Russ Brooks
Phone: (425) 576-0484

Washington, DC; November 03, 2003: Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a lawsuit against the federal government in a highly publicized case that pits a rustic family of Alaska wilderness against the National Park Service.

At issue in the case is the Park Service’s closure of the 15-mile-long McCarthy-Green Butte road that traverses federal land and provides the only overland access to property owned by Robert Hale, commonly known as Papa Pilgrim, and the 16 members of his family. Pilgrim purchased the 410-acre parcel in the Spring of 2002, and the family has lived in the old miner’s house situated on the property continuously since that time. Pilgrim’s purchase of the property was with the understanding that the road connecting it to town, basically used as a driveway to his home, would be continuously accessible so that food and other provisions could be carried in by vehicle. State regulations allow for such use of the road.

In April 2003, the Pilgrim’s house and most of the family’s belongings were destroyed by a fire. The Park Service closed the road to traffic a few days after the fire, leaving the Pilgrims the option of traveling into town by horseback, or flying in small quantities of supplies to an airstrip on the property (the family does not own an airplane).

With winter approaching and below-freezing temperatures already upon them, the Pilgrims’ plight has received national media attention. The matter has been complicated due to the family’s need to bring in heavy materials to rebuild the house, and prepare for sub-zero weather.

“For the Pilgrim family, access means survival,” said Pacific Legal Foundation Attorney Russ Brooks. “Rather than being a responsible regulatory agency, the National Park Service has forced a standoff with Papa Pilgrim, who merely wants to continue use of the road to provide for his family’s needs.

According to Rick Kenyon, who writes for the Wrangell St. Elias News, the Park Service is trying to “break the Pilgrims and destroy them financially.” The Pilgrim property sits in the middle of the Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

“The Park Service is seeking to lock up national parks and prevent access to private land. This is nothing more than another chapter in the federal government’s ongoing land grab,” said Brooks. “Tragically, women and children are being placed in harm’s way.”

The local community, out of concern for the Pilgrims’ well-being, recently came together to fund an airlift to the Pilgrim property in order to provide them with essential items for their temporary survival. To date, more than 60 airplane trips have resulted in the transfer of approximately the same amount of supplies that could have been transported in a single trip using a 16-foot trailer. On October 10, 2003, a plane carrying supplies to the Pilgrim property crashed. According to an Associated Press story that appeared nationally, “Everyone connected with the airlift suggested immediately that this accident was completely unnecessary and was a direct result of the Park Service’s denial of ground access.”

The lawsuit filed by PLF today seeks declaratory and injunctive relief under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) and former Revised Statute 2477. According to the complaint, in passing ANILCA, Congress set the bar high for road closures to ensure Alaska’s citizens that access guarantees were real. The law provides that the Park Service allow, at a minimum, adequate and feasible access to owners of private land within national parks and preserves. As part of the Mining Act of 1866, Section 2477 of the Revised Statutes provides in its entirety, “The right-of-way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses, is hereby granted.”

More information on the plight of the Pilgrim family can be found at the American Land Rights Association web site. ALRA has been in the forefront of publicizing the Pilgrim case and working to coordinate emergency aid. www.landrights.org/ak

To arrange interviews on this issue, journalists and producers may contact PLF's Media Director, Denise Davis, at (916)362-2833.  http://www.pacificlegal.org 

2003 Pacific Legal Foundation. All rights reserved.

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