28 April 2005
Alaska Regional Director
National Park Service
240 W. 51h Ave
Anchorage, AK 99501
Re: A Users Guide to Accessing Inholdings
The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft User s Guide to Accessing Inholdings. NPCA is America's only private nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting, preserving, and enhancing the U.S. National Park System. Founded in 1919, NPCA has more than 300,000 members of which 1,000 reside in Alaska, and we have long been interested and involved in access issues in Alaska s national parks.
Our primary comment is one of tone. We recommend greater emphasis be given to the fact that access requests may be modified to protect park resources. What's guaranteed is "adequate and feasible" access, not necessarily the applicant's preferred mode of access. Since the document is primarily about the process of making a request, some readers may inadvertently conclude that if they correctly apply for a permit and provide all the requested information they will be granted a permit with the terms and conditions they seek. We suggest the following additions to clarify and prevent this possible misconception:
1. In the first section titled Access to Inholdings in a NI S Area in Alaska, add the following at the end of the last paragraph: Authorization may be denied if your request creates undue harm to the resources and values of the national park and a reasonable alternative form of access exists. You are guaranteed some form of access to your property, however in some cases you may not be granted your first choice.
2. In the section titled NPS Authorization and Categories of Access, after the paragraphs titled When is a permit not needed? and When is a permit needed?. we recommend adding an additional paragraph with a heading such as Are all permits approved? or Will my permit be approved? And then again reiterate that applicants are guaranteed some form of access, but it some cases it may not be their first choice.
In the second paragraph on page 1, you identified 1,666,500 acres of land within park boundaries that are considered inholdings. From work NPCA did with Park Service inholding data, we identified about 3.4 million acres of inholdings. What happened to 1.7 million acres? How are they not considered inholdings?
Should an access application be for commercial use, how does the 1110(b) process interface with an Incidental Business Permit or a Concession Contract? This should be spelled out in the guide. And if the permit holder of an access permit issued for non commercial use wishes to change the purpose to a commercial purpose, what will be the Park Service response? We would think that any change to a permit s purpose would cause a fresh evaluation. This also should be spelled out in the guide.
There is a typographical error in second paragraph of the second section: 1120(a) should be 1110(a).
In the section titled NPS Authorizations and Categories of Access, under the paragraph titled When is a permit needed? we suggest listing specific examples of vehicles needing a permit to provide greater clarity. For example in the first sentence, you could insert the following (shown in italics): If access to an inholding is not included in the paragraph above (for example if you want to use a car, truck, A TV, or bulldozer), then you most likely will need a permit. It may be helpful to repeat this phrase again on page 9, under the first bullet.
NPCA is supportive of a fee structure, though we have no comment on the actual dollar amount. Fees help support the necessary staff work to process permits and it keeps frivolous permits out of the system. We would strongly encourage the Park Service to consider waiving fees for access to non-commercial property, especially driveways. Any opportunity to extend the life of a driveway permit to the maximum extent allowable and ensure that no future fees will be charged is greatly encouraged.
On Page 8, #3 clarified that an established public right of way and a state highway do not include unadjudicated RS 2477 routes. Explain that state assertion of an RS 2477 does not make it a public right-of-way if the underlying land manager disagrees and does not recognize that assertion. Refer the reader to the section on RS 2477 for more information.
On page 9, first bullet The opportunity for the Park Service to issue a 36.11 (g)(2) permit for OHV use on existing OHV trails should be qualified so that it is clear the
ability to make a finding only applies to existing OHV trails at the time ANILCA passed in 1980.
Throughout the Guide, both 1110(a) and 1110(b) are regularly referred to. We suggest printing the full text of both 1110(a) and 1110(b) in the appendix.
If you have any questions about our comments, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Alaska Regional Director