Anchorage Daily News articles used with permission of the publisher, for educational purposes only.

Article Date: Sunday, February 27, 2000
Page: B2
Section: Metro
The Associated Press
Fairbanks ---

Denali National Park and Preserve officials are considering a proposal to exchange land near the park entrance for Doyon Ltd.'s rights to a remote 40,000-acre area within the park.

While both Doyon and park officials say the talks are preliminary, the National Park Service is preparing a wilderness study for both sections. "

We're just now beginning to sort out a study plan," said park superintendent Steve Martin.

Jim Mery, Doyon's vice president of lands and resources, said that the Park Service had previously identified Doyon's two sizable parcels near Lake Minchumina for possible acquisition and that Doyon had expressed interest in parcels near the park entrance that could have commercial possibilities.

"We were told by the Park Service that they wouldn't even have the discussion with us until they could learn a little bit more about migration patterns and wildlife movement and populations in that part of the park," Mery said. "We agreed to help find some money."

That Doyon effort resulted in U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, securing $125,000 in last year's Park Service appropriation.

The Park Service will study a 2,500-acre area south of Riley Creek and east of the Parks Highway. Doyon already owns the Kantishna Roadhouse and Denali River Cabins, two key components of its growing tourism division.

The Park Service has the authority to exchange parcels of equal value.

Doyon's property is in the park's northern tier, and its potential acquisition would leave just 7,000 acres of nonfederal land within the park.

The Interior-based Native regional corporation selected the land under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Martin said the Park Service is also interested in acquiring a Doyon-owned 17-acre parcel of the Galena mining claim.

Martin said any process would be lengthy and noted that a similar exchange in the Anaktuvuk Pass area took 10 years.

Strong consideration is given to preserving the park's environmental integrity, Martin said, when it comes to acquiring remote sections. "Anything we do is going to have a net benefit to the resources of Denali National Park."

The mere possibility of a land exchange angered John White, owner of Nenana Raft Adventures. He described it as a "Big Brother giveaway to a Native corporation."

White said Doyon would be swapping swamp land for prime commercial real estate. He said he paid $250,000 for one acre of land near the park entrance.

"This is unfair to people who have scrimped and saved and get outside the park entrance," said White, who added that it was a waste of taxpayer money to even study the idea. "If they want land on the highway, they should bring their checkbook like everybody else."

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