In many ways, national parks in Alaska face the same difficulties as other parks nationwide: pockets of strong anti-federal sentiment, increasingly high usage rates (at least in a couple of Alaska parks) leading to resource degradation, decreasing funding, and increasing maintenance costs. On the other hand, Alaska parks are completely unique in their circumstances. Many parks in Alaska receive few to no visitors each year, and Alaska parks contain vast tracts of land and resources but are managed by the barest minimum number of employees. Furthermore, Alaska’s national parks operate in a more complex legal environment than most other national parks. While the National Park Service Organic Act (Organic Act) directs all parks, parks in Alaska must also contend with the additional legislative responsibility of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980.

Alaska parks need stronger support in order to fully flex the authority given them by Congress and to meet all of their obligations and mandates. More robust support should take the form of greater access to increased human resources so that the vast natural resources under the NPS’s protection in Alaska can be better understood and managed and enhanced political capital so that the NPS in Alaska is encouraged to defend the natural resources and enforce the legal responsibilities entrusted to them by Congress. National parks often occupy the uncomfortable position of being in the vanguard of resource preservation. They must often implement and enforce laws that are politically unpopular in Alaska. Yet, the lack of popular appeal for these laws among some local populations does not free the NPS from its obligation to execute them fully. These are national lands, the goals assigned to them have been derived from the national population, and the additional assistance and motivation needed to meet those goals may need to come from outside of the state as well.