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Harriman Expedition Retraced

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Brad Barr

New Ideas on the High Seas: Conservation in 2001

There is an atmosphere of activity and excitement on the bridge of the M/V Clipper Odyssey. The night of the August 16, 2001, is clearly something special. The bridge, usually a model of confident calm and efficiency, is crowded with passengers, scholars, and crew who have come together this night in noisy anticipation to do something that few ever have the opportunity to do. We have left the island and people of Little Diomede in our wake and are sailing North under the midnight sun headed for the Arctic Circle.

Earlier that evening, there had been animated discussion of our destination, focused on where the Arctic Circle is and what it signifies, this dotted line that we all have observed on maps and globes. We teased the technical details out of our collective memory; descriptions of the midnight sun on the summer solstice and the polar night of the winter solstice were eventually assembled. The charts onboard clearly identify the latitude of the line at 66'30" north; The mystique of the Arctic, however, goes well beyond mere facts, particularly here on the ship this night, with the sun low on the horizon and the ship's clocks indicating the lateness of the hour adding an air of the unfamiliar, the exotic.

The Arctic is the exemplar of wilderness. It is the land of the polar bear and bearded seal, of unimaginable cold, and of frozen pressure ridges of ice that embody both the terrible danger and the allure that draw us to wilderness. When we think of the Arctic, we think of names like Hudson, Barrow, Mackenzie, Bering, the ill-fated expeditions of Franklin, and those who followed in the many vain rescue attempts. We wonder what winter life must be like in the Native Eskimo communities hat we have briefly visited during our summer's cruise on the unnaturally calm and balmy Bering Sea. Only a few of us aboard the Odyssey have actually experienced the Arctic winter and possess a less romantic image of survival in the far North. Our images of this ice-bound wilderness are compelling enough, however, to bring us to the ship's bridge after a long, exhausting day of trips in the Zodiacs to slippery cobble beaches and long climbs on steep hillsides, to cross a line in the ocean we can see only on the digital readouts of the ship's navigation equipment.

After the captain's standing order to keep a close lookout for a dotted line on the sea's surface, a rowdy countdown as the global positioning system readout reveals our progress to 66'30", a round of cheers, handshakes, and hugs, the bridge empties. The ship reverses course in its all-too-brief visit to the Chukchi Sea. We head south to cross another imaginary yet almost equally compelling line in the ocean known as the International Date Line, where we will almost magically lose a day. For those of us on the bridge this night, this is an experience we will not soon forget.

Maps and charts are filled with such imaginary lines, lines one will never see while walking in the forest or sailing on the water. They are established by our collective agreement to meet some need, to delineate a political boundary, to allow us to work more efficiently or effectively, or simply to differentiate one area from another for a multitude of purposes. In the realm of conservation, such lines are common on land, but less so in the ocean. This is changing. Increasingly, the concept of place is being integrated into marine ecosystem conservation initiatives.

There is a long and rich history of place-based management on land by federal agencies. At the time of the original Harriman expedition, this concept was just being be put into practice, with institutions forming to guide its development. Just 27 years before the 1899 expedition, Yellowstone became the first national park, but the National Park Service was not created until 1916. Now there are 384 national parks, preserves, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, lakeshores, and seashores in the United States, encompassing 83.3 million acres, and visited by more than 270 million people (
http://www.nps.gov).

Similarly, the U.S. Forest Service was established in 1905, but the first national forest reserves were designated in 1891. Currently, there are 177 National Forests and Grasslands protecting 192 million acres of land in the US (http://www.fs.fed.us).

The first National Wildlife Refuge, Pelican Bay in Florida, was set aside in 1903, while the Fish and Wildlife Service was established in 1939. Even earlier, one of the first federal actions to preserve and manage wildlife occurred in 1868-69, when President Ulysses S. Grant made the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea a reserve for northern fur seals. The 1899 Expedition visited this reserve, under special permit from the Secretary of the Treasury, and both Merriam and Grinnell lamented the declines in the fur seal populations they observed even then (Goetzmann and Kay, 1982). There are more than 520 refuges nationwide covering 93 million acres (http://realty.fws.gov/nwrs.htm).

The last principal federal lands manager, the Bureau of Land Management, created in 1946, was late on the scene, although predecessor agencies can be traced back to the General Lands Office established in 1812. The BLM manages around 264 million acres nationwide (http://www.blm.gov/nhp/index.htm).

Of all the land area managed by these agencies across the US, fully 37 percent of the total area of our parks, refuges, forests and other federally owned lands are located in Alaska.

Agency

US (mil. acres)

Alaska (mil. acres)

% Alaska

NPS

88

51

58

FS

192

22

12

FWS

94

77

82

BLM

264

87

33

Totals

638

237

37


There is little doubt that Alaskans are intimately familiar with these lines you cannot see, but nonetheless have considerable influence on the use of these areas.

In the oceans, there are far fewer such lines, as least regards areas similar to those set aside for conservation on land. Lindholm and Barr (2001) conducted a detailed comparison of terrestrial and marine protected areas in the US, and reported that while terrestrial national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges constituted approximately 18 percent of the land mass of the US, national marine sanctuaries accounted for only 0.4 percent of the area of the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which encompasses an area roughly equivalent to the land mass of the US. Additionally, there are only 13 national marine sanctuaries, but more than 900 terrestrial protected areas. By adding in marine areas under some other Federal protection, (national parks and refuges with marine waters within their boundaries; fishery management areas; and even the 100,000 square nautical miles of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Preserve) the total area protected in the marine realm is still only a small percentage of the area of the EEZ. This disparity in part may be just an artifact of the recent emergence of marine protected areas as a management tool, about a hundred years after the terrestrial protection movement, but this can't account for the entire difference.

From Species to Habitats

In the past, management of marine resources has been focused largely on individual species or, in some cases, groups of species with similar life histories. The most obvious example of this is fisheries management, where actions center on limiting the harvest of a species population or stock, based on stock surveys and the application of complex mathematical calculations yielding stock estimates. In its simplest form, if the stock is declining, harvests are decreased, and conversely, if stocks are increasing, fishing effort can be increased. This form of management gives little, if any, attention to the ecosystem in which those fish live, what we know about the dynamic nature of ecosystems, or the spatial heterogeneity of species' use of a region or ecosystem.

There have been efforts by fishery managers to look more closely at the place where fish live. This has been done largely through the establishment of time-area closures. These are biologically important areas for species, such as spawning areas, that are closed to fishing or otherwise restricted for periods when the fish there are most susceptible to adverse effects from fishing activity, either directly from harvest or, more infrequently, when the fishing activity could cause harm to the habitat in which the fish live. There are numerous existing examples of time-area closures in Alaskan waters, and the use of this tool is expanding.

Place-based management is also used to assist in the recovery of endangered species. The Endangered Species Act institutionalizes this approach through the requirement for the designation of critical habitats. The 2001 Harriman Expedition got first-hand experience of this type of closure in our visit to the Steller sea lion rookery on Bogoslof Island. A three-mile zone has been established around Bogoslof Island to prohibit any vessel from approaching the island and potentially disturbing the endangered sea lions and their pups. To visit the island as the 1899 Expedition had done (during which C. Hart Merriam, on impulse, ran full speed at the seals on the beach and chased them into the water ), the 2001 Expedition had to secure a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service, the office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charged with protecting species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The permit prohibited any landing on the island (presumably to avoid an historic reenactment of Merriam's infamous charge) and required that we approach the rookery no closer than 500 yards. With the assistance of some modern navigation equipment on the Zodiacs, and surveillance of our approach by the ship's radar, we were able to meet the requirements of the permit, avoid disturbing the sea lions, and get a rare glimpse at this important rookery. There are a number of other examples of the use of place-based management regulations to protect endangered species in Alaska, most notably the special restrictions on cruise ship entry into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve to protect the important humpback whale feeding grounds there.

Single-species management remains in use today, but resource managers are applying more and more place-based management. The concept of ecosystem management (Grumbine 1994) is increasingly being looked to as a model for a more effective management strategy. Alaska is at the forefront of these efforts to evolve toward an ecosystem approach to fishery management, with groundbreaking work by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council (http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/npfmc/ecosystm/ecobased.htm). Understanding the interactions of species with their habitats, as well as better understanding the dynamic and sometimes chaotic nature of the ecosystems in which these species live, holds the promise of helping to achieve the holy grail of marine resource management, sustainable use.

The Emergence of Marine Protected Areas

The issuance of Executive Order 13151 (26 May, 2001) by former President Clinton regarding the establishment of marine protected areas (or MPAs) focused considerable attention on preserving important areas in marine waters (
http://www.mpa.gov). This executive order directs federal agencies, under the leadership of NOAA in the Department of Commerce, and the Department of the Interior, to establish an expanded and strengthened comprehensive system of marine protected areas in the waters of the United States. The order has generated great interest in, and its share of controversy about, marine protected areas. Many MPA initiatives have been initiated on both US coasts, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Islands. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (http://www.state.ak.us/local/akpages/FISH.GAME/adfghome.htm), the Alaska Marine Conservation Council (http://www.akmarine.org), and others have begun a number of related investigations, including an inventory of existing MPAs (or what could be construed as MPAs depending on the definition being used) in Alaskan waters. With well more than 100 State and Federal sites identified, Alaska is clearly well positioned to move forward if there is consensus that this is an appropriate path.

MPAs are widely regarded as a useful and important tool in the efforts to conserve marine ecosystems worldwide. One of the most well-known and visible MPAs in the world is the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park off the coast of Queensland in Australia. The National Research Council (2001) has conducted a review of the state-of-the-art of marine protected areas management and concluded that based on evidence from existing marine area closures in both temperate and tropical regions, marine reserves and protected areas will be effective tools for addressing conservation needs as part of integrated coastal and marine area management. A large and growing body of scientific literature supports the NRC finding. MPAs have the potential to preserve marine biodiversity effectively, help reverse devastating declines in fish stocks, protect unique areas and biotic communities, support efforts to recover endangered species, and conserve representative habitats of the world's oceans.

While the MPA as a management tool holds great promise, there are many issues to be considered and more research and analysis to be conducted and integrated into the way we approach the design, designation, and management of marine protected areas. As stated in the NRC review, MPAs should be viewed within a context of integrated ocean and coastal management. Ecosystems work on multiple scales, and traditional regional management, such as fisheries management, water quality protection, and the recovery of endangered species is essential as a complement to (or to be complemented by, depending on your perspective) area-based MPA management.

Almost no existing MPA encompasses an entire ecosystem. Even the world's largest, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, does not include regulatory control over runoff from the land and must work collaboratively with land-based resource managers to address concerns over the non-point sources of pollution. Therefore, close collaboration with regional resource managers will always be essential to insure that the area surrounding the MPA, or what is sometimes referred to as its management context, is managed in such a way that impacts affecting the MPA resources coming from outside its boundaries are minimized.

There is a consensus emerging that MPA's should be designed and managed, as much as possible, as components of networks. The benefits of networks are numerous and compelling. I summarized these benefits in a recent paper (Barr, in press):
MPA networks can enable ecosystem wide management where MPA designation of an entire ecosystem is impractical, inappropriate, or unnecessary. They can provide a vehicle to conserve and preserve highly migratory species or biological processes that occur over broad geographic areas of the oceans. Faced with the common problem of limited financial resources, the partnering inherent in networks can fuel essential research and monitoring to provide critical, but otherwise rarely available, data and information on MPA resources and the ecosystem processes that sustain those resources. Network partnering might also provide the funding for efforts to educate the public on marine conservation and preservation issues, and build constituencies of support necessary to sustain MPA programs.


Robust science is essential to support the design and implementation of MPA networks. Ecosystems are inherently complex, especially diverse and productive areas where MPA-based protections are likely to be important. Unfortunately, the science needed is just emerging, and it may take a few years before we can have the confidence we need to apply it effectively. If one assumes a precautionary position, the hedge against an inadequate network design would be to designate whole ecosystems or very large areas. However, because their design, designation, and management are always accompanied by considerable controversy, it is very unlikely that future MPAs will be large enough to include the entirety of an ecosystem. History also tells us that almost no individual site, let alone a network, has ever been implemented as it was originally conceived. The public policy process is one steeped in the tradition of compromise, and the significant controversy that swarms around MPAs is a model for this tradition. Acquiring and using the best available science can provide a bottom line for the implementation process. There will be certain elements where compromise is possible, and some where it is not. Only with good science can these thresholds be articulated. A well-designed but poorly implemented MPA network can be worse than no network at all because what is implemented will almost surely fail, yet persist because of the perception that it could succeed eventually.

One good example of an MPA program that has the potential to provide a vehicle for place-based conservation in the waters of Alaska, as it has elsewhere in the US EEZ, is the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Administered by NOAA, the National Marine Sanctuary Program has designated sites from American Samoa to New England and is currently evaluating the largest of all potential MPAs ever identified in the US, the approximately 100,000-square-nautical-mile Northwest Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve, as a potential addition to the national marine sanctuary system. There are, however, currently no national marine sanctuaries anywhere in Alaskan waters.

The National Marine Sanctuary Program, established in 1972, serves as the trustee for the nation's system of marine protected areas, to conserve, protect and enhance their biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy. (
http://www.sanctuaries.nos.noaa.gov) The program identifies and designates as national marine sanctuaries areas of the marine environment, which are of special national significance. Comprehensive and coordinated conservation and management plans are developed for each site, articulating a management regime that complements, not duplicates, existing regulatory authorities. Research and monitoring is conducted on the resources that make these areas special, and education and outreach programs are developed and implemented at each site. This outreach aims to inform the public to help them participate in the site's management; to help the public understand the reasons the site was designated as a national marine sanctuary, why it is special and deserving of this enhanced management; and to provide information on how successful the sanctuary has been in providing appropriate protection. Sanctuaries are charged with facilitating human use of the sanctuary where that use does not harm sanctuary resources. While they may include areas that prohibit most or all activities marine reserves the goal of regulations in national marine sanctuaries is to insure that uses within these special areas of the ocean and coastal environment are sustainable.

It is clear that marine protected areas will have a role in the future of the conservation of the Alaskan marine ecosystem. They are already playing an important role, supporting and complementing regional resource management. As to whether national marine sanctuaries will be a part of future of conservation of Alaska's marine resources, this will be decided by Alaskans. Anyone who has traveled in Alaska will agree that many areas, if not the entirety of Alaskan waters, are of special national significance. The National Marine Sanctuary Program has much to offer to help preserve the most special areas in this special place, but only time will tell if Alaskans seek out such a partnership.

The Importance of Being There

One of the most important elements of a national marine sanctuary, not always true of other MPA programs, is that each site has a staff located near the sanctuary. Public facilities, such as administrative offices, research laboratories, and visitors' centers, are developed at each of the sites, and a sanctuary advisory council (SAC) is formed to involve the regional community in the management of the site.

This presence is essential. The sanctuary staff can become part of the local community, and the public has the opportunity to interact with the staff and enjoy the benefits of the facilities, especially the visitor's centers. Unlike other Federal agencies, NOAA does not routinely rotate sanctuary managers, superintendents, or other senior staff among its sites, so site-based staff and the local community can build long-term relationships. Perhaps as important, the local community has a voice in Washington, where some decisions are made about the policy directions the National Marine Sanctuary Program and NOAA may take in managing the resources so important to that community. During the 2001 Harriman Expedition's brief interactions with people in communities along the Alaskan coast, one of the comments we heard most often was that resource managers, in Juneau or in Washington, didn't seem to be listening to what the local people had to say. A national marine sanctuary can be a face for the faceless bureaucrats who have been given the responsibility for making resource management decisions and be a conduit through which local voices are heard.

The active two-way communication also allows the sanctuary community to appreciate and understand that not every decision is made locally in national marine sanctuaries and other federally managed areas. Sanctuaries are stewards of these public waters owned in common by the American people, and thus many voices need to be heard before an effective and appropriate management strategy can be devised.

In all cases, the goals and aspirations of the local community are given considerable weight in deliberations over major policy issues as they relate to the management of sanctuary resources, but the interests of the local community and the interests of the American people sometimes conflict with each other. This conflict poses a challenge inherent in the management of any federal area or resource. Just as Alaskans have a tangible interest and therefore an important voice in the way that areas are managed in the lower 48, the people in Butte, Boise, or Boston must be heard when the future of federally managed areas in Alaska is being determined. They may not always have much to say, but the have the right to make their voices heard. It is the duty of the sanctuary to seek out these opinions and actively listen.

It is interesting to note that this issue of being there was identified as a significant problem for the 1899 Harriman Expedition, a sentiment echoed by the scholars that followed in their footsteps in 2001. By necessity, expeditions like ours, covering vast expanses of territory like the entire coast of Alaska, have very little time to stay in any one place. Unlike scientists on the 1899 Expedition who were left behind by the Elder to conduct research and collect observations for more extended periods, scientists and scholars on our cruise were not able to engage in similar pursuits.

Yet, expeditions such as ours and research cruises on government or academic ships collect data and information that are routinely relied upon by those who formulate major resource management policy initiatives. Generally involving even shorter visits, fact-finding missions, blue ribbon commissions, or the more pejoratively described junkets are a mainstay of the political and policy processes. Groups of senior decision-makers descend upon a place and for a short period of time, hold meetings with local community leaders and identified experts to get a first-hand look at whatever controversy has demanded their attention. While many of these brief visits are successful in both providing representatives from the affected community the opportunity to be heard, and gathering information to help resolve the specific problem at hand, they may never even scratch the surface of the root causes of the controversy. Anthropologists learned long ago that to understand a problem, you must understand the people who are involved and their culture. The best way, and perhaps the only way, to gain the level of understanding necessary is to be a part of that culture. The trust needed to achieve a level of comfort to openly and unreservedly share information is built over time, and likely to be a rare commodity on the floor of a public hearing room.

Of all the 1899 Expedition participants, perhaps George Bird Grinnell (in his essays regarding the expedition, collected and published in 1994) expressed the greatest concern about the ability of the Harriman Expedition to get more than hasty and superficial observations. Many of the other scientists on the original expedition held a similar opinion (Goetzmann and Sloan 1982, Grinnell 1994). Grinnell's previous and much respected work regarding the cultural anthropology of the Plains Indians of the western United States involved many lengthy visits. He lived in encampments and eventually was adopted by the Pawnee (essay by Polly Boroughs in Grinnell 1994). So he understood the severe limitations of the observations of the 1899 Expedition, especially those involving the lives of the people they visited, and mentioned those misgivings frequently in his essays. During the 2001 Expedition, our visits were even shorter, and like Grinnell and our other predecessors, we accepted the fact that we would have to be satisfied with getting the feel of the places we visited. The images we took away were little more than what we saw through the viewfinders of our cameras. Determining the deeper implications of one hundred years of change from such observations presents obvious challenges.

Community-Based Management

From the observations through my viewfinder of Alaskan Natives and native Alaskans, community-based management is a tool worthy of broader application for marine ecosystem conservation in Alaskan waters. For community-based management (see Hildebrand 1997 for a discussion of the concept and its implementation) of marine protected areas to be truly successful, however, a strong partnership must be struck between the community and management staff. Here again, the need for the presence of site managers in the community deserves emphasis. Both the community and the staff must be willing to operate in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. No such partnership will form without that trust, something built over time through open and effective communication, mutual respect, follow-through on commitments made, the continual search for common ground, and a determination to make the partnership work. This level of commitment will greatly assist the community in understanding and placing value on the partnership. Especially on the part of the agency staff, it is essential to fully embrace the principles of community-based management, to understand its conceptual underpinnings, to study other applications, both the successes and the failures, and perhaps most importantly, to accept the fact that the power and authority of the agency must be shared with the community. This power-sharing can be the most difficult hurdle, especially with agencies that have a rich tradition of what is called command and control management, where the agency holds tightly to its authority and makes most decisions internally. It can be a particular problem when their agency leadership operates under this model, but outwardly endorses community-based approaches. However, the need for all parties to apply wisdom, determination, and honesty bolstered by discretion must be underscored.

The concepts of transactive planning (Hudson 1979) and community-based management are relatively new to many Federal resource management agencies, but it is the foundation upon which the National Marine Sanctuary Program is built. As was mentioned previously, it is not an easy approach to take. The role of government in community-based management is different from command and control management. It's something like going from one person doing all the driving to the driving and the navigating being shared with all the passengers in the car. The agency not only has to convene community forums and solicit the involvement of local communities, but also insure that all appropriate voices are heard, good science is applied, and monitoring is conducted to gauge success of the strategy adopted and insure compliance with education and enforcement. This changing role of government is not an easy transition for agencies who have being doing all the driving for so long, but it can, though not always does, result in greater successes and higher satisfaction in how the resources are managed. This is the model being implement at national marine sanctuaries across the country.

Community-based management is already being implemented in Alaska's Native communities, where local Native corporations have taken on the role of assuring community goals and aspirations are incorporated in resource management decisions made by state and federal agencies, and through their own authority. We encountered and observed a number of other examples of community-based management in Alaskan coastal communities during the 2001 Expedition.

Partnerships with Native Alaskans especially have the potential to teach us a great deal. While my time interacting with Native Alaskans was unfortunately all too brief, I came away with some impressions that bear directly on this point. The first is that Native cultures seem to view their role in the ecosystem in a very different way than non-natives. As a part of a Judeo-Christian culture with the concept of dominion firmly implanted, we see ourselves as something apart from the natural world. We tend to see nature as something we must control, to dominate, to conquer. Certainly, E.A. Harriman and John Muir seemed to personify this cultural conflict over Harriman's overwhelming desire to bag an Alaskan brown bear on the 1899 Expedition. The notion of stewardship may be one of the more subtle forms of this thinking, where we are compelled to take care of natural resources in an almost parental role. Natives Alaskans, like many other aboriginal groups, appear to view themselves as part of the natural world, simply another creature fighting for survival. It is quite possible that the controversy over subsistence harvest may be rooted in this differing cultural viewpoint, but this bit of speculation is likely an oversimplification of a complex issue. What we might learn from spending some time considering this alternative way of thinking has the potential to make conservation efforts more effective.

The other impression I took away from the Expedition was that Native Alaskans, as well as others in the coastal communities we visited, have considerable knowledge of the ecosystem in which they live, work, fish, and hunt. Survival depends on knowledge, knowledge in many cases ancient, passed on from generation to generation. A number of our stops on the 2001 Expedition were villages that have been in continuous habitation for hundreds of years, with each year a struggle for survival. This knowledge and experience, sometimes called traditional ecological knowledge cannot help but improve our management decisions. This is an important element of such partnerships, where power is shared, knowledge is shared, resources are conserved and preserved, and all move on to the next issue with a growing sense of accomplishment.

The Emergence of Ocean Wilderness

Another more recent movement in the MPA arena that may have relevance to the preservation of the Alaska marine ecosystem is the emergence of ocean wilderness. To many, Alaska is equated with wilderness, and the application of this concept to the waters of Alaska could be very appropriate, though not without inherent challenges.

Land-based wilderness is obviously not unfamiliar in Alaska. Bob Marshall, one of the fathers of the wilderness movement, did much of his seminal work on preserving wilderness and the values that make an area wilderness in the central Brooks Range of Alaska (Marshall 1956). Today, Alaska contains 48 of the 624 designated wilderness areas, covering about 15 percent of the state, the largest area of any state in the US (
http://www.wilderness.net). The 48 Alaskan wildernesses range in size from the 32-acre Hazy Island Wilderness, to the 9.7 million-acre Gates of the Arctic wilderness, the embodiment of Marshall's legacy.

As I summarized in a recent paper regarding ocean wilderness (Barr, in press), The Wilderness Act of 1964 (P.L 88-577, 78 Stat. 890; 16 U.S.C. 1121 (note), 1131-1136) is the Federal statute under which wilderness is designated in the US. The Act provides this definition:

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean&an area of underdeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value.

As the definion indicates, contrary to what one might think, wilderness is not defined as a simply as a wild area. The word itself comes from the Teutonic and Norse languages that gave rise to the English word "will," which in this case is defined as "self-willed, willful, or uncontrollable. (Nash 1982). This self-willed character, along with the notion of being untrammeled by man forms the foundation upon which the modern concept of wilderness is built.

From the definition in the Act, it is clear that the framers weren't thinking about the ocean when they crafted the language of the Act, but there are a growing number of people who are thinking about it now. In the same paper, I offered the following as a way to think about ocean wilderness in the context of the Wilderness Act:


Vast, inhospitable, beautiful, deserted, mysterious, threatening, and undoubtedly containing animals that can kill you. It would seem that the ocean could very appropriately be called wilderness. Even the dictionary definitions mention the sea as one type of wilderness.

However, we know that not all ocean areas are untrammeled by man. While its not as easy to spot as a roadbed or building, man's effect on some ocean areas has been significant. Offshore oil and gas development, commercial fishing, and ocean outfalls for wastewater, for example, have all left their mark, especially in coastal ocean areas. Shipping and other vessel traffic plying designated shipping lanes and customary port-to-port routes are obvious examples of man's presence on the ocean. Boats grounding on coral reefs, and the tremendous damage they cause to reef ecosystems could certainly be counted as trammeling, just as could smaller boats prop-dredging in sea grass beds. The tons of debris that collect on the pristine beaches and coral reefs of the islands in the mid-Pacific are also telltale signs of man's presence. While the ocean may contain wilderness, the dictionary may be overstating the case just a bit.


While the basic concepts underlying ocean wilderness are still being formulated, Alaska has a head start: Within the self-identified marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve are approximately 215 square kilometers (53.130 acres) of marine waters that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (Barr and Lindholm 2000). The web site for Glacier Bay (
http://www.nps.gov/glba/) contains the following description: The marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve provides opportunities for adventure, a living laboratory for observing the ebb and flow of glaciers, and a chance to study life as it returns in the wake of retreating ice. Amidst majestic scenery, Glacier Bay offers us now, and for all time, a connection to a powerful and wild landscape.

The scientists on the 1899 Expedition's visit to Glacier Bay undoubtedly observed something more of the ocean wilderness qualities than was evident to those who visited in 2001, but thanks to what can only be described as the courageous stewardship of the National Park Service, many of those qualities have been preserved. The management of this wilderness has presented unique challenges and controversy, including the establishments of limits on the number of cruise ships entering the waters of the Park, as well as the particularly controversial action of providing compensation, when fishing was prohibited, to commercial fishermen who had fished these waters. However, the National Park Service in Alaska is breaking new ground, or maybe more appropriately, exploring new waters, in the efforts to help define and institutionalize this concept.

Ocean wilderness is exciting new territory for marine resource managers. It seems an appropriate model to apply to one of the most difficult tasks ahead, to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function. Preserving these important attributes of marine ecosystems in Alaska and elsewhere has been particularly challenging for the existing programs that have a multiple-use management mandate, including the National Marine Sanctuary Program. With the recent designation of what is being called the Tortugas Ocean Wilderness within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Dry Tortugas National Park, the National Marine Sanctuary Program and the National Park Service are moving this concept forward, but considerably more work remains. Ocean wilderness is the next frontier for both marine resource managers and the larger terrestrial wilderness community, who has invaluable experience and knowledge needed sort out definitions and management models. Alaska is once again on the frontier of another wilderness movement.

As I concluded in my recent paper on ocean wilderness: Americans have a heritage of exploration and a collective drive toward wild areas. Wilderness is part of who we are as a people. Oceans are our last true wilderness: inhospitable, alien, mysterious, and threatening but also beautiful, friendly, and capable of elevating and delighting us as wilderness is so eloquently albeit unexpectedly described in dictionaries. Wilderness, novelist Wallace Stegner has said, is part of the geography of hope. Ocean wilderness seems to be unquestionably part of that geography.

Management and Ecosystem Change

An additional challenge, and certainly not a trivial one, to be confronted in the quest for effective conservation of the Alaskan marine ecosystem is that ecosystems change and will continue to change. This presents a moving target for resource managers, and it is challenge enough when there is some stability over time.

Change presents two problems very germane to this topic. The first is that whatever management models may be applied, they need to be flexible, and the expectations of the community and the managers need to have some fluidity as well. The kind of ecosystem changes that have been observed over the last ten years in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska are uncommon, but not at all unique. Ecosystems are dynamic if not chaotic, and changes, both subtle and otherwise, should be expected. There are long-term oscillations in both the Atlantic and the Pacific that obviously, given the experience in Alaska, can be very consequential, even catastrophic. Long-term monitoring of ecosystem-scale changes should be in place and funded appropriately. Marine protected areas can support such a monitoring program by making available monitoring sites that are protected in such a way that confounding influences resulting from human activities are minimized. Many of the national marine sanctuaries support and participate in such regional monitoring programs.

Flexibility should extend to the regulations that afford these areas protection as well. There has been much written about the need for adaptive management (Keystone Center 1996). In its simplest form, this is where a regulation is imposed, monitoring is conducted to determine how effective it is, and changes are made to the regulation in response to the monitoring results, and presumably the cycle is repeated. While it is an excellent suggestion, the Federal rule-making process is lengthy and complicated, largely due to the requirements of public notice and comment. Under a model of community-based management, there may be innovative ways to use the active participation of the public in the management process to avoid the usual delays in revising regulations, but there are few, if any, existing models for this. Perhaps the changes involved in ecosystem-scale processes are slow enough that this might not be a problem, but it is worth some creative thinking.

The other big challenge goes back to those imaginary lines. MPA boundaries historically have been thought of as being immutable, unchanging. The process involved in designation of an MPA is fraught with controversy, and no one involved in the initial effort is likely to enthusiastically retrace this tortuous route. There is also the issue of the resource users, who greatly prefer constancy to constant change. There are currently no real solutions at hand for this, but there is a growing interest in some creative solution because of the observed effects of global climate change and the need for marine protected areas to respond appropriately to these changes. There has been some talk about the concept of fuzzy boundaries, pre-identifying areas where a boundary may have to be moved to account form changing environmental conditions, but like the name, the concept remains fuzzy. Our basic understanding of ecosystem changes and its drivers is incomplete, and therefore our predictive capacity is limited. Community-based management again has benefits here because the community, especially the resource users, can be educated to understand the need for more frequent boundary modifications. This understanding in turn may result in minimizing, if not eliminating, the opposition and controversy that makes boundary modifications burdensome.

The World is Getting Smaller and so is Alaska

Alaska is big, remote, and productive, and these attributes have provided something of a buffer from human impacts experienced elsewhere. Someone once said of another remote place, the Baja Peninsula, that it is amazing how much conservation comes from a lack of roads. But like Alaska, despite the remoteness and the hardships one may face to get there, Baja is experiencing significant declines in their fish populations. The vaquita, a small marine mammal that occurs only in the Sea of Cortez, is one of the most endangered on the planet, and commercial salt plants are threatening the gray whale breeding and calving grounds. Remoteness may be overrated.

While places like the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska have been some of the most productive areas on Earth, the regime shift may have decreased this production considerably. We once thought you could fish all you could take because the sea was limitless and there were more fish than anyone could possibly want or need. I think it's safe to say, looking around at the many fisheries that have been officially classified as overfished and depleted, that we were wrong.

Alaska seems less remote than it ever has been. Thanks to its very allure, it is now under tremendous pressure from the burgeoning numbers of cruise ship visits, rising numbers of tourists generally, and those many visitors who choose to stay on. I unexpectedly ran into a colleague and old friend from NOAA during the Expedition's visit to St. George, where he was directing the cleanup of diesel fuel, a legacy from the days of the government-sponsored sealing operations there. During a chat with a Native elder on St. Lawrence Island, I discovered he was a friend of another academic colleague of mine who also works in marine conservation. Small world.

Waiting in Homer to join the Expedition, I went to a farmer's market and met a resident who had been in Homer for 16 years, before the improved roads and building boom. The issue of the day in Homer was that the city felt the need to install a traffic light, the first in Homer, and long-time residents were lamenting the need for this harbinger of civilization. This made me reconsider, and raise the issue for debate during the Expedition, the definition of conservation. Perhaps conservation, through the Alaska lens, goes beyond just conservation of natural or cultural resources to mean something bigger. Maybe the goal of conservation of the Alaska marine ecosystem should be to preserve a way of life, a life so connected to that ecosystem. The Canadians have a number of programs that focus on promoting sustainable communities that could be instructive. Examples include the Sustainable Communities Network of Nova Scotia (
http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Environment/SCN/SCN_home.html) and Environment Canada's Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative in the province of British Columbia (http://www.pyr.ec.ca/GeorgiaBasin/abi_elndx.cfm). This may be a course for Alaska to consider seriously. If this broader conceptualization of conservation is deemed appropriate, it makes community based management look even more attractive.

It could be my New Englander's perspective that few things worthwhile are easily done, but the considerable challenges of effectively implementing community-based management of marine protected areas would worth the effort. There are plenty of talented folks in Alaska and in the lower 48 who would be willing to help support such new initiatives. Some relatively new and useful tools are available.

With the additional challenges of regime shifts, declining populations of many species, and the multitude of other problems and issues we observed and discussed on the 2001 Expedition, some new approaches are warranted. One of the other observations I took away from my time in Alaska was that Alaskans are generally fiercely independent and perversely proud of it; speak their minds when they have something to say; believe in integrity, fairness, and equity; have a strong sense of community; are willing to face hardships and difficulties head-on; resent outside interference by non-Alaskans; don't like to be proved wrong; and have a strong an abiding love of the great state of Alaska. Seems like a good start.

References Cited:
Barr, B.W. (in press). Establishing Effective Marine Protected Areas Networks.
in: S. Bondrup-Nielsen, T. Herman, N. Munro, G. Nelson and M. Willison, editors. Terrestrial and Marine Protected Areas: Globalization, Ecological Integrity and the Human Dimension. Proceedings of the 4th Int. Conf. On Science and the Management of Protected Areas, SAMPAA, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Barr, B.W. (in press). Getting the Job Done: Protecting Marine Wilderness. In Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Meeting of the George Wright Society, 16-20 April, 2001. Denver Colorado

Barr, B.W. and Lindholm, J. 2000. Conservation of the Sea Using Lessons from the Land. George Wright Forum 17:77-85.

Goetzmann, W.H. and K. Sloan. 1982. Looking Far North: The Harriman Expedition to Alaska, 1899. Princeton University Press, Princeton, Jew Jersey. 244 pp.

Grinnell, G.B. 1970. Alaska 1899: Essays from the Harriman Expedition. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington. 355 pp.

Grumbine, R.E. 1994. What is Ecosystem Management? Conservation Biology 8:27-38.

Hildebrand, L.P. 1997. Introduction to the Special Issue on Community-based Coastal Management. Ocean & Coastal Management, Vol. 36, Nos. 1-3, pp.1-9.

Hudson, B.M. 1979. Comparison of current planning theories: Counterparts and
Contradictions. APA Journal (October), 387-398.

Keystone Center 1996. The Keystone National Policy Dialogue on Ecosystem Management. Final Report, October 1996. The Keystone Center, Keystone, Colorado. 43 pp.

Lindholm, J. and B. Barr. 2001. Comparison of Marine and Terrestrial Protected Areas under Federal Jurisdiction in the United States. Conservation Biology 15(5):1441-1444.

Marshall, R. 1970. Alaska Wilderness: Exploring the Central Brooks Range. Second Edition. University of California Press, Berkeley, California. 173 pp.
Nash, R. 1982. Wilderness and the American Mind. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut. 426 pp.

National Research Council. 2001. Marine Protected areas: Tools for Sustaining Ocean Ecosystems. National Academy Press, Washington, DC. 272 pp.


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