A Texas-based manufacturing company yesterday ceded 500 mining claims in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska to the federal government in what the Interior Department called the largest-ever corporate gift to the national park system.
Interior Secretary James G. Watt held a special ceremony to receive the gold and copper claims from Cooper Industries and to praise the gift as "an outstanding example of the kind of private initiatives that are needed to assure the protection of prime park resources." Watt has drawn fire from Congress and environmentalists for imposing a near-moratorium on government spending for park expansion.
The claims cover about 10,000 acres of land and account for one-third of the mining claims in Wrangell-St. Elias, the largest national park and one known for its mountain and valley vistas, rugged canyons and wildlife. The land borders the Chitistone River, and will be managed as wilderness, off limits to mining and all other development.
Still, the status of the land remains uncertain. Interior is supporting legislation--heatedly opposed by environmentalists--to allow sport hunting in that part of the park, which has been off limits to hunters since 1978. The area is home to Dahl sheep, wolves, moose and bear.