Misty Fiords

(1978 - 1980)

One of the thousands of ocean inlets at Misty Fiords.

Photo: Zarxos, July 2005

CC BY-SA 2.5



99th National Monument

2,285,000 Acres

Established by Presidential Proclamation: December 1, 1978 by President Jimmy Carter (Proclamation 4623)

Abolished as a National Monuments: December 2, 1980 by the 96th Congress



Misty Fiords is one of these darned 1978 Alaskan monuments created by President Jimmy Carter that pop up all over the place on these lists and that have somewhat difficult histories to unravel.

Out of all of those monuments, two lost their monument status and became National Wildlife Refuges, and two retained their Monument Status, but are managed by the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) as parts of Tongass National Forest. Out of these, Misty Fiords is the only one that appears on the National Park Service's list of 11 Abolished Monuments, but in many ways I feel that the monuments that became National Wildlife Refuges probably belong on the list ahead of Misty Fiords, and if Misty Fiords is included, why is the other USFS monument left off the list?

All of these lands were affected by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), passed by Congress on November 12, 1980 and signed into law by President Carter on December 2, 1980.

Misty Fiords was created by Presidential Proclamation 4623 on December 1, 1978 as a National Monument. However, according to the USFS, " In 1980, this acreage got reduced to 2,142,243 acres but was now congressionally designated as Misty Fiords National Monument Wilderness and still remains the largest wilderness area on the Tongass National Forest. "

The NPS lists it as one of the 11 Abolished Monuments, while the USFS lists it as one of the 11 monuments that they manage. Yep. It's like that. The one that got away? This is a little confusing, and it takes some digging into the actual ANILCA to actually sort this all out.

First, though, it does seem like the NPS is sometimes a little stingy with including the USFS sites on their lists. They do appear to include all of the 1978 Alaskan monuments on their list, even the four that were taken over by other agencies after ANILCA, but they also leave off the two National Volcanic Monuments (Mt. St. Helens and Newberry). I am sure there is some rationale behind what they include and do not include, but I have yet to decipher it.

Anyway, Misty Fiords was one of only four of the Alaskan National Monuments created by President Carter on December 1, 1978, as far as I have seen, to be left out of the NPS system with the passage of the ANILCA. Yukon Flats National Monument and Becharof National Monument would become National Wildlife Refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). However, these two monuments, for some reason, do not appear on the NPS' list of 11 abolished monuments, while Misty Fiords does.

Likewise, Admiralty Island National Monument's management was established under the Tongass National Forest by the ANILCA, but it does not appear on the list while Misty Fiords does...

Long story short, Misty Fjords is still a National Monument, but it is managed by Tongass National Forest as a Wilderness Area under the Wilderness Act, ANILCA, and the Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan of 2008 (TLMP). The ANILCA created both a National Monument and the Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness simultaneously.

Essentially, the ANILCA overrode Proclamation 4623 and re-created the monument. While the original proclamation did not specify an administrative agency for Misty Fjords, the ANILCA did, in §503. (a), stating "There is hereby established within the Tongass National Forest, the Misty Fjords National Monument, containing approximately two million two hundred and eighty-five thousand acres of public lands as generally depicted on a map entitled 'Misty Fjords National Monument Proposed', dated July 1980. "

Later, in §703. (a), the Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness was created, consisting "of approximately two million one hundred and thirty-six thousand acres, as generally depicted on a map entitled 'Misty Fjords Wilderness', dated July 1980 ."

In fact, spelling can even be seen to count here. The ANILCA killed the Fiords (with an "i") monument created by Proclamation 4623 and established the Fjords (with a "j") monument. I suspect this was not an accident, and it is how I am tracing the difference between the "two" monuments. The battle here appeared to involve "the remainder for the Quartz Hill molybdenum deposit, possibly the largest such mineral deposit in the world," and whether or not it would remain available or not. Congress ultimately reserved the deposits in the act creating the monument. (Wikipedia)

For the most part, it seems as if the 2,285,000 acres (the same as the 1978 proclamation) of the 1980 monument re-established by Congress are essentially ignored by everyone, including Tongass National Forests, in favor of the 2,136,000 acre Wilderness with the same name.

Eventually, I would like to dig deeper into the whole history of these confusing Alaskan monument proclamations, the ANILCA, and the political battles that created so much confusion (the monument designations were largely a ploy trying to force Congress' hand on legislation), but that will have to wait for later.


Wikipedia: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act






Proclamation 4623—Misty Fiords National Monument


Alaska Humanities Forum: ANILCA


Proclamation 4623—Misty Fiords National Monument

December 1, 1978


Misty Fiords is an unspoiled coastal ecosystem containing significant scientific and historical features unique in North America. It is an essentially untouched two million-acre area in the Coast Mountains of Southeast Alaska within which are found nearly all of the important geological and ecological characteristics of the region, including the complete range of coastal to interior climates and ecosystems in a remarkably compact area.

Among the objects of geologic importance are extraordinarily deep and long fiords with sea cliffs rising thousands of feet. Active glaciers along the Canadian border are remnants of the massive ice bodies that covered the region as recently as about 10,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch. However, there have been periodic glacial advances and retreats in more recent historic periods. Some of the area has been free from glaciation for only a short period of time, creating the unusual scientific phenomenon of recent plant succession on newly exposed land with the accompanying animal species. The Behm Canal, the major inlet at the heart of the area, is more than fifty miles long and extraordinary among natural canals for its length and depth.

The watershed of the Unuk River, which comprises the northern portion of the Misty Fiords area, has its headwaters in Canada. It is steeply mountainous and glaciated and contains the full range of ecosystems and climates from interior to coastal. Mineral springs and lava flows add to the uniqueness of the area and its value for scientific investigation. South of the Unuk, the Chickamin River System and the Le Duc River originate in active glaciers and terminate in Behm Canal. Further south, Rudyerd Bay Fiords and Walker Cove are surrounded by high, cold lakes and mountains extending eastward to Canada.

First inhabitants of Misty Fiords may have settled in the area as long ago as 10,000 years. The area contains cultural sites and objects of historical significance, including traditional native hunting and fishing grounds. Later historical evidence includes a mid-1800's military post-port entry on Tongass Island and a salmon cannery in Behm Canal established in the late 1800's.

Misty Fiords is unique in that the area includes wildlife representative of nearly every ecosystem in Southeast Alaska, most notably bald eagles, brown and black bears, moose, wolves, mountain goats and Sitka black-tailed deer. Numerous other bird species nest and feed in the area, notably falcons and waterfowl. Misty Fiords is a major producer of all five species of Pacific salmon and is especially important for king salmon. Numerous other saltwater, freshwater and anadromous fish species and shellfish are plentiful in this area, which is an extraordinarily fertile interface of marine and freshwater environments. Unusual plant life includes Pacific silver and subalpine fir trees near the northern limit of their range. The area includes an unusual variety of virgin forests, ranging from coastal spruce-hemlock to alpine forests.

As an intact coastal ecosystem, Misty Fiords possesses a collective array of objects of outstanding value for continuing scientific study. The boundaries of the area follow watershed perimeters and include the smallest area compatible with protection of this unique ecosystem and the remarkable geologic and biological objects and features it contains.

Hunting and fishing shall continue to be regulated, permitted and controlled in accord with the statutory authorities applicable to the monument area.

Section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431), authorizes the President, at his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the government of the United States to be National Monuments, and to reserve as part thereof parcels of lands, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.

Now, Therefore, I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 2 of the Act of June 8, 1906, (34 Stat. 225, 16 U.S.C. 431), do proclaim that there are hereby set apart and reserved as the Misty Fiords National Monument all lands, including submerged lands, and waters owned or controlled by the United States within the boundaries of the area described on the document entitled "Misty Fiords National Monument (Copper River Meridian)", attached to and forming a part of this Proclamation. The area reserved consists of approximately 2,285,000 acres, and is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected. Lands, including submerged lands, and waters within these boundaries not owned by the United States shall be reserved as a part of the Monument upon acquisition of title thereto by the United States.

All lands, including submerged lands, and all waters within the boundaries of this Monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from entry, location, selection, sale or other disposition under the public land laws, other than exchange. There is also reserved all water necessary to the proper care and management of those objects protected by this Monument and for the proper administration of the Monument in accordance with applicable laws.

The establishment of this Monument is subject to valid existing rights, including, but not limited to, valid selection under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as amended (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), and under or confirmed in the Alaska Statehood Act (48 U.S.C. Note preceding Section 21).

Nothing in this Proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation or appropriation, including any withdrawal under section 17 (d) (1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1616(d) (1)); however, the National Monument shall be the dominant reservation. Nothing in this Proclamation is intended to modify or revoke the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 1, 1972, entered into between the State of Alaska and the United States as part of the negotiated settlement of Alaska v. Morton, Civil No. A-48-72 (D. Alaska, Complaint filed April 10, 1972).

Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy or remove any feature of this Monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and third.