Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

Cole Ellis

Cole Ellis

Cole Ellis grew up at the end of the Nebesna Road with his parents, Lorene and Bill, and his brothers Terry, Lynn and Kirk. He was involved in guiding and air taxiing in the Wrangell-St. Elias area. Kirk and Cole are full partners with their dad in guiding out of Devil's Mountain Lodge. When Wrangell-St. Elias National Park was established by President Carter's invocation of the Historic Monuments Act in 1979, people like the Ellises with long-standing ties to the area were greatly affected. A new regulatory and administrative structure was put in place and the National Park Service's preservation mandate often conflicted with established uses; uses which included mining, hunting, and guiding. Moreover, many local residents felt their trust was violated by policy-makers based in Washington D.C. whose interests were seldom those of the people already living in the area. Today the Ellis' struggle under an increasingly cumbersome regulatory structure that they feel favors those with formal schooling or those with the money to hire lawyers to fill out the profusion of paperwork. The Ellis' expertise lies with the land, the animals, and the tricky business of mountain flying. Something is very wrong, they say, when the Park Service is threatening to deny them use of the very cabins they sweated to erect, while in the next valley the Park Service expends funds to restore "historic" mining cabins that are rotting into the ground. The question for them is: "What is it that the Park Service is mandated to preserve and protect?"

Cole Ellis appears in the following new Jukebox projects: