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John Kauffmann

John Kauffmann was interviewed on February 21, 1992 by Bill Schneider in Fairbanks, Alaska at the sound recording studio in Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. John was in town for a short visit. He is a key man for what became Gates of the Arctic National Park because of his role as chief planner. Patty Rost, head of Resources Management for Gates of the Arctic National Park, was also present at the interview. Bill Schneider knew John during the years that they both worked for the National Park Service in the Anchorage office. On this recording, John speaks passionately about wilderness, at one point referring to Gates as a "Black Belt Park wilderness." The interview was a bit rushed, since John was late and then was heading off to the airport to leave the state.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 93-15-41

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Feb 21, 1992
Narrator(s): John Kauffmann
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider
People Present: Patty Rost
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) His personal background

2) His work history at the Park Service|

3) First visit to Alaska

4) Overflight of Brooks Range

5) Assignment to Alaska

6) A highlight of Gates of the Arctic and the Noatak Basin

7) A highlight of Gates of the Arctic and the Noatak Basin continued

8) Goals in planning the Park

9) Visions of Gates of the Arctic National Park values

10) Park philosophy

11) Results today of park formation

12) Results today of park formation continued

13) Park boundary issues

14) Park boundaries continued

15) New book forthcoming

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: born -- Oct. 5, 1923\ Champaign, IL\ Washington D.C.\ family -- Washington Evening Star\ Princeton University\ English degree|

Section 2: temporary editorial clerk\ trail crewman\ seasonal ranger\ park specialist -- planner\ Washington D.C. -- writer|

Section 3: film project -- Alaska's Park Resources\ script writer -- liaison for\ Dyhrenfurth, Norm G. -- former leader of American Everest Expedition\ Udall, Secretary Stewart\ Glacier Bay National Monument\ Katmai National Monument\ Mt. McKinley National Park|

Section 4: impressions\ Interior Department Grumman Goose\ Arrigetch Peaks\ Mt. Igikpak\ Lake Clark\ Merrill Pass|

Section 5: park planner\ Swem, Theodore R. -- Assistant Director for Cooperative Activities and Planning\ D-1, D-2 withdrawals -- assessment and recommendation\ planning team -- Central Brooks Range and Noatak\ Weisbrod, Dr. Richard -- ecologist\ LaRock, Jim -- landscape architect\ McCrary, Paul -- Interpretive Planner\ Nichols, Robert -- part-time archaeologist\ ground truthing -- Arrigetch\ Clear River Headwaters\ Bob Marshall Country|

Section 6: Cline, Dave -- Fish and Wildlife\ Dapkus, David -- Alaska office of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation\ Wild River studies\ McLenegan's 1885 Exploration\ Smith, Philip -- USGS\ Noatak Basin\ articles -- Living Wilderness (pub. of Wilderness Society)\ Explorers Journal -- publication of Explorers Club\ Grand Canyon of Noatak\ Young, Steven B. -- Center for Northern Studies|

Section 7: Williamson, Dr. Frank -- Smithsonian\ UNESCO -- Noatak or "world ecological resource"\ Noatak Inupiat Preserve\ Nichols, Bob\ Noatak's importance -- scientific value, biological diversity, archeology|

Section 8: ecological integrity\ fighting for space\ Johnson Administration -- proposed 2 units separated by John River Valley\ splitting unwise\ lawsuit -- feds vs state -- state won lower John River\ Lower Alatna\ Iniakuk Lake\ sacrifices -- Ambler, Kogoluktuk, Shungnak\ Stenmark, Dick\ National Park Service -- opposed their exclusion\ recovered upper Ambler\ mining claims|

Section 9: Gates of the Arctic as "premier wilderness park"\ ultimate park experience\ black belt park\ farthest wilderness event\ Marshall, Bob -- influence of "country of solitude"\ fragile resource\ perpetuation\ Marshall, Bob -- elation, reverence, ecstasy|

Section 10: "Keep it Tough"\ premier wilderness park\ black belt park\ "molder" of American character\ wilderness -- value to humans\ intrinsic value\ humans -- part of, not masters\ litmus test -- "health of the world"|

Section 11: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act -- saddening, concerned -- activities undermine, rot wilderness values\ roads and rivers -- states claims\ All Terrain Vehicles\ mining\ people|

Section 12: private inholdings\ real estate "time bomb"\ threats today -- dire, pervasive\ recommendations -- reassess Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act\ single management\ remove all threats|

Section 13: river systems: Noatak, Koyukuk, Itkillik, Alatna, Killik, Colville\ land withdrawals -- township and range lines\ physiography -- should have determined boundaries\ politics -- acreage|

Section 14: the "boot" -- upper Kobuk, Selby and Narvak Lakes\ Reed, Secretary -- supported inclusion\ Waldrop, Bob -- trip down Kobuk\ Kogoluktuk\ Kurupa Lake\ Cascade Lake|

Section 15: "ALASKA'S BROOKS RANGE: The Ultimate Mountains" -- book title\ Brooks Range -- geographically northernmost, ultimate U.S. mountains, ultimate wilderness|