January 2020 Denali visit

Denali team visiting the National Park Service Regional Office in Anchorage, Alaska

Our team kicked off the new year in Denali, Alaska with field research that included qualitative data collection, a tour of a U.S. Air Force Station, and convening Denali’s local knowledge alliance. The ENVISION team had the privilege of learning from several local business owners and their connections to protected areas in Interior Alaska. As one of the key interest groups in the region, local business is highly dependent on visitation to Denali National Park and Preserve, offering a variety of recreation and tourism related opportunities (e.g., sled dog kennel tours, all-terrain vehicle activities, guided fishing and hunting tours, and guided hikes). Through interviews, ENVISION team members also learned about the challenges that many local business owners are facing in Interior Alaska. A rapidly changing social-ecological landscape has created uncertainty around the future of tourism and recreation, facets of the Denali region that many local businesses rely on. Understanding how to best prepare for this change is a challenge that many Denali business owners are grappling with.

As part of the January trip, we also toured CLEAR Airforce Station. CLEAR is located 8km south of Anderson, AK, a community adjacent to Denali National Park and Preserve. Military spending is considered one of the key contributors to the local economy in the Denali region, providing year-round employment to many residents of communities surrounding Denali National Park. This station employs about 300 personnel including Department of Defense civilians, Air National Guard, on-duty members, and contract employees. ENVISION team members had the opportunity to learn about this radar station’s main duty of detecting incoming intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Beyond surveillance, CLEAR is an integrated part of the communities in the Denali region. Personnel provide emergency services (e.g., fire suppression) to residents throughout the Interior and host community events (e.g., high school social events).

A final highlight of this field work was convening our local executive committee. This alliance consists of ten key leaders in the region representing sectors such as education, local government, subsistence use, local business, public land management (at the state and federal level), and industrial tourism. This was a tremendous opportunity to generate ideas with local leaders and learn how research part of ENVISION can be used by residents. During this exchange, we received valuable feedback on future directions of research in Denali.

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