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ALASKA. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, named for Baron von Wrangell (the territory’s Russian Governor) and St. Elias (the day the range was viewed by Bering during his exploration of interior Alaska). The Park is the largest park in the National Park System, spanning over 13 million acres. Created by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980, the park encompasses four mountain ranges including nine of the 16 tallest peaks in the United States. The four ranges, the Chugach along the southern coast; the Wrangell in the south central region; the Saint Elias that crosses into Canada; and the end of the Alaska Range on the northern borders, include some of the world's largest glaciers and North America's most remote wilderness.


The Park was noted for its spectacular scenery first in 1908 when the U.S. Forest Service proposed protecting the region. Names and boundaries changed over the following 72 years until first the Wrangell-St. Elias National Monument was established in 1978, followed by the change from a monument to a park in 1980 under ANILCA originally proposed by Congressman Morris Udall (D-Arizona). Today the park is part of a World Heritage site with Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and Kluane National and Tatsheshini-Alsek Provinical Parks in Canada. The World Heritage site contains 24 million acres recognized for exceptional interest and universal value. The Park is remote and has had little human occupation. Early caribou hunters began visiting the region about 8,000 years ago but the first known settlements appeared in the last 1,000 years with the arrival of the Ahtna Indian Culture. Game was always sparse in the region.
 
Today the Park manages subsistence hunts within its boundaries, several large ungulate populations including native caribou, moose, Dall sheep and introduced bison. In addition, the Park is home to wolf, lynx, coyote, wolverine, and numerous small mammals. Surprisingly, while winter temperatures can dip as low as minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit, there is a healthy population of dragonflies that prey on the abundant mosquitoes and flies, while wood frogs bounce among deep lichen beds. Spring comes rapidly and with the breakup of the winter snow and ice, Lynceads (blue butterflies) and Colias (yellow butterflies) crowd the seeps and damp areas. Larger fritillaries (orange and black butterflies) compete with the regal Wideymeyer's admiral--a large circumpolar member of the Papiolonids (swallowtails) that overwinter as adults and claim large territories in the early spring.

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