The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (or ANILCA) was a United States federal law passed in 1980 by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on December 2 of that year.
The law provided for the creation or revision of 15 National Park Service properties, and set aside other public lands for the United States Forest Service and United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In all, the act provided for the designation of 79.53 million acres (124,281 square miles; 321,900 km²) of public lands, fully a third of which was set aside as wilderness area.
The act provided for the creation or expansion of Denali National Park, Wrangell - St Elias National Park and Preserve, Gates Of The Arctic National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Kobuk Valley National Park, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Admiralty Island National Monument, Misty Fjords National Monument, Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Noatak National Preserve, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, and made significant changes to the notable Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The legislation was initially introduced into Congress in 1974 in several different bills, each outlining a single proposed park, monument, or other area. Several of these, in particular Lake Clark and Kenai Fjords, were quite controversial in Alaska. Little action was taken on any of them, so that by 1975 the National Park Service (NPS) and conservationists conceived the idea of a single bill that would cover several separate areas. The election in 1976 of Jimmy Carter buoyed hopes that Alaskan conservation would finally get a fair hearing. However, several members of Congress, particularly Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, remained strongly opposed to the absorption of such a large amount of land by the NPS — which would take the land off the market and, Gravel felt, damage long-term economic development plans for Alaska. Gravel became the primary opponent to the act.
The Interior Department and NPS became concerned as 1978 dragged on that no action would be taken at all on the "national interest lands" included in the proposals; mining and forestry claims, among other issues, were beginning to be levied against the lands and time was running out. The NPS and Interior thus lobbied President Carter to use the Antiquities Act to designate the proposed lands as National Monuments by executive order, which Carter did on December 1, 1978.
Carter argued that he had been forced to use the Antiquities Act by Congress' failure to act in a reasonable time, but his actions nevertheless caused wide protest across Alaska. President Carter was burned in effigy in Fairbanks. Residents in the Cantwell area undertook a large act of civil disobedience known as the Great Denali Trespass — namely, they went up into the park, fired off guns, made campfires, and did a number of other things that were officially prohibited by the NPS. The towns of Eagle and Glennallen, both in the shadow of new monuments, produced official proclamations stating that the towns would not support NPS authorities, not enforce NPS regulations, and would shelter individuals who broke the regulations.
Though these protests continued for some time, the designation of the monuments broke the legislative opposition to ANILCA. Senator Gravel continued to obstruct passage of the bill, but in the wake of Carter's proclamations most opponents recognized the need to work toward passage of an acceptable bill, rather than no bill at all. However, in 1978 75 seats in the House of Representatives had changed hands, producing a much more conservative body than the one that had supported Carter's use of the Antiquities Act. Proponents were forced to continue to work compromises, and the bill's passage was continually delayed.
In early November 1980, Jimmy Carter lost re-election to Ronald Reagan, and the Republican Party won a majority of seats in the Senate. Conservationists recognized that if they did not accept the compromise then on the table, they would be forced to begin again in the next Congress with decidedly less support. The bill was passed in late November, and signed into law in December.
Mike Gravel, meanwhile, was blamed in Alaska for forcing Carter's hand with the Antiquities Act. Though Carter was hardly held blameless for the creation of the new national monuments, Gravel was taken to task for the unpopular decision as well and was denied his party's nomination for his Senate seat in the 1980 election.