Russians working on plan for international park

Posted: Monday, October 22, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A group of Russians is promoting the concept of an international park that would span the Bering Strait.

Russian officials unveiled their idea during a visit to Anchorage last week.

The first step toward an international park would be to set up a federal park in the Russian Far East territory of Chukotka. Vladimir Etylin, Chukotka's representative in the Russian parliament, said Russian officials are now actively working to create such a park.

''We are now working to push that agreement, but we all understand that's not a speedy process,'' Etylin said during the National Park Service's Beringia Days Conference in Anchorage.

Etylin said it would take at least two years for a federal park to be established in Chukotka, across the Bering Strait from Alaska.

If and when Russia establishes a federal park in Chukotka, Russia and the United States could then begin to discuss an international park for the Beringia region.

''We're encouraged by the Russian interest,'' Park Service spokesman John Quinley told the Anchorage Daily News. ''We're still interested in an international park but there's nothing on the table yet.''

Most likely, the international park would consist of a new federal park on the Chukotka Peninsula, proposed to be about 7.4 million acres. Also included in the plan are four existing conservation units in Alaska: the Bering Land Bridge Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Kobuk Valley National Park and Noatak National Preserve.

No new land in Alaska and no marine waters would be designated for the park, Quinley said.

The United States and Russia first agreed to work cooperatively on an international park in 1990 but the idea soon stalled. Political opposition arose in Alaska, and then Chukotka's former governor, Alexander Nazarov, shut down negotiations.

Chukotka's new governor, Roman Abramovich, favors opening Chukotka to Alaska for trade, tourism and development.

Abramovich, a young Muscovite billionaire who was elected Chukotka's governor in January, also likes the idea of a federal and international park. It could help tourism develop in the depressed region, according to Abramovich's Alaska adviser, John Tichotsky, who teaches economics and international trade at Alaska Pacific University.



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