Synchronize with the table of contents  INTRODUCTION



The collection came to the Denver Public Library through the gift of Harry Crandell.


The collection is open for research.


The John F. Seiberling papers are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


[Identification of item], John F. Seiberling Papers, CONS95, Conservation Collection, The Denver Public Library.


Number of Boxes: 27

Oversize: 2 folders, 1 box




Elizabeth Happy

January 1999


Claudia Jensen

October 2004


Ellen Zazzarino


John Seiberling was born on September 8, 1918 in Akron, Ohio. He attended the public schools of Akron, and later, Staunton Military Academy, Virginia. He earned an A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1941, and an LL.B. from Columbia Law School, New York, in 1949. After he returned to Ohio, Seiberling served on the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission from 1964 to 1970. He was elected as a Democrat to the ninety-second, and to the seven succeeding Congresses. From 1977 to 1986, he served in the following congressional subcommittee positions, all under the Committee of Interior and Insular Affairs:

  • 1977-1979Chairman, Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands, 95th Congress
  • 1979-1980Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands, 96th Congress
  • 1981-1982Chairman, Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks, 97th Congress
  • 1983-1984Member, Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks, 98th Congress
  • 1985-1986Member, Subcommittee on Public Lands, 99th Congress

Through his work on the Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks, Seiberling "pushed through 33 bills for more than 250 new or expanded wilderness areas, saving more than 69 million acres of wilderness in 27 states. His crowning accomplishment came in the 49th state where more than 100 million acres of Alaskan public lands were designated as national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and wilderness" (from the National Trust for Historic Preservation). Seiberling resumed his law practice in Akron Ohio in 1987. In October 2002, he received the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, its highest honor.


The collection consists of files generated while John Seiberling was a member of the Committee of Interior and Insular Affairs in the United States House of Representatives. It relates primarily to three legislative activities: (1) the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), (2) the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and (3) wilderness and conservation designations in the lower 48 states. Documentation begins when he served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands for the oversight hearings held in 1977. These hearings were held to determine why the transfer of lands to Alaska Natives, as required under ANCSA, had not been completed. The majority of the files provide information on the subsequent legislation dealing with wilderness and conservation lands in Alaska and the enactment of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Material related to wilderness legislation in the lower 48 states completes the collection.

Background: The legislation granting Alaska statehood in 1959 put into place several provisions for dividing the lands between the state and the federal government. The state was granted the right to select 104 million acres of land; the rest remained under federal control. As Alaska began the selection process, conflicts arose with Alaska Native communities, especially when the state selected lands traditionally used by Alaska Natives for subsistence living. Alaska's Native community claimed that without a treaty, or an act of Congress extinguishing their rights, the State should not be allowed to continue selecting lands. Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior at the time, agreed, and the state land selections were frozen. The issues raised by these actions can be seen in the following outline:

  • 1959Alaska gains statehood and is granted the right to select 104 million acres of land for it's economic base. Native Alaskans make claims against the state to protect their traditional lands.
  • 1966Secretary Udall declares a freeze on state land selections until the Native claims are settled.
  • 1968Oil discovered at Prudhoe Bay. Udall's land freeze prevents the state from developing these areas, giving impetus to settle the Native claims.
  • December 18, 1971Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) Public law 92-203 was passed by Congress creating twelve Native-owned regional corporations; granting 962 million dollars in settlement of the aboriginal claims to land in Alaska; authorizing the Native corporations to select 44 million acres in Alaska for their own economic base; requiring the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw 80 million acres from development until Congress determined their status as national parks, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, or national forests. These designations were to be made by Congress before December 15, 1978. These "national interest lands" were required under Section 17 (d) (2) and became known as the "withdrawn, or d-2, lands." If Congress failed to act by the deadline, these lands would be reopened to development.
  • 1977The first Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) (HR 39), to determine the status of the withdrawn d-2 lands, is introduced in the House of Representatives. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands, Seiberling would play a major role in the development of this legislation.
  • 1977From April through September, hearings were held in major cities in the "lower 48" and in Alaska, receiving testimony from more than 2300 people. (Transcripts of the hearings and written statements accompanying these testimonies comprise a large portion of the collection.)
  • October 1977Congressional staff members revise the HR 39 bill to reflect concerns raised during the hearings, as well as recommendations made by the Department of the Interior.
  • January 1978Mark-up of HR 39 begins.
  • February 7, 1978HR 39 reported to the full committee.
  • October 1978The committee reports a bill that has much weaker protection of wilderness areas than the original. This bill is unacceptable to the Carter Administration, supporters of HR 39, and conservationists.
  • October 1978An ad hoc committee attempts to work out an acceptable compromise; however, Senator Gravel kills the bill and defeats a provision to extend the d-2 protection for another year.
  • November 14, 1978State of Alaska filed for selection of forty-one million acres of land within proposed conservation/wildlife areas.
  • November 16, 1978 Secretary of the Interior Andrus withdrew 110 million acres of land under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, in effect extending their protected status.
  • December 1, 1978President Carter used the Antiquities Act to designate seventeen national monuments, totaling 56 million acres.
  • 1979Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1979 introduced. This bill carried many changes from the previous version of HR 39, expanding wilderness and conservation issues and deleting many of the political compromises.
  • 1979Representative Lamar Gudger offers a substitute.
  • 1979Representation Jerry Huckaby offers a second substitute (HR 2199) weakening the protection of wilderness and conservation lands.
  • 1979Representatives Morris Udall and John Anderson introduced a bipartisan compromise bill, HR 3651. The House passes the Udall-Anderson bill by a vote of 360-65.
  • February 11, 1980Secretary Andrus acts to permanently withdraw 40 million acres that had been temporarily protected.
  • July 21, 1980The Senate takes up several Alaska national interest bills.
  • August 19, 1980The Senate passes the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which includes less wilderness areas and protection than the House version.
  • November 12, 1980After the fall elections made it clear that the new administration would not be supportive of stronger wilderness and conservation legislation, Morris Udall asked the House of Representatives to give its approval to the Senate version of the bill.
  • December 2, 1980President Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act into law, protecting over 100 million acres of federal lands in Alaska.

The files of this collection document the legislative process of HR 39 from the hearings in 1977, through the committee work and the passage of the bill by the House of Representatives in 1979. Correspondence, testimony, committee working documents, legislative drafts, and reference material comprise the files.

Addition materials relate to disputes with James Watt, Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Regan. Watt refused to allow staff from the Department of the Interior to meet with congressional staff prior to oversight hearings. Congress saw this as an obstacle to their oversight role. Correspondence from Seiberling, Watt, and congressional staff on this issue are included. The controversy over Watt's public land management policies, such as selling National Park land, grazing rights, and oil, gas, and mineral development rights, are documented in the newspaper clippings and magazine articles included in the collection.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional material on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, including:

Harry B. Crandell Papers


Morris K. Udall Papers


Robert Belous Papers


Larry Means Papers


Alaska Series of the Wilderness Society Records



This series is comprised of material related to the oversight hearings held by the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands in 1977. It includes correspondence, hearing testimony, reference materials, reports, and copies of the Native Corporations selection applications and easements.


The focus of this series is HR 39. It contains: background documents, letters from constituents, correspondence among member of Congress and their staff, testimony received at the public hearings and town meetings, drafts of the bill with committee markup, copies of amendments, and clippings about HR 39. Reports on subsistence living and native cultures, along with other reference materials complete the series. The files are organized by subject, according to their original headings.


Seiberling also worked on issues concerning public lands in the lower states. The Roadless Area Review and Evaluation studies (RARE II) were used to support legislation creating wilderness areas in many states. These reports, as well as testimony from legislative hearings, committee and staff correspondence, and reference documents form the series.


This series contains correspondence, memos, and newspaper clippings regarding the controversy between Seiberling and Secretary Watt concerning access to Department of Interior records and staff. It also documents the controversy over Watt's style and policies.

SERIES 5 OVERSIZE 1977-1979 FOLDER 1-2 :

Oversized maps used in the legislative process comprise the final series. They include draft proposals of Alaska wildlife plans, management goals for many wildlife species, and maps depicting Alaska's known or suspected mineral deposits.



  • Seiberling, John F. -- Archives.
  • Udall, Morris K.
  • Crandell, Harry Ben, 1924-1988.
  • Watt, James G., 1938-
  • Stevens, Ted.
  • Young, Don.
  • Gavel, Mike.
  • Hammond, Jay S.
  • United States. Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
  • United States. Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs.
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on General Oversight and Alaska Lands.
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. Subcommittee on Public Land and National Parks.
  • Tongass National Forest (Alaska)
  • Alaska.
  • Chugach National Forest (Alaska)
  • Admiralty Island (Alaska)