Cold War jet-fuel tanks, other debris hauled from Alaska parks

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Fri Oct 26, 2012 3:54pm EDT

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The U.S. National Park Service has completed a five-year clean-up of fuel tanks ejected by U.S. fighter jets over Alaska during the Cold War, along with other junk unrelated to the planes, officials said on Friday.

The litter, largely consisting of spent fuel tanks dumped by military jets doing maneuvers in the 1970s, was hauled off park lands in the Kobuk Valley National Park and the Noatak National Preserve in northwestern Alaska.

The remote parks are near Alaska's maritime boundary with Russia, and the airspace above them was used for military flights that no longer take place, Western Arctic Parklands Chief Ranger Dan Stevenson said.

Taken off the parklands were 25 aluminum fuel tanks, each weighing about 450 pounds, that are believed to have come from F-4 Phantom fighter jets flown by the U.S. military.

Also removed were abandoned fuel drums, old snowmobiles and all-terrain-vehicle frames. Allowing the items to remain as eyesores was contrary to the park service's stewardship responsibility, Stevenson said.

Cleanup work was done in the summer, with the debris hauled out on slings dangling from aircraft, officials said.

The 1.5 million-acre Kobuk Valley National Park is home to the largest active sand dunes north of the Arctic Circle in North America. The park also holds archaeological sites that date as far back as 8,000 years.

The 6.5 million-acre Noatak National Preserve holds the nation's longest undisturbed river basin. The preserve also holds archaeological sites that date back to the time of human migration across the Bering Land Bridge.

Both park units are home to hundreds of thousands of caribou, as well as other wildlife.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb; and Peter Galloway)

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