Stanley Albright, 74; Had Major Role in Expansion of National Park System

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Times Staff Writer

His efforts in Alaska helped double the size of the national park system in 1980. In the 1990s, he played a key role in the creation of massive Death Valley National Park and was sent to Yosemite to rebuild after an epic flood.

Despite these accomplishments during 42 years with the National Park Service, Stanley T. Albright was known as “the nephew of.” His uncle, Horace Albright, co-founded the park service in 1916 and served as its second director.

Stanley T. Albright died Aug. 18 in a care facility in West Linn, Ore., after a long illness, said his wife, Kris. He was 74.


“Most will never know the full impact of Stan’s leadership in shaping the national park system,” Michael Tollefson, who was named superintendent of Yosemite National Park in 2003, said in a statement. Albright had been Yosemite’s superintendent from 1997 to 1999.

During the Reagan administration, Albright served under Interior Secretary James G. Watt, who was known for favoring profit over preservation when it came to federal land. A resolute conservationist, Albright preserved many national park programs that Watt had sought to dismantle, according to the park service.

Their relationship was so rocky that Albright often joked that Watt kept a sealed envelope on his desk with Albright’s resignation letter inside.

“Those were pretty tense times for us,” Russell Dickenson, director of the National Park Service from 1980 to 1985, said in a statement.

In 1987, Albright became director of the western region, overseeing national parks in California and five other states for “10 tumultuous years” as park budgets flattened, according to a park service release.

He played a key role in the passage of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act, which expanded Death Valley National Monument into a national park; the park’s 3.4 million acres make it the largest national park in the contiguous United States. The act also upgraded Joshua Tree National Monument to a national park and created the Mojave National Preserve.


Tapped in 1997 to return to Yosemite -- where he had served on the ski patrol decades before -- Albright led an effort to repair damage to the park from a Merced River flood that had washed away buildings, roads and bridges.

With Albright as Yosemite’s superintendent, the “wondrous place is in good, gentle hands,” The Times wrote in a 1997 editorial.

He also was charged with jump-starting long-stalled plans to restore natural areas of Yosemite and protect it from further damage by automobile traffic.

“Today, we present an opportunity for historic change,” Albright announced that November as he unveiled a proposal to deal with the estimated 1.5 million cars that annually crawled through the 7-square-mile valley.

Among other measures, the plan would have required tourists to leave their cars in neighboring communities and take buses into the park -- a proposal that was unpopular with area businesses and was later dropped. The plan also called for demolishing three river bridges and razing structures in the flood plain. Lawsuits filed by environmental groups have tied up versions of the proposal ever since.

Two years into his Yosemite stewardship, Albright was replaced. He ended his career as a natural resources consultant before retiring from the park service in 2000 and moving to Bend, Ore., two years later.


Albright was born in Oakland and grew up in Bishop, Calif.

After serving in the Army during the Korean War, he graduated from UCLA in 1958 with a degree in biology. His first job out of college was as a fire lookout in the Inyo National Forest, and he later managed concessions at the Grand Canyon.

As state director of the National Park Service in Alaska in the 1970s, Albright helped lay the groundwork for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which created 10 national parks and expanded several others. The 44 million acres effectively doubled the size of the national park system.

As a regional supervisor, Albright was at his best as “a teacher or a coach,” said Bill Paleck, superintendent of North Cascades National Park in Washington state. “Stan didn’t supervise as much as he taught, and he had a good sense of humor.”

He trained the generation of superintendents now running many of the nation’s parks.

In addition to his second wife, Kris, Albright is survived by a son, Sean Albright of Walnut Creek, Calif., and a stepson, Jon Finney of Lake Oswego, Ore.

Memorial donations may be made to the Albright fund at Yosemite Institute,, P.O. Box 487, Yosemite, CA 95389 or the Willamette Falls Hospice, 1505 Division St., Oregon City, OR 97045.