american flag
Credit: NPS

Denali Crew Was Told to Remove Flag But Not For The Reason You Might Think

While we were led to believe the flag was removed in Denali because of some nefarious, bureaucratic plot, the answer is a lot less complex.

Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan made a stink about officials at Denali National Park forcing a construction crew to remove an American flag from their vehicle ahead of Memorial Day weekend. In his Facebook post, he expressed "outrage" and hundreds of others expressed outrage. Then, he also wrote a letter demanding that the National Park Service explain its justification and policy regarding the incident.

In response, the Park Service denied the accusation and pointed out that they actually fly the flag all over the park. You could see it outside facilities and campsites and even mounted to government vehicles. While we were led to believe the flag removal was part of some deep-state America-hating conspiracy — because that's logical — the issue was far less complex.

Why was the flag removed in Denali?

In its initial statement, the Park Service said it does not oversee road construction projects in Denali. Turns out, the Federal Highway Administration does. In an emailed statement to Wide Open Spaces, an FHWA spokesperson said that the flag controversy began with a visitor complaint.

The spokesperson explained that NPS staff relayed the complaint to the crew working on a bridge, "as it does with all feedback related to the project." In the complaint, the visitor complained about the noise the flag made while in motion as it can bother both humans and wildlife. "FHWA brought both concerns to the responsible contractor, who addressed the situation per their usual process," the spokesperson added.

Certainly, noise is a concern for visitors and wildlife visiting public land. For example, there's been a 20-year fight over helicopter tours over national parks because of the noise they make. Even though the issue had such a simple explanation, there are a few questions I'd like to have answers for, like: How loud was the flag? Why did it bother the crew so much that they needed to contact a U.S. senator? Why did a U.S. senator feel he needed to make it national news without first collecting basic information?