Any environmental description of Wrangell-St. Elias must start with the history of how the park came into being, less the majesty of the mountains be diminished by the relatively short life-span of the Park itself. Ernest Gruening, the director of the Interior Department's Division of Territories and Island Possessions, advanced the efforts to set aside the Wrangell Mountains as a park in 1938. In promoting the area, Gruening described the Wrangell Mountains as "not only the most spectacular mountains in Alaska, but some of the most beautiful in the world (Contested Grounds: Administrative History of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. G. Bleakley 2002). Further descriptions of the park from the Interior Department's Chief of Forestry in 1938 included " [T]here is no question that this area meets the superlative character so desirable in a national park" However, the initial efforts to interest President Franklin D. Roosevelt in setting up a national park for the Wrangell Mountains failed because of the impending doom of World War II.
The subcategories in this section describe the different environmental characteristics that are found in the mountain ranges that together form Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.