Northern Passages | Coming Home to Wilderness

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Legacy of the Muries

The general idea was to commemorate a trip that Olaus and Mardy Murie had made to the Sheenjek in 1956. They were two of the great conservationists of the 20th century and their purpose was to draw attention to the richness of the land. The Muries wanted the area designated as an Arctic Wildlife Range. We know it today as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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Fire and Ice

Titled John Muir and the Ice that Started a Fire, Kim Heacox's new book is an account of Muir’s life.  But its special contribution is interweaving Muir’s story with his passion for glaciers, which inspired and sustained his activism, which in turn ignited the fire of the conservation movement in America.  This is history, to be sure, but it is history with a razor-sharp relevance to the fight for conservation today. 

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Legal Roundup

A statement by the Pebble mine developer described the EPA’s action as “an unprecedented ... overreach onto an asset of the State of Alaska.”  This controversy may well be headed for the courts.  If it is, the Mingo Logan opinion left intact by the Supreme Court will be a very important legal precedent on the side of the EPA’s 404(c) authority in Bristol Bay.  

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Whose Land is it Anyway?

There is a fundamental question just below the surface of the topics covered in this blog.  The question is, whose land is it anyway?  By this I mean to ask who is entitled to hold strong views and advocate for public policies affecting land use, resource development, wilderness conservation and habitat protection in Alaska.  What moral standing does a corporate lawyer in the Midwest, for example, or a schoolteacher in Alabama, or a dental hygienist in California, have with respect to decisions that are geographically associated with Alaska?

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Coming Home to Wilderness

After traveling with the Muries in Alaska’s arctic region, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas remarked that there is “a loneliness that is joyous and exhilarating” about wilderness.  It is the kind of loneliness that settles in just after the roar of a bush plane’s radial engine has faded to silence, leaving you standing on the margin of an arctic bay in the company of a few friends, miles removed from any trace of human settlement, feeling at once insignificant and invigorated by the quiet fabric of life that surrounds you. 

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Welcome to Northern Passages

In a patriotic essay written on the heels of the September 11 attacks, Richard Nelson issued a plea that we cherish our public wilderness with the same reverence that we hold for national icons like the Statue of Liberty, the Alamo, or the Lincoln Memorial.  “We all know that America’s public lands ‘belong’ to every citizen,” he wrote in a 2002 essay titled Patriots for the American Land.  “But does this actually register in our minds at a deep, intuitive level?"

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