It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extra ordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations. - Jimmy Carter
National Parks and Wildlife Refugees a story that is not always nice
Back in the day, when the first National Park formed in 1872, Yellowstone National Park, it was not only to protect the wilderness, but to also create the human perception of a wilderness, an uninhabited wilderness, pushing the Native American's out of their wilderness.
“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” - The Yellowstone National Park Protection Act
Ignoring the fact that in reality what was created, was a rather unnatural habitat with the subsequent fire suppression and the predator elimination. Also, ignoring the fact that this land was partially Native American land. This perception that no one should live inside these parks, including Native Americans was also shared by environmentalists and writers, such as John Muir.
The wilderness act that was stated in 1964 defines the wilderness as:
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." - 1964 Wilderness Act
“the headwaters of the Yellowstone River … is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Source: Birth of a National Park
"Secretary of the Interior Lucius Lamar felt the new national parks should be managed to preserve "wilderness," in his mind defined as uncut forests and plentiful game animals." Source: Ethnic Cleansing and America's Creation of National Parks
In fact, the Native American have a lot to teach us about sustainability and living off the land, caring for the environment, because if we do not, we wont get that much in return. We can have wilderness out there, along with people who are sustainably caring for their land. It is when we start to get greedy that things start to take a turn towards the dark side.
Nowadays the view of the Native American's use of the land is somewhat changed, and in 1996 the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was put in place.
“The National Park Service recognizes that site-specific worship is vital to Native American religious practices. As a matter of policy and in keeping with the spirit of the law, and provided the criteria listed in section 8.2 for use of the parks are not violated, the Service will be as unrestrictive as possible in permitting Native American tribes access to park areas to perform traditional religious, ceremonial, or other customary activities at places that have been used historically for such purposes." - NPS Management Policy
Today we also have the Native American Policy which is suppose to improve the government-to-government relationships.
In 1995 Professor William Cronon wrote an article that highlight this exact issue, the problem with wilderness as it is created by us humans due to our perception on how a wilderness in fact should, or should not be. Back in the day the wilderness was defined as desolate, barren or a wasteland, and it was concluded that wilderness is indeed based on your own consciousness. The reason why I am bringing this up is because it seems that some politicians are stuck in this perception of wilderness as a wasteland.
Once Alaska is in your blood you will never shake it
As you all know Alaska has a special place in my heart, just like many other place do too. When I walk out into nature and see all these mountains, rivers, deep deep forests, sandstone formations, open vistas, tundra, glaciers and many many other views I feel it in my heart. Of course this does not only happen in Alaska. You know that feeling of such joy that you don't really know if you should laugh or cry. It's not only Alaska I love, I love the wilderness, with all these great open spaces that comes with it. I want to keep these wild places wild, and would rather not develop any of these place for oil or natural gas. Did you know that back in the day the government wanted to test a nuclear bomb up in Alaska, because there is nothing there to be destroyed? I let you think about that for a moment, but that is a whole different story than the story here today.
The Sacred Place Where Life Begins
There is a place far up north in Alaska, where caribou go to calve between May and July, some people call it the "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins", whereas others refer to it as the 1002 area. Regardless of what you call it, both areas are within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Few things gets me as riled up as the increasing environmental issues this country are facing for each day that passes. The fight over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is nothing new, in fact it has been going on for decades. The Gwich'in people depend on these areas, largely because they depend on the caribou, and the caribou depend on the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain. This area has always been seen as a sacred place, for thousands of years.
America's last truly Great Wilderness
Many people are calling the ANWR America's last truly great wilderness. The Gwich'in calls it home. As I said, this battle has been going on for decades, more than 40 years, today is the closest we have been to develop parts of this refuge into an oil drilling environment. I can not understand how we as humans can become so greedy, so greedy of more and more and more, that we are willing to sacrifice our most beautiful parts of this world, the wilderness. But then again, the thought of beauty and wilderness can mean very different things depending on who you ask.
"man's endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and to destroy would inevitably evolve into a war against himself, a war he would lose unless he came to terms with nature." - Rachel Carson
I share, once again, the short but very important documentary about the Gwich'ins fight against the greedy politicians who want to squeeze every little bit of oil from these barren wastelands, as they refer it to. This is the Gwich'ins story:
“A person with a clear heart and open mind can experience the wilderness anywhere on earth. It is a quality of one’s own consciousness. The planet is a wild place and always will be. And we're surrounded by the greatest of all wildernesses -- the universe.” - Gary Snyder, NY times 1994
What is your definition of the wilderness? Do you believe that a wilderness has to be free of any people or can you see a place as wild, even though people are actually living there?