Alaska: Keeping it Wild, Then and Now

| March 12, 2001

Alaska: Keeping it Wild, Then and Now

Ever since Dec. 2, 1980, when President Jimmy Carter signed the act that protects 103 million acres in Alaska and left the coastal plains of the refuge in limbo, activists have fought to keep industry out of that pristine wilderness.

In the Sierra Club's The Planet Newsletter Jack Hession and Jenny Coyle recount the long history of activists' efforts to preserve Alaska's virgin lands, which have been endangered since statehood in 1959. Back then, the new state government opened up 104 million acres of public land to its residents. 'The ensuing fervor to claim land suitable for gold mining, timber cutting, and oil and gas drilling was so intense that some Native communities found stakes hammered through the center of their villages,' Hession and Coyle write. The federal government had to step in and put a freeze on all public lands.

Tracking the various activist groups and federal administrations over the years, the authors note that with Clinton and Gore in the White House, not much was in question, but Bush's determination to drill in Alaska means that activists once again must organize to protect the land. See how you can help with the Sierra Club's mission.
--Sara V. Buckwitz
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