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A history of Alaska wildernessAuthor(s): Frank Norris
Source: In: Watson, Alan; Sproull, Janet; Dean, Liese, comps. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress symposium; September 30-October 6, 2005; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-49. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 10-13
Publication Series: Proceedings (P)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
PDF: View PDF (260 B)
DescriptionToday there are approximately 222 million acres (90 million ha) of federal land in Alaska - that’s about 60 percent of the state. And of that vast acreage, there are about 57.5 million acres (23.3 million ha) of designated wilderness, along with some 16.5 million acres (6.7 million ha) of proposed wilderness areas. Alaska’s designated wilderness acreage makes up approximately 54 percent of the entire nation’s wilderness, but it’s only about 26 percent of Alaska’s public lands. So depending on your point of view, the amount of Alaska’s wilderness acreage is either a triumph or an opportunity not yet fulfilled. And Alaska has one more singular distinction: more than 99 percent of the state’s existing and proposed wilderness areas were established by the stroke of one man’s pen.
How those wilderness areas came to be, and why so much wilderness acreage was preserved all at one time, has as much to do with Alaska’s geography and politics as with any other factor. In the popular book, The Nine Nations of North America, Joel Garreau (1981) characterized a huge expanse that included Yukon Territory and Alaska, where climate dictated that people and their improvements would be scattered more thinly than elsewhere, as the “Empty Quarter.” Not surprisingly, quite a few of our country’s wilderness areas are found in the Empty Quarter, but the scattered few that live there have usually been pragmatic thinkers who are far more concerned about utilization and commercial development on the land than the esthetic joy of preservation.
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CitationNorris, Frank. 2007. A history of Alaska wilderness. In: Watson, Alan; Sproull, Janet; Dean, Liese, comps. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress symposium; September 30-October 6, 2005; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-49. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 10-13
Keywordswilderness, biodiversity, protected areas, economics, subsistence, tourism, traditional knowledge, community involvement, policy, stewardship, education, spiritual
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