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Alaska exceptionality hypothesis: Is Alaska wilderness really different?Author(s): Gregory Brown
Source: In: Watson, Alan E.; Alessa, Lilian; Sproull, Janet, comps. Wilderness in the Circumpolar North: searching for compatibility in ecological, traditional, and ecotourism values; 2001 May 15-16; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-26. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 105-114.
Publication Series: Proceedings (P)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
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DescriptionThe common idiom of Alaska as “The Last Frontier” suggests that the relative remoteness and unsettled character of Alaska create a unique Alaskan identity, one that is both a “frontier” and the “last” of its kind. The frontier idiom portrays the place and people of Alaska as exceptional or different from the places and people who reside in the Lower Forty- Eight States, especially in regard to human perception and interaction with the surrounding landscape. The notion that Alaska represents the “last frontier” leads to what may be called the “Alaska exceptionality” hypothesis, the idea that the concept of wilderness in Alaska, one that was constructed in a “frontier” setting, is different from the “received” idea of wilderness in the Lower 48 States. Three dimensions of the Alaska exceptionality hypothesis with respect to wilderness are explored here—geographical context, set of social conditions, and subjective response to place—with indepth analysis of subjective response to place. Using survey data collected as part of the Chugach National Forest planning process, this paper describes Alaska residents’ subjective response to the concept of wilderness (attitudes, values, and beliefs) and compares this response with results from the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment (NSRE). It is argued that the subjective response of Alaskans to the concept of wilderness is similar to residents in the Lower 48 States on some wilderness values, but some differences in wilderness values are present that provide support for the Alaska wilderness exceptionality hypothesis. It is further argued that the geographical separation of Alaska from the Lower 48 States contributes to the difference in subjective response to the concept of wilderness, one that may not be present in countries that are largely or exclusively circumpolar.
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CitationBrown, Gregory. 2002. Alaska exceptionality hypothesis: Is Alaska wilderness really different? In: Watson, Alan E.; Alessa, Lilian; Sproull, Janet, comps. Wilderness in the Circumpolar North: searching for compatibility in ecological, traditional, and ecotourism values; 2001 May 15-16; Anchorage, AK. Proceedings RMRS-P-26. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. p. 105-114.
Keywordsbiodiversity, tourism, wilderness, conflict, collaboration, culture, traditional ecological knowledge
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