Story by Adam Andis/ Video by Alex Crook
I used to imagine Alaska as a vast, wild expanse. In my mind, this state was full of immutable glaciers, unsummitable mountains, and impenetrable forests. I had always assumed that Alaska’s remoteness and immenseness protected it from the forces that had forever changed my childhood home in the Midwest.
Now that I live in Alaska, I’ve come to realize that the Alaskan wilds are just as fragile as any other. It is just fragility on a larger scale, but the threats, in fact, loom even larger.
I live in the small island-town of Sitka. We only have about 14 miles of road; the rest of our 100-mile by 30-mile island is jagged peaks, deep fjords, and dense forest. Incidentally, the coastal brown bears in the area outnumber the people who live on the islands here in the southeast, but we all get along well enough.
I work for the Sitka Conservation Society, the oldest environmental group in the state. We were founded over 45 years ago when a handful of Sitkans decided to take a stand against the clear-cut logging they saw ravaging their homes. They fought for 13 years and eventually they won the first citizen-initiated Wilderness proposal in Alaska. Nowadays, we continue to fight for protection of critical habitats and wild lands here in the Tongass National Forest—the nation’s largest National Forest.
This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act—the legislation that gave citizens the power to protect lands in their most pristine and wild state. Since then, folks have worked to protect over 100 million acres in all but six states. I think the best way to celebrate the legacy of Wilderness we have been given is to get out and enjoy them, share them with others, and give back to ensure they remain wild and protected. You can get involved in your local Wilderness area at www.wildernessalliance.org.
Here’s to 50 more years of Wilderness!
Adam Andis, Wilderness Stewardship and Outreach Coordinator