Why Alaska's Environmental Battles - The New York Times

There are also other longstanding environmental disputes in Alaska. Among them is the dispute over oil drilling in the Arctic National W...


There are also other longstanding environmental disputes in Alaska. Among them is the dispute over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has been simmering since the 1970s, and the fight over the Ambler Highway, a proposed 210-mile mine access road, part of which would pass through Gates of the Arctic National Park. The project is relatively new, having first been proposed in the 2000s.

Clearly, environmental disputes in Alaska are in a category of their own. The reasons are complex, but here is a brief overview of some of them.

There are many environment to fight. Alaska is a juggernaut, and aside from Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, still largely undeveloped, with far more wilderness than any other state. The law at the center of the King Cove dispute, for example, in one fell swoop secured the protection of 104 million acres of land. It is an area the size of California and almost 5% of the total area of ​​the United States.

There are also plenty of resources to fight with. The metals that the Pebble Mine would extract are estimated at $300 billion. The commercial salmon fishery that opponents say the mine would harm generates about $2 billion in economic benefits a year, according to a recent report. These are just two examples of the state’s wealth of resources. Oil is another, with tens of billions of barrels already produced and billions more believed to be present in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s not just environmentalists against commercial interests. Another foundational federal law, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, was intended to treat the state’s native peoples more fairly than they were in the lower 48 under of the reservation system. In exchange for relinquishing native claims to Alaskan lands, the act established for-profit native corporations, both regional and local, and transferred approximately 40 million acres of land to them. Indigenous societies are all over the state and so have been involved in many environmental struggles, on both sides. In the King Cove Road dispute, for example, the local Aboriginal society wants the road, arguing that it is needed for medical emergencies. But some indigenous societies elsewhere oppose it, fearing that by crossing the wildlife refuge, the road will affect the populations of migratory geese that their members traditionally hunt for food.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Why Alaska's Environmental Battles - The New York Times
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