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In This Section
PDF September/October 2005
e-mail September 29, 2005
e-mail August 15, 2005


Democracy Breaks Out
Highlights from Sierra Summit
Taking Money from Criminals
John Swingle
Betsy Bennet
Larry Fahn
Hot or Not?
Judgement Day at Hand for Arctic Refuge
Designing the 'Next Industrial Revolution'
Exxpose Exxon
What Would John Muir Drive?
Maybe This SUV?
Happy Birthday Alaska Wildlands
Big Box Boondoggle on the Ropes
Save the Great Bear Rainforest
Mark Johnston
Joni Bosh
Gordon Nipp
From the Editor: Paper to Pixels
  JULY 2005
Protecting the Environment is Patriotic
Tilting At Windmills
The Ultimate Bad Hair Day
Meet the New Sierra Club President
Lucky Seven—One-on-One with Six Summit Speakers and One Delegate
From the Editor
Who We Are
PDF July/August 2005
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The Planet

Happy Birthday Alaska Wildlands

Former President Jimmy Carter, Sierra Club Honorary Vice President Edgar Wayburn and about a thousand other conservation gathered in Anchorage earlier this month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which protected 100 million acres of wildlands in the nation’s 49th and largest state.

Wayburn, now 98, is arguably the most influential Club leader in securing protection for these Alaskan wildlands. Here's his speech:

Alaska National Interest Public Lands Act 25th Anniversary Celebration, Anchorage, Alaska

Speech by Dr. Edgar Wayburn, Sierra Club Honorary Vice President

July 7, 2005

For this conference and for the American people as a whole, I want to acknowledge the deep debt that we all owe to President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus. President Carter stands out as a hero in high office: a person who understood the importance of saving so much of the beauty and magnificence of this great state of Alaska.

Dr. Edgar Wayburn  

I would like to acknowledge also the long and sustained efforts  of those Alaskans who appreciated the value of these lands to Alaskans themselves, as well as to the people of America.

There are those such as Richard Gordon, Dave and Mark Hickok, Celia Hunter, and others who were working for Alaska conservation before Peggy and I first arrived in Alaska. And there are the stalwarts of the Alaska Conservation Society, such as Bob Weeden and Ginny Wood.

There were Congressional representatives such as Morris Udall, John Seiberling, and Phil Burton, and Senators such as Alan Bible, Henry M. Jackson, Lee Metcalf, Paul Tsongas, and John Durkin.

Then there are those whom the Sierra Club recruited from 1967 to 1980, most notably Jack Hession, Chuck Clusen, Doug Scott, and John McComb.

And the hosts of Alaska Natives who contributed in a variety of ways to the success of the legislation.

All these, plus many more I don't have time or immediate recollection to recognize right now had their own important roles in the campaign for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Personally, I have been to Alaska some 35 times after my wife Peggy first convinced me to come.  I am indebted to my son-in-law Jim Roush who flew me, Peggy, and Jack Hession around the state a number of times.

In my own many years of Alaska and other conservation campaigns, I have come to see a general pattern in environmental advocacy. First comes a vision, then an obsession to do the job so that the vision will endure.

In pursuing my vision, I have followed a few rules to advantage. Among these are:

  • Choose your targets and don't be diverted. Always consider long-range as well as short term objectives.
  • Keep the land from being chopped up. The entire watershed must be protected.
  • Early compromise is the downfall of any conservation campaign. Ask for less than your goal at the start and you'll end up with little. Ask for what you desire at the start, and most likely you will end up with less than the optimum, but it will be closer to the mark.
  • Environmental organizations must present a united front whenever possible. Internal disputes are best kept behind the scenes. There is no easier excuse for Congress to avoid action than the opportunity to say, "If you guys can't make up your minds, how are we supposed to?"
  • Once you have taken hold of a project, follow through. Campaigns enter different phases and may reach climaxes but they go on and on. (And on.)

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act remains the largest piece of land conservation legislation in American history. It provides in varying degrees protection for 104 million acres of Alaskan lands and waters.

And yet, at its passage and even now a quarter of a century later, I do not feel completion. The campaign for Alaska's lands reached an important plateau in 1980, but not an end.  It doubt if it ever will end. A conservation campaign like this never really ends. It crosses certain milestones but wildlands must always be defended against those who would encroach against their ecological integrity.

Permanent protection of many of Alaska's unparalleled unique wild lands may not seem close today. But the vision of preserving them in perpetuity remains.

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