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Letter: Why deface our Yosemite?

Posted: August 6, 2014 - 12:03am

In July 1962, I drove from California to Haines, where I boarded the old M/V Chilkat for the trip down Lynn Canal to Juneau. Soon after leaving Haines, details of the magnificent Kakuhan Mountain Range came into view. And what a sight it was! The mountains appeared to leap out of the sea and rise steeply to a great height. Countless avalanches and rock chutes plunged into the sea, and hanging glaciers were everywhere — raw nature on a rampage! There wasn’t a man-made thing in sight. I thought to myself, “How lucky I am to be moving to Juneau where scenes like this are nearby.”

Since that initial trip, I have traveled up the Inside Passage many times. There are wonderful sights along this passage, but none of them can match the majesty of the Kakuhans. They are our Yosemite.

About 1 million tourists per year visit Southeast Alaska. They come to see what they do not have at home, which is untouched wilderness and the associated wildlife. When they pass the Kakuhans, that wish becomes reality. An ugly, unnecessary road through the Kakuhans would diminish that experience. We all know how important tourism is to our economy. If we provide the experiences tourists seek, they will continue to flock to our shores.

Starker Leopold and Fraser Darling wrote in 1953: “It is characteristic of frontier societies, and Alaska still is such, to become so engrossed in the process of development as to fail to look ahead to the point of diminishing returns beyond which more development becomes a social liability rather than an asset.”

I believe that a road through the Kakuhans would become a “social liability,” not only because of its visual impact, but also because of the potential misery inflicted on travelers stranded by avalanche and rockfalls.

Why create a hazard and deface our Yosemite?

Richard Gard

Professor of fisheries (emeritus) and former fisheries biologist

Juneau

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