On April 6, the Legislature will hold a hearing on building a private industrial road through Gates of the Arctic National Preserve to copper deposits in the Ambler Mining District. My family and I were fortunate to experience Gates of the Arctic on foot.
In a 2015 backpacking trip my 11-year-old son counted 19 rodent-gnawed caribou antlers that were sinking into the mossy tundra. We hiked from the Dalton Highway over a ridge and stopped for a hot lunch of quesadillas while soaking in the expansive views of the Brooks Range that made me instantly understand why this land is this a national park and preserve, a roadless one at that.
We ate blueberries until our lips and hands were stained, caught a glimpse of a wolf, climbed over remains of a landslide, forded rocky creeks, plucked a Dall sheep’s skull from a remnant snowfield and tested our new sleeping bags next to a frosty alpine lake. A treeless, tundra-covered, mountainous landscape was truly foreign to my son. My hope as a father is that my son will, like me, appreciate these wild Alaska landscapes through his experiences.
In 2017, Gates of the Arctic had about 10,000 visitors and contributed $15.8 million to Alaska’s economy. Gov. Bill Walker and the Legislature should cancel the Ambler Road project. It would hurt tourism and would forever scar the nation’s second-largest national park. May the next family that hikes into the park be able to count caribou antlers and not ore trucks from a mine.