Approaching decisions regarding the Juneau Access project have raised many arguments on both sides of the debate. I believe reasons not to build a road between Juneau and Skagway are valid. The projected cost is significant and questionable in terms of long-term expense. The path cuts through dangerous terrain, and there is potential for frequent extended closure in winter most likely coinciding with diminished ferry service. There are numerous environmental considerations that have not been adequately addressed.
When I read comments by industry, the current administration, or the general public who are in favor of this road, I feel haste, greed and oversight are directing their arguments. These are the lines I read between promises of no significant detriment to habitat, fears involving terrorist events and capitol relocation, and aspirations toward development and expanded access to wilderness. All agendas (including my own), often mask the bottom line: Are Juneau and other Southeast communities better off with the unique qualities that result from being off the road system, or not?
I would hope the choice would fully consider these ramifications. We can't have it both ways. The incredible environment we enjoy here is that way because we don't drive through it. Alaska's boundaries, as vast as they may seem, are not finite. I challenge the assumption that growth is a positive thing, though we humans seem quite adept at it and able to ignore the looming limits to this potential.
Recently, a letter was printed criticizing the Juneau Empire for quoting conservationist Emily Ferry. It would be difficult to demonstrate that more press is devoted to the voice of a conservationist than to industry experts. In what seemed more a personal grudge toward an environmentalist from away, I ask how she is less worthy than developers who come to Alaska to exploit resources for profit? What kind of people are the "right" Alaskans? What Alaska do the majority of people want and will the decision-makers truly listen to this majority? Do we really want to add a convoy of RVs to our community and build highways to our favorite remote places just to make a buck? I prefer the restoration and improvement of our ferry service, integrity of our world class wild lands, and preservation of a lifestyle like no other. Convenience can be had many places, but it is not for free.
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