History buffs and hikers can look forward to new interpretive signs along the Treadwell Historic Trail near Sandy Beach thanks to Mike Miller, the Alaska Conservation Foundation and the Taku Conservation Society.
Mike Miller, who represented Juneau in the Alaska State House from 1971 through 1986, is the winner of the first annual Lowell Thomas Jr. Award for Outstanding Civil Service. With the award came a $1,000 grant to the organization of his choice. The grant is made possible through a $1 million contribution to the Alaska Conservation Foundation's endowment by Lowell Thomas Jr. of Anchorage, a former state senator and former lieutenant governor.
Miller chose to donate the grant to the Taku Conservation Society, which has provided signs, steps, planks and other improvements to dozens of trails throughout the Juneau area. The new signs will be installed near old mining ruins and feature photos showing how they looked during active mining, according to Mary Lou King of the society.
The Alaska Conservation Foundation recognized Miller for "extraordinary commitment by an elected or appointed official to conservation and building sustainable communities."
He was the only elected Alaska official to testify before a congressional committee in favor of Congressman Morris Udall's bill creating the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA).
Reflecting on the landmark legislation, Mike says, "it is especially heart warming - to this day, a quarter century later to recall the outpouring of support my testimony received from Alaskans in Juneau, from throughout the state, and even from conservation-minded citizens in other states of the nation."
ANILCA created over 100 million acres of new national parks, refuges, monuments, conservation areas, recreation areas, forests, and wild and scenic rivers in Alaska for the preservation of nationally significant natural resources.
The lands became known as d-2 lands because section 17(d)(2) of the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act provided for a large withdrawal of public lands for the possible future creation of new conservation system units in Alaska.
"I believe most objective observers would now agree that the bill was one of the nation's all-time premiere pieces of conservation legislation," Miller says. "Among other things the bill doubled the acreage of federal park system lands in the U.S., setting aside fabulously beautiful lands, waters, forests and mountains, and protecting them for the benefit of countless future generations of Alaskans and other Americans."
Miller also credits the unwavering leadership of President Jimmy Carter in promoting the "d-2" legislation, and wrote to him at the time saying that his advocacy placed him in the ranks of the great American conservation presidents.
During that period Miller also co-authored with Peggy Wayburn an important conservation book, "Alaska the Great Land," which advocated passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
As a legislator, Miller consistently voted for conservation and environmental legislation. He authored the bill that created the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge and sponsored two bills which created marine parks along Alaska's shores from Prince William Sound to and through Southeast Alaska.
Now a travel writer, he continues his strong interest in Alaska's wild lands and wild places.
Judy Shuler is a member of the Juneau Audubon Society. The organization will resume monthly meetings in September. To make suggestions for future columns, or to share sightings or observations, e-mail Juneau Audubon Society members at firstname.lastname@example.org.