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The Wildest Corner in America

Utukok.jpgBY BEN LAUER

Last Wednesday's Frontiers in the Environment event series brought multitalented Arctic enthusiast Debbie Miller to speak about her time spent exploring the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Miller's broad range of experience as a writer, journalist, teacher and conservationist provided a large-scope view of the United States' largest tract of undeveloped public land. During debbie.jpgthe past three summers, Miller spent 68 days in the NPRA traveling over 600 miles of terrain either on foot or by canoe down the reserve's long, winding rivers. Her presentation explored the history, industry and especially the ecological importance of the 23-million-acre area, which has been described as "the wildest corner in America."
Every year birds from six continents spend part of the year on some part of the reserve's terrain. Along with close-up photos of great varieties of these birds, Miller played audio recordings of a few of the reserve's winged guests. The recordings, made by cultural anthropolotist, author and soundscape artist Richard Nelson, also included the calls of many other of the reserve's unique species, including a caribou calf that was separated from its mother.  The calf, Miller revealed, was just one of 150,000 born in a 10-day period in late July in northwestern Alaska. Other images of wolves, bears, dinosaur fossils and archaeological sites added further dimensions of the past and present importance of the reserve.

Miller stressed the value of preserving these wild lands. Thebabycaribou.jpg area's designation as an oil reserve allows it to be open for the possibility of development into the future. According to Miller, manifestations of public support such as the 400,000 letters and petitions sent to the Department of the Interior are key to helping maintain the reserve in its current condition. Though there is uncertainty whether the current proposed management plan will be approved to conserve areas within the NPRA, public input can further influence the decisions made surrounding this tract of land. The NPRA is an example of the lasting beauty and ecological importance that comes from maintaining the world's few remaining wild places.

Like to learn more? Watch a video recording of Miller's presentation or check out her newest book, On Arctic Ground, here. For information on the campaign to protect the reserve, visit www.alaskawild.org.

Ben Lauer is a student at Macalester College in St. Paul and a communications intern with IonE. Photos of the Utukok River and baby moose by Debbie Miller. Photo of Debbie Miller by Hugh Rose.


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This page contains a single entry by Mary Hoff published on October 3, 2012 1:03 PM.

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