The following was written by Ruth Henry of the Copper Country Alliance. This is a complicated and controversial issue. I have posted it here for informational purposes. I am not necessarily endorsing this stance.
Ripe blueberries under red dwarf birch in autumn, unimpaired views of the Amphitheater Mts., half-turned ptarmigan croaking from willow tops in spring, caribou trotting along a ridge top: these favorite Denali Highway memories and more belong to many Alaskans and visitors. The region’s values are priceless to those who go there, but the University of Alaska wants to put a price on some of that land.
Recent legislation allows the University to help fund its important work by selecting, acquiring, and then selling, leasing, or in some other way making money from 360,000 acres of Alaska land. It can “over-select” lands—up to 500,000 acres—which will then be whittled down to the 360,000 acres. These lands will come from lands which the state has selected through the Statehood Act. (It, too, over-selected.) The first batch of desired lands that UA submitted to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) includes a 7,000-acre block east of Tangle Lakes, mostly on the south side of the Denali Highway.
The University’s “possible development/monetization options” are “1) Remote recreation (e.g., hunting and guide permits)” and “2) Subdivision and sale.” The Tangle Lakes area is a longtime favorite of hunters, fishers, hikers, campers, birdwatchers, paddlers, and folks who just like to drive through, enjoying the scenery and the chance of seeing wildlife. Public lands are that wonderful American feature that allows people to pursue their hunting and recreation without having to pay for the privilege as they do in many other countries. If these 7,000 acres become private, will they be dotted with scenic “no trespassing” signs?
So, to repeat, the University is vital for higher education, the arts, and northern research, but it can find other lands that are less scenic, less important to wildlife, and less treasured by Alaskans. Right now is the most effective time to tell the University, DNR, and BLM how much the Denali Highway means to you…just the way it is. Please contact:
University of Alaska Land Management: Adrienne K. Stolpe, Director, 907-7866, firstname.lastname@example.org and cc: email@example.com