We hear and see “ANILCA” used often in news stories about Alaska’s public lands that are in federal ownership and management, but many people do not know what ANILCA is.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act – “ANILCA” of 1980 is in short the single Congressional act that set aside for perpetual national public ownership 104 millions acres, a whole system of new national parks and national park preserves, new wildlife refuges, and new additions to an existing pre ANILCA refuge (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, “ANWR”). Existing pre-ANILCA national parks were enlarged (Katmai, Glacier Bay and McKinley, now Denali National Park), and new Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Recreation Areas, all added to the tune of 104 million acres. These are publicly owned national treasures set aside and established in public ownership in perpetuity in what is arguably the most spectacular single piece of conservation legislation ever in the nation’s history.
Priceless habitats and whole intact, unspoiled wildland ecosystems have been legislatively reserved for public ownership, benefit and enjoyment in perpetuity (at least in principle, as these lands are under constant attack by corporate and now the Trump Administration).
Yet today many Alaskans, especially younger Alaskans, don’t have a clue.
Knowledgeable and engaged Alaskans and the nation’s public need know and care to be able to encourage oversight so as to ensure proper stewardship of these gems, especially to ward off numerous incursions proposed by state, federal and corporate vultures.
Even less known by a general public who otherwise may appreciate the ANILCA lands is a spectacular but little known public demonstration by one individual made to publicize and promote the ANILCA legislation, pending then in 1978-79 before Congress. That individual, who remains a true hero spark plug in the active ongoing campaign for Alaska’s public lands and watchable wildlife living on it, is Fairbanks’ Sean McGuire. In 1978 Sean, in his ANLCA publicity campaign, walked 7,000 miles from the Yukon River to Key West Florida to promote the Congressional passage of ANILCA. This amazing feat of ANILCA support earned Sean a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records including a photograph of his finish nearly a year from his start at the Yukon River. We do not expect such dedication from others, but we expect and need much more public support for the proper stewardship of these wilderness wild land gems by an Alaska public. This is especially true today in a world that is witnessing an unprecedented, horrific extinction of wildlife species, one after another. Sadly some mainline large environmental but uninvolved organizations with Alaska staffs, and membership are especially noticed here to pay support and get busy.
For Sean had you in mind too when he walked and walked and walked and walked for ANILCA.
— Jim K.