"Was there any
particular pressure from sportsmen's groups, miners, the tourist industry, for
the state to take over the Alyeska road?"
"Not in any
organized way. It just seemed to most people that in a state as underdeveloped
as ours it made good sense to promote a major addition to our highway system
when the opportunity presented itself. Great numbers of our citizens live 100
miles or more from the nearest road. I am sure the highway will be beneficial
for many of the groups you mention. The mining industry has not had much
incentive to develop in the Brooks Range because there has been no economical
way to get ore out. The road will presumably open new areas for your average
recreational hunter. There will be tourist use. A lot of people who drive their
campers and trailers up from Iowa and places like that are going to see this
road on a map and they are not going to be able to resist heading north and
dipping their hands in the Arctic Ocean. It will be the only road on the
continent that gives them that opportunity."
A SECOND CHIEF:
Minto is an Athabascan Indian village of 161 people, 60 miles northwest of
Fairbanks. It is located on Minto Flats, a forested drainage plain on the south
side of the Yukon. The pipeline will cross the Tanana and Tatalina rivers, the
Globe, Washington, Chatonika and Gold creeks, all of which empty into Minto
Flats. Richard Frank has been Second Chief of Minto and the representative of
his people at federal hearings. He says: "The people of Minto depend on the
food that we hunt and trap and fish. We have moose and rabbit and ptarmigan,
and we have wild berries, blueberries and what we call high bush berries.
"We get up in
the morning and are on the trail by about 6 a.m. looking for fresh moose
tracks. After you've wounded a moose you have to stick with him until you get
him even if it takes a week. The first thing our children look for when we come
home is blood on our moccasins. If there's none, they know that you came back
empty-handed—and that they must go hungry.
"We have been
fighting to protect our land for a long time. Ten years ago there-were plans to
put a road into Minto Flats for the sole purpose of sports hunting and sports
fishing. This road was going directly into the hunting region of the Minto
people. We finally got the opportunity to appear in Fairbanks and this road was
not built. With today's pipeline we are faced with something a thousand times
more serious. If we had a spill in the pipeline it would pollute the waters and
the lakes and therefore would hurt the animals that live on these lakes and
waterways. If you kill off all the animals, they cannot be rebuilt. The land
that's been damaged by oil cannot be rebuilt. These are the things that we fear
would be lost forever."
In 35 years or so
an ancient phenomenon, the great pool of oil that has lain under the permafrost
for longer than man has been man, will disappear into heat, light, speed and
smog. Like seismic survey lines across the tundra, this extractive operation
will produce an intricate network of cause and effect, changing land and life.
(We might have left the oil where it was, and this, too, might have set in
motion formidable waves of change.)
In the Arctic oil
debate there was much talk about values—of oil, of wilderness, of consumption,
of self-restraint. All value talk can be reduced to expressions of prejudice
and personal interest because we do not really know whether a man should have
moose blood or oil stains on his boots, whether he should be in Central Park or
Atigun Canyon. We cannot assess change because the basic puzzle of humankind
remains unsolved. We do not know—and have never known—what man should be.