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Chugach Forest, A Unifying Environmental Issue

Katherine Fuselier

April 22, 2005


Thirty five years ago, our nation celebrated its first Earth Day choosing to mark the occasion on the day after legendary conservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir was born. The timing was no coincidence. After all, Muir was the prototypical environmentalist.


Today, however, the whole idea of there being a single model for environmentalism itself deserves some questioning. These days, the most compelling voices for environmental stewardship are as likely to be a minister, a hunter, a nurse, or a union shop steward.


In an increasingly polarized nation, environmental issues may be a natural way to unite groups across the political spectrum. Recent trends both at the national level and in our own backyard underscore this opportunity.


Take for example recent actions by conservative evangelicals who recently sent a letter to President Bush that said, “Protection of the global climate is an essential requirement for faithful human stewardship of God’s creation on Earth.” The National Council of Churches, which represents over 100,000 congregations nationwide, has begun to describe stewardship of the earth as a critical “moral value.”


It's not just religious groups. Hunters and anglers are the most vocal proponents of wetlands protection and they represent a formidable obstacle to anyone proposing to weaken existing protections. Unions have also taken up the environment as a cause; they know better than anyone that developing clean energy technologies will create quality jobs. And Latino and African-American families continue to be the ones on the front lines battling air and other

pollution that disproportionately affects their communities.


The whole notion of environmental politics as a unifying issue is as true in Alaska as it is anywhere. Perhaps nothing better demonstrates this trend than the fight to keep our Chugach National Forest wild. Encompassing 5.5 million acres, the Chugach is our nation’s second largest forest and one of the most unique with spectacular wetlands, tidewater glaciers, rugged fjords, myriad islands, and temperate rainforests. A diverse coalition of voices from across the community has joined together to say that we “love the Chugach” and need to permanently protect this precious backyard resource. From local recreationists to large-scale tourism operators to subsistence and sport hunters and anglers to small business owners, it’s clear that keeping our Chugach National Forest wild is a benefit to all Alaskans.


Whether you’re liberal or conservative, evangelical or agnostic, all Alaskans can agree on one thing: we need to keep our Chugach forest wild. What we have learned over and over again is that everyone has a stake when it comes to protecting our air, water, and natural places. The values we are talking about – like fairness, responsibility, health and safety – are universal. And many of the solutions to our environmental challenges are well within reach, if we work together.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself," John Muir famously said, "we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” That's more true today than ever.?

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