Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cheap oil is saving Alaskan ecosystems -- for now.

Courtesy National Park Service

It’s hard to find a place more remote than Bettles, Alaska. The village of 15 people lies 35 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the Koyukuk River, accessible to the outside world only by an ice road, boat or plane. And 69-year-old mayor Gary Hanchett likes it that way. “I love the country,” he says in a slow, gravelly voice. “To this day I don’t see myself ever living south of the (Yukon).” 
But former Governor Sean Parnell targeted the region around Bettles for one of a handful of “mega-projects,” huge developments meant to create jobs and tap into Alaska’s untouched resources. In this case, the resource was copper, and the project a 220-mile long mining road that would cross more than 100 streams and rivers, countless acres of tundra and wetlands, and Gates of the Arctic National Park. It would also trundle right past Hanchett’s house, bringing exhaust fumes and possibly asbestos dust to a place where he usually smokes fish.
Hanchett has been doggedly fighting the proposed Ambler Road for more than two years. But the best news he’s gotten came on Jan. 22, when newly-elected Independent Governor Bill Walker unveiled his 2016 budget plan: All funding for the road had been cut. 
Similar controversial developments, including the plan to build a 735-foot-tall hydropower dam across the salmon-rich Susitna River, were also axed...
...Keep reading here. 

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