Volume 3, Issue 37 - June 3, 2007

"On June 4th more than 100 years ago gold was first discovered in the territory of Alaska. The purchase of the state from Russia in 1867 was considered “Steward’s Folly” since it was overseen by then Secretary of State William Seward. Who would think to acquire such barren land, not even directly connected to the contiguous 48 states? In less than 100 years Alaska was not only U.S. territory, but our 49th state.

The tales of the Yukon gold rush are replete with romantic notions and adventurous anecdotes as romantic as the notion of the Alaskan wilderness itself. But in the long run the wealth of Alaska has proven to be much more than getting rich quick. When Teddy Roosevelt instituted our national park system, he struck a chord in Americans about the ways in which we value our natural resources. Few places in our country can compare with Alaska’s natural beauty, wildlife and resources.

Late in the last century, oil deposits in Alaska became a hot topic, as the United States sought to tap into all reserves at its disposal to offset the ongoing oil crisis. Environmentalists were quick to come to the defense of Alaska’s flora and fauna, negotiating a compromise which resulted in the Alaska pipeline. This tension between preserving a national treasure and harvesting its resources for our consumption continues even today.

In my own travels, no place has ever left my as awe-inspired as Alaska. Many people have been amazed when I share this. Surely Hawaii is more alluring and spectacular? It certainly is in its own right. But the incredible mountains, lakes, glaciers and coasts of Alaska have touched me like nothing else. I never expected to see such breath-taking majesty on the North American continent; surely I would have to go to Europe to see such incredible natural power and beauty. But no, Alaska delivers unexpected, unforgettable panorama.

This week’s D12 offers the best of the Web on Alaska, from its gold rush days to its present-day prominence. There is no other place like it in the country.”

©2007 Walter McKenzie

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