Trans-Alaska Pipeline: Drilling for Oil Puts Alaska's Wilderness and Wildlife at Risk

Testimony by Sam Wright before Alaska's Department of Interior to stop the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from damaging Alaska's wilderness and national wildlife.

| September/October 1971

  • Brooks Range Alaska
    Brooks Range, northern Alaska, ten miles from the proposed trans-Alaska pipeline.

  • Brooks Range Alaska

The following was given in testimony by Mr. Wright earlier this year before a Department of the Interior hearing in Anchorage, Alaska, on environmental impact of the proposed trans-Alaska oil pipeline.  

My name is Sam Wright. I am a resident of Brooks Range, approximately 80 miles northeast of Bettles Field, north of the Arctic Circle. I am not here to testify against the development of Alaska's oil resources, but rather to speak for her greatest resource, wilderness.

One definition of wilderness is that very few people inhabit it. Therefore, there are few voices to speak from within. As a resident in the Brooks Range, I feel it not only my privilege, but my duty to speak for those voiceless who might never be heard if I do not choose to represent them.

Who are these voiceless? They are those who share this planet-spaceship with us — whose presence here defines our human qualities and concerns as much as any social, human institution: Alaska's wildlife. They are the caribou who have called this their home for thousands of years. They are the wolf, the lynx, the fox, the wolverine. They are the majestic Dall sheep, the grizzly bear, the gerfalcon and the arctic loon. They are the millions of shore birds and the arctic tern, who yearly flies eleven thousand miles from Antarctica to nest by the lakes of this wilderness.

Who will speak for those spruce trees which struggle up the Dietrich River, moving timberline north . . . trees whose diameter is seldom more than eight inches but were seedlings when George Washington was inaugurated our first president?

Who will speak for solitude . . . one of the last places where the ancient sounds of life can be heard without the whine of gears or the drone of engines?

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