New report shows even more reasons why West Su access road is a bad idea

Over 40 years ago, my husband Carl and I, our one-year-old baby Carly, a black Labrador named Duncan, and boxes of food and cargo flew together from Anchorage in the late post- autumn noon. We paddled silently down the Yentna River, turning and slowing down to a small patch of land we had just purchased. We had spent months planning our move here. We quit our jobs, sold everything we owned and dreamed of our new adventure. Our young family was eager to live a life away from the city, to find our way together.

We raised two daughters on this land. And we have spent decades welcoming guests from all over the world to the wilderness of the West Susitna Valley. Later, in the 1990s, we moved to what would become Winterlake Lodge, further west and north, further from any easy way of life. We chopped firewood, shoveled snow in the winter, fended off mosquitoes and bears in the summer, and were grateful for every moment.

Our lodge, Winterlake, has only six guest cabins and the main lodge, staff quarters and a dog land. It’s not a big business, and maybe it doesn’t make sense for a wealthy gold mining company, but it has sustained my family all these years. He employed countless young people who came to join us for the summer. Above all, it has welcomed guests who are often so inspired by the beauty of the landscape here that they never forget their experience. These guests often return to Alaska.

Our mission for our small business – and our family – is to provide our customers with the opportunity to experience the powerful sense of time spent in the wild places of Alaska. Sustainability and conservation are at the heart of our values. We want guests to connect with nature in new, educational and immersive ways that become memories for life.

“It’s the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen,” a guest would most often tell us. “It’s the most beautiful day of my life.”

Late one winter evening, as we were winding down the day and falling asleep in the generally quiet darkness, we saw lights flashing across the lake, about a mile away. And then we heard the rumble of a vehicle as it traveled along the snow parallel to the Iditarod trail and continued heading west. It was shocking and out of place, without warning. It was the first of many storm clouds that rolled over us as we discovered mining interests such as the Nova Gold Project, Estelle Mining Trend, the Tintina Gold District, the Donlin Mine – and its gas pipeline. – and more.

These companies have helicoptered into our wilderness. They gave their name to the mountains and valleys that surround us as if they were the first to arrive, conquerors on our shores. They felled old native trees alive to create an eyesore of a camp and trail known as Whiskey Bravo. They ignored the traditional Dena’ina history of our region or our post-Western contact history, which is rich and deserves to be preserved. They want to extract the rich resources of Alaska and take the revenue to Canada, Australia and other faraway places where miners have already scarred and depleted the Earth, often polluting beyond repair. Just read the joy in the language of their web pages of investors promising riches and returns. It’s an all-too-familiar story for Alaska.

Through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, the state has already earmarked $8.5 million and plans to spend $350 million to build a more than 100-mile private industrial road along the Iditarod Trail. , crossing more than 150 rivers, many of which contain salmon. .

The noise, disturbance and pollution from this non-public road and the projects they hope it will drive would destroy my business, our way of life and many others, dealing a fatal blow to the sustainable economy of the valley. of Western Susitna. It would harm our most precious resources: clean air, water, land and soil. This is one of the reasons most of the more than 1,000 people who testified before the Borough of Matanuska Susitna opposed the project.

In a recently published report by economist Ginny Fay — a well-known independent economist and professor of economics with extensive experience in Alaska — that these state-funded megaprojects, primarily by AIDEA, are failures. Not only are they wasting our money when they fail to achieve their goal most of the time, but when they “succeed” it’s on projects that would have succeeded anyway without the state giving the money from Alaskans to private companies. This means that even when they “succeed”, they create few jobs. They give away our public resources for miniscule returns. They have excluded Alaskans from our public lands. And if we had instead invested wisely, we would have at least $30.2 billion more in the bank today. This is money that could have gone to other expenditures in the state budget.

Locals from all political persuasions are making it clear that they do not want the West Susitna private industrial access road. I feel sorry for the young man I heard testifying who said he wanted to take his kids on picnics, talk about going out and public toilets, but that’s not what he’s acts. It’s a private industrial road that would lead to the destruction of my home, exclude Alaskans from our public lands, and waste hundreds of millions of dollars doing it.

The storm cloud is still hanging over the West Susitna Valley. But our elected officials have the opportunity to take a hard look at why we are wasting massive amounts of state money on destructive, private projects that Alaskans don’t want. They can start by withdrawing funds for the West Su access road.

I sincerely hope that your children and grandchildren can experience what we do every day. Wild and pure air. Birds that return at this time of year. The animals we see. The grandeur and beauty of this place.

I think about it every day.

Kirsten Dixon is a chef, author and owner of Within the Wild, which encompasses Winterlake Lodge and Tutka Bay Lodge. She resides all year round in the valley of West Susitna.

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