• Uninhabited and free from work: an environmental and federal land-use policy history of Glacial Lake Atna wilderness, Alaska

      McLaughlin, Marley M.; Coen, Ross; Meek, Chanda; Ehrlander, Mary F. (2020-05)
      The Glacial Lake Atna area, a valley between the southern Alaska and Wrangell mountain ranges in Southcentral Alaska, despite its appearance today as remote, thickly forested, and seemingly "wild" in character, has a 10,000-year history of human habitation. The first peoples in Alaska made encampments and harvested subsistence resources on the shores of the glacial lake and its margins, while today residents and visitors to the region continue to inhabit, hunt, fish, gather berries, cut firewood, and generally subsist from the land in ways remarkably similar to their prehistoric forebears. Humans and nature have a long, shared history in the thirteen million-acre Glacial Lake Atna region, and yet, since the mid-1980s, amid the modern-day conservation movement to protect so-called wild places, the region has been bordered and patrolled in ways that separate humans from nature. Wilderness policies under the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management suggest that wilderness areas are inherently pristine, devoid of human inhabitation, and without the imprint of human work. Alaska lands acts, most specifically the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, while allowing for subsistence, did not adequately address work and inhabitation. This thesis questions such policies and, through archaeological, historical, and policy analyses of humans and nature in the region, argues wilderness has never been truly uninhabited and free from work. The idea of "wilderness" lacks introspection as these areas contain quite a lot of human history, and indeed wilderness is a construct of romanticism and post-frontier ideologies.