‘You’ve got to defend it’: Wilderness Act 50th Anniversary Celebration at Denali Park
Denali National Park is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Wilderness Act with a series of events over the next couple of weeks. The commemoration kicks off tonight with a talk at the park’s by Fairbanks author and environmentalist Frank Keim.
Denali Park spokeswoman Kris Fister says the park’s been hosting events throughout the summer about the Wilderness Act. She says tonight’s talk by Keim at the Murie Science and Learning Center talk will outline the history of the landmark environmental legislation – and the challenges that lie ahead.
“He will be taking an in-depth look at the Wilderness Act,” Fister said, “exploring the intent of its founders and their aspirations for the future.”
Keim says he’ll talk about his personal connection to wild places, which he’s chronicled over the years through his writings and photos, and share some thoughts about why it’s essential to preserve those places.
“I do this with photos that I’ve taken over the last 40 years in these wildernesses, in these wild places that I’ve been in, that I’ve traveled in. By canoe, trekking, rafting, et cetera,” he said.
Keim has seen a lot of that backcountry since coming to Alaska in 1961, both as an explorer and guide. He graduated from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and taught there before heading out west to work as a schoolteacher for 21 years in the Yukon River delta.
He’s a writer, poet, photographer and longtime environmentalist. He helped commemorate the first Earth Day at UAF, and helped found the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. And he’s served on its board and in leadership positions with the Audubon Society.
Keim says he’s gained a deep appreciation for wild places after a lifetime of tramping about in them. And he’s come to understand the importance of preserving them.
In an interview at his home in the Goldstream Valley, Keim says protecting wild places is an ongoing challenge that wilderness advocates must be prepared to meet in the coming years.
“Just because you’ve got the wilderness doesn’t mean it’s going to stay forever,” he said. “You’ve got to defend it, you know, you’ve got to protect it.”
Keim says that’s why he looks forward to presentations like tonight’s, so he can pass along that message – especially to young people, to prepare them to take up the challenge and take over leadership of the environmental movement.