We’re pleased to announce the publication of the Winter 2018 edition of The Northern Line! The issue is available online, and limited print copies will be available at our office soon. Read the editor’s note below, and the entire issue on issuu.com. Enjoy!

Editor’s Note


In thinking about how to best use these pages, I’ve been pondering Gary Snyder’s 1975 poem, “Front Lines,” from which this newsletter takes its name. The poem pits industrial development—logging, in this case—against the land, and the tools and heavy equipment is characterized as an angry, destructive man, “growling,” “slobbering,” “belching.” The central metaphor is an old one: the land and forest is a woman’s body, violently exploited by the bulldozer and logging trucks grinding over “still-live bushes.” Snyder worked and sometimes wrote as a logger, and the integration of this labor, his sometimes contradictory spiritual and political traditions, and natural history is something I’ve always admired about his work, but it’s clear in the final words of the poem which side of the “front line” he stands on here: “Behind is a forest that goes to the Arctic/And a desert that still belongs to the Piute (sic)/And here we must draw/our line.”


The passage evokes a blockade and a boundary, an uncompromised position. Snyder wrote, though, from the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic was, to him, held at some distance. His imagination was rooted elsewhere. In the last 47 years, the Northern Center has grown its roots in Interior Alaska, and the perspective on those lines is different here and now. It is more important than ever to work for the continued survival of those communities who were overlooked in earlier colonial narratives about the place, an understanding that our interns, like Greg Stewart and Rachel Ruston this year, often arrive with and seek to deepen during their time with us. At the same time, we look to institutions and ideologies built around legislation like the Wilderness Act, as Roger Kaye writes about in these pages, which was both borne of and attempts to counter our nation’s narrowly defined concept of progress.


These pages contain reckonings and reflections from and about those who have been part of our communities and conversations, contradictions and all. We hope something of it speaks to you.


-Erica Watson 

Read and the entire issue below, or download here: 2018 Winter Northern Line.

Northern Alaska Environmental Center

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