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Egads! Praise from environmentalists for Alaska's Don Young?

Craig Medred
Longtime Alaska Rep. Don Young Stephen Nowers photo

The heat of an unusually warm, dry summer across most of Alaska appears as if it might be affecting people in strange ways. How else to explain a gang of greenies Wednesday praising Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska?

Young and the environmental community have for years gotten along like a weak moose and a pack of hungry wolves.

And yet, here comes the National Parks Conservation Association firing off a media release titled "National Parks Group Applauds Rep. Young's Leadership on Denali National Park Improvement Act."

The loud thunk thunk you may have heard could have been the computers of reporters around the state falling off their desks. "With the bill’s thoughtful approach to protecting roadless Alaska, promoting renewable energy development, and honoring Native Alaskans, Rep. Young is creating a win-win-win situation," the association’s Alaska Senior Regional Director Jim Stratton said in the accompanying release.

"Thoughtful" is not a term members of the environmental community have used much in describing Young, an outspoken former riverboat pilot and trapper from Fort Yukon. He has been more often associated with the term "brain-dead" in the environmental community.

But Stratton said Young, who turned 80 in June, wisely followed the lead of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who last year hammered out a compromise between development and preservation interests at Denali, the state's famed national park.

Murkowski's legislation paved the way for possible construction of a gasline along the George Parks Highway and through the park. The Senate has already approved that bill. The state is toying with the idea of building a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Anchorage to fuel the state's railbelt, where the bulk of Alaskans live.

“Rather than building a new route to the east of Denali National Park into an area that is currently roadless,'' Stratton said, "it makes good sense to us to keep the gasline along the highway. This position was mirrored in the final environmental impact statement for the Alaska Stand Alone Gas Pipeline, which included an option for routing the pipeline along the Parks Highway through Denali National Park.  The Denali National Park Improvement Act makes this effort much easier to achieve, and provides opportunities for diesel-fueled tour buses in Denali to transition to cleaner natural-gas-powered buses."

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com