Tuesday, August 11, 2009 - 16:40
In 1867, William H. Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State, negotiated the Alaskan purchase for $7.2 million. Known as "Seward's Folly," history has shown it to be as wise of an investment as the Louisiana Purchase.
PublicResource.org has put together a great video for the Yukon Flats NWR:
A century later, Alaska flirted with a real folly, the proposed Rampart Dam. The project would have resulted in a Lake Erie-size reservoir after the damming of the Yukon River in the Alaskan interior. The proposal was backed by the promise of Alaskan electricity, but the reservoir would have devastated the area wildlife and weather. A 1963 article from Sports Illustrated stated, "It would cost 1.5 million ducks and geese (who nest where the lake would be), about a million salmon, maybe 5,000 moose and the homes of 2,000 displaced Athabascan Indians. It would have a detrimental effect on the Yukon River delta downstream, threatening even more millions of acres of the best waterfowl nesting areas on the continent." The weather effects from the dam would have been considerable, as the large body of water would have made the lake an active heat source and possibly spawned cyclonic developments similar to Lake Baikal in Siberia and Canada's Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes.
The collaboration among sportsmen, environmentalists, Native Americans and politicians halted the project, and in 1980 any future industrial plans were put to rest when President Jimmy Carter established the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. Although far from Oklahoma, the effect on migratory birds would have been devastating. A milestone in the 1960s-70s ecological movement, the cancellation of the Rampart Dam showed the evolution of environmentalists' awareness. What happens in our neighbor's backyard affects ours, too.