Erin Willahan

This chapter explores the concept of ‘wilderness’ in Alaska, as a Northern locale. Using the controversy over permitting an access road through legally protected wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) as a case study, the research seeks to untangle the ways in which mainstream environmentalist discourse, and the epistemological concepts through which it operates, is implicated in the erasure of Indigenous presence and the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous lands and rights. Grounded in theories from Settler Colonial studies and Indigenous studies, the research deductively applies a Critical Discourse Analysis to public comments made on the Izembek NWR Land Exchange/Access Road Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to offer a discussion on the ways in which the North’s geographic imaginaries are constructed and contested within the wider frameworks of environmental conservation, economic development, and decolonization.

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