“Keeping places wild takes a certain commitment,” says Brad Mieklejohn, an Alaskan resident and conservation activist. Mieklejohn has traveled on foot throughout the Brooks Range, often taking a packraft to combine rivers with overland routes. He says the Ambler Road would contribute to a “death by a thousand cuts” on Alaska’s landscapes. “Places don’t stay wild by themselves. It requires constant diligence. When we turn our backs, they stop being wild…At some point, as a society, we have to say there is a better way.”
Jayme Dittmar is a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller who has spent a lot of time traveling through the arctic tundra on a dog sled. Describing the Brooks Range, Dittmar chooses her words carefully. It’s easy to mistake the arctic tundra as endless and rugged, but in reality, it is a fragile landscape that we have to actively fight for to protect.
“To describe it, I think the best word that comes to mind is silent, with sweeping vistas of wind-crusted snow that you can travel on with ease for miles, or else holds areas where you need to navigate by snowshoes and skis in front of your team breaking trail. There is hardship on the body, and liberation of the mind, which in itself keeps us more human,” Dittmar says. “The white people would call it pristine, because it’s vast, beautiful, and feels untouched. And the Native people would call it home because they are familiar with every corner and it gets messy sometimes, but it is there to be lived in and depended on for stability.”
In her time traversing the Arctic on a dog sled, Dittmar has had numerous conversations with village elders about the impact the road will have on their livelihood. “The people are not being listened to,” she says. To help amplify native voices, Dittmar is in the final steps of editing a film about the Ambler Road, called Paving Tundra.