Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin is going to host a television travel documentary celebrating her state's "majestic natural beauty," much of which was threatened by despoliation from her catering to commercial interests while in office.
Will hypocrisy then be rampant in her TV series of planned $1.2 million episodes that the Discovery Channel has agreed to carry later this year? Or will she have experienced an epiphany regarding the preservation of Alaska's pristine natural resources?
Chances are that Palin's production will show a polar bear bounding over an ice flow, given there are few more awesome wildlife images in the state that is called our "last frontier." Yet as governor, Palin chose to legally contest the federal designation of the polar bear as a threatened species despite reams of scientific evidence justifying such protection.
I betcha there will be dramatic footage of salmon fighting their way up Alaska's spectacular wild rivers. These are the same breed of fish that the then Governor Palin refused to protect against stream contamination from gold and copper mining in the biologically bountiful Bristol Bay watershed. The balance sheets of the mining company took precedence over natural resource conservation.
What would a documentary of Alaska's magnificent wilderness be without some film of wolves roaming the state's forests and tundra? At some point, the former Republican vice presidential nominee will undoubtedly focus her camera lens on these canine predators so closely identified with the Alaskan wilds. That would contrast with her time as governor when the sights she set on wolves were attached to gun barrels. One of her crusades was to defy a national ban on the aerial hunting of wolves. She authorized a turkey shoot from helicopters, claiming that an excess of wolves were depleting the elk and caribou herds favored by sport hunters. State wildlife biologists disputed her claim, saying the caribou and elk populations were not in danger. Palin's edict was simply a thinly veiled ploy to allow airborne "sportsmen" to mow down helpless wolves for trophy purposes, and in the process, upset the regional wildlife's ecological balance.
Lord knows filmmaker Palin would be hard pressed to ignore the Beluga whales found in Alaska's spectacular Cook Inlet. Should these creatures appear in her production, be apprised that when in office, Palin opposed listing them as endangered species even though less than 400 remained. She contended that such protection would harm the economy of the Cook Inlet area, and scoffed at the grim data warning of the whale population's precarious status.
No Alaskan wilderness panorama is more breathtaking than the Arctic National Wildlife's coastal plain in the height of summer, with teeming herds of migrating caribou dotting the tundra and the majestic Brooks Range towering in the distance. Our nation's last great intact ecosystem -- often labeled America's Serengeti -- should be a natural for inclusion in Palin's Alaskan odyssey. If that turns out to be the case, one can't help wondering about Palin's frame of mind. As governor -- and to this day -- she insists that oil drilling can, and should, take place on ANWR without any significant adverse environmental impact. Yet it is clear that such energy development would require hundreds of miles of roads and other infrastructure to crisscross the Arctic coastal plain, in effect transforming it into an industrial complex.
No doubt Palin will show us other dazzling views of Alaska's wild pristine landscapes that she sought as governor to open up to mining, drilling timber cutting and other commercial ventures.
Much of the Palin travelogue's message will most likely visually inspire viewers, but what about the messenger? Actions speak louder than words. Maybe production of this documentary will instill in her a newfound appreciation of Alaska's unspoiled natural wonders. Maybe, just maybe...
Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, scheduled for publication this summer.
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