The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964. This historic act gives legal protection to designated wilderness areas and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is one of the wildest and most pristine of those protected wild places. Motivated by the desire to celebrate wilderness values during this 50th anniversary year and also by the need to clean up some of the barrels left from the era of oil and gas exploration, park rangers from Gates of the Arctic have planned a winter patrol into one of the least visited areas of the park.
Winter was chosen as the best time to mount this patrol, as there is less impact on the fragile tundra during winter and little danger of damaging any of the many archaeology sites scattered across the tundra. Since wilderness values call for use of minimum tools and protection of the natural soundscape, it was logical to choose dog sled teams, a traditional form of travel, as the “minimum tool” to retrieve these barrels.