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Alaska's story is usually confined to regional history books, and in many American history texts, the state simply disappears after the Klondike gold rush. Roxanne Willis's book provides a comprehensive examination of Alaskan development schemes from 1890 to the present, connecting these plans to the changing priorities of American culture and politics. She examines competing definitions of Alaska - from a Last Frontier meant to be exploited to a Last Wilderness to be protected at all costs - and explains how the contemporary Alaskan landscape is a result of this ongoing struggle to define this mythic state's place in the American West.
The book focuses on five historic battles between environmentalists and developers: the Alaska Native reindeer herding industry, the New Deal homesteader program in the Matanuska Colony, the construction of the Alaska Highway, the political dispute over the Rampart Dam, and the ongoing struggles over the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.