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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Celia Hunter Obituary

Air Date: Week of

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We remember Alaskan activist and environmental pioneer, Cecilia Hunter who died on December 1st at age 82.


CURWOOD: Pioneer activist Celia Hunter died in her sleep December 1st, at age 82, at her home near Fairbanks, Alaska. Ms. Hunter first traveled to Alaska during the Second World War, when she flew military aircraft as a Women's Air Service Pilot. Falling in love with the northern landscape, Ms. Hunter built her own log cabin and made Alaska her home. And, in trying to protect the beauty of her surroundings, she became a leader of the emerging environmental movement.

In the 1950s, Celia Hunter and companion and fellow pilot Ginny Wood founded the Alaska Conservation Society, and started many key conservation projects in the state. Together they set up a wilderness camp, at the foot of Mt. McKinley. It eventually inspired Denali National Park. The couple also fought the Atomic Energy Commission's plan to detonate four nuclear bombs in Northwest Alaska, to create a new harbor. Ms. Hunter and Ms. Wood were also instrumental in halting the damming of the Yukon River, and helped to convince President Eisenhower to set aside the original Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960.

Celia Hunter became the first woman to head a national environmental organization when she became president of the Wilderness Society in 1976. The night before she died, she was on the telephone, lobbying senators to vote "no" on an upcoming bill that would allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Former Alaska Governor Jay Hammond mourned Celia Hunter this way: "Her death," he said, "leaves an enormous smoking crater in the environmental landscape."



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