Celia Hunter (1919-2001)

  • Celia Hunter was a pilot, ecotourism pioneer, and conservation advocate dedicated to preserving Alaska’s environment. Seeking adventure, Hunter and close friend Ginny Wood settled in Alaska shortly after serving as World War II Women Air Force Service Pilots. The two women and Wood’s husband were quickly captivated by the Alaskan wilderness and established Camp Denali in 1951. Operating the camp allowed them to share the Denali National Park natural areas and their conservation vision with others. To support preserving Alaska’s environment, Hunter co-founded Alaska’s first environmental organization, the Alaska Conservation Society, in 1960. The Society helped create what is now known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Under Hunter’s leadership, the Society was also influential in removing Alaskan wolf bounties, halting the Yukon River Rampart Dam project, and thwarting Project Chariot, a plan to construct an Alaskan harbor using nuclear explosions. Hunter later co-founded the Alaska Conservation Foundation, and was involved in the creation of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which protected over 100 million acres of Alaskan federal lands. A respected conservation leader, Hunter became the first woman to lead a national conservation association when she was elected as the Wilderness Society president in 1976. As a result of her lifelong conservation advocacy, Hunter inspired a generation dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wilderness, and once remarked, “Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of the part of the world we live in.”

    If we lose wild spaces, we could be a much poorer nation because the whole concept of natural areas, with intact ecosystems, is vital to life. We’ve let the daylight into our swamps. We’ve cut many of our forests. We’ve dredged and dammed. We need places of the world that are still natural.