Denali Park Residents Recall Haber's Intensity, Passion
Kris Capps / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner / October 22, 2009
DENALI PARK - Everyone around here has a Gordon Haber story. Even me.
When the well-known wolf biologist died in a plane crash last week, memories of Haber seemed to surface in every conversation.
Our first encounter occurred in 1985, right after the Village View state land disposal. Haber filed a lawsuit to stop the state land sale, claiming that the collection of lots at 230 Mile Parks Highway was a critical wolf habitat and migration route.
Many lucky winners, including me, did not trust the state to defend the program vigorously. We intervened as a third party and spent countless hours taking depositions, typing interviews, photographing the area and preparing a court case.
In the end, Haber's lawsuit failed because of "the doctrine of unclean hands." The judge discovered Haber owned a parcel of land immediately adjacent to the new subdivision. It is not kosher, apparently, to claim someone else is doing something wrong when you are doing the same thing yourself. "No one will treat their property more pristinely than I will," Haber claimed in his lawsuit.
The judge disagreed and the subdivision proceeded as planned.
Haber has numerous lawsuits pending, challenging some of the Denali Borough land selections and focusing on other issues. The status of those lawsuits is not clear.
Our next memorable encounter occurred years later during a wolf necropsy in Fairbanks. I covered the event as a reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and intended to re-introduce myself to Haber. Before I could tell him why I was there, he said something like, "I don't have time to talk to you. I am an expert, and I am doing this necropsy."
I merely nodded and wandered to the other side of the room.
Moments later, Haber realized I was a reporter and, more importantly, I had a photographer with me. He whipped those gloves off in seconds and strode over to us. Suddenly, he wanted to be interviewed.
From that moment on, I was on what we called "The Haber Call List."
That means he telephoned daily and talked for what seemed like hours. He spewed about wolves, government and injustices done to him and to the wolves. Somewhere in there, maybe there was a story, but it was often difficult to detect.
Finally, I had to end my days as The Haber Reporter.
From then on, we were just neighbors. Like many people here, I often avoided catching his eye because it meant I might have to engage in a discussion that would last longer than I had time to listen. But we occasionally enjoyed some casual and interesting conversation.
I always looked forward to hearing Haber stories - whether it was a report of him stopping a park bus to lambaste the driver and passengers or to hear about his newest lawsuit or his latest public dispute.
I share those anecdotes not to be disrespectful but to give examples of how hard he worked to get his views known and to demonstrate how strongly he felt about issues.
Haber was an integral part of our community. His passion drove him, and there's no doubt his kind of passion is needed. People like him keep us on our toes and make us question why we do things the way we do.
A local memorial is being postponed until spring when many people who knew Haber will return for the 2010 summer season. As the organizer told me, they don't just want to be here, they need to be here.
Another memorial is planned from 2-4 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Campbell Creek Science Center, 5600 Science Center Drive, in Anchorage.
Friends are invited to share stories, see photographs, hear tributes, eat what Gordon called "snacks" and pay tribute to a remarkable man.
Haber was an amazing person, and I think I'm going to miss those occasional encounters. He was part of the fabric of our community.
Gordon Haber filled an important role here. I can't help but wonder who will take over now that he is gone.