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Protecting Where Life Begins

Some words, and action to take about protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
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Protecting Where Life Begins
By Hudson Gardner • Issue #55 • View online
Some words, and action to take about protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge

Photo USFW
Photo USFW
Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, The Sacred Place Where Life Begins
“We are caribou people. Caribou are not just what we eat; they are who we are. They are in our stories and songs and the whole way we see the world. Caribou are our life. Without caribou we wouldn’t exist”. ~ Sarah James

In pursuit of profit for people in the industry, the BLM has been working for about a year to lease some of the most pristine land left on earth to oil and gas companies for fracking and drilling.

“The animal that has most come to symbolize the Refuge is the caribou. The Porcupine Caribou Herd, at nearly 170,000 strong, migrates throughout the Refuge and northwestern Canada. Pregnant females come to the unprotected coastal plain of the Refuge to give birth in late May and early June. They will birth as many as 40,000 calves in this same location each year. The annual migration of this herd is the reason the Arctic Refuge is sometimes called “America’s Serengeti.”
— Gwich'in Steering Committee

The Gwich'in have been fighting oil development in their home for decades. They formed the Steering Committee in 1988 to speak with one voice against the industry.

While I don’t have much ground to stand on considering I’ve never been to the AWR, I do descend from the reindeer people of Scandinavia, the Sámi. So in a way I also feel I owe the caribou a debt: they collaborated with my ancestors for one another’s survival. Maybe without them, I also would not be here. This is an important mindset to practice in a world where everything is so indirect. It’s important to feel our direct connection with landscapes, even thousands of miles away—because the rare metals in the screen you’re reading this on were probably mined out of the ground in China.
Photo Audubon
Photo Audubon
Not only is the intimately woven way of life of Caribou and Gwich'in at stake, there are over forty species of mammals, including black, grizzly, and polar bears, in the AWR, and the effects of massive industry up there would be irreversible. It is literally one of the last refuges of far-northern wildlife, due to Prudhoe bay already being compromised by industry.

As in many other cases, the BLM are trying to get by with a minimum of research into the actual impact, as required by an environmental impact statement (EIS).

While comment periods might seem meaningless, they buy time. Comment periods show there is public opposition to administrative policies, and add support for litigation. Please add your voice below, and tell everyone you know to add a comment against this plan.
Speak out: It's an Arctic REFUGE, not an OIL FIELD! | Alaska Wilderness League




Photo Phys.org
Photo Phys.org
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Hudson Gardner

Writing & Photos covering place, ecology, and existence.

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