In a win for wildlife and indigenous communities, the last remaining oil and gas leases on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have been cancelled. The US is on track to produce more oil and natural gas than ever before and tapping this vital ecological sanctuary was always a bad idea.
Called “the place where life begins” by the Yup’ik and Gwich’in, the refuge is home to 250 animal species including vast herds of caribou that migrate from wintering Canada every year to calve on the coastal plain, grizzlies, wolves, and millions of migratory birds from as far as Antarctica. As long as I have been photographing, which is a long time indeed, it has been the focus of heated debate over resource extraction. One thing we should know is that this ban is not permanent, and more advocacy must be done to make sure this biologically rich area remains wild and untouched forever—a gift to future generations.