Great News for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!

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.

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Bare Essentials Article on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

As you may or may not know, the latest tax bill passed by the Trump administration recently included provisions to lift the decades-old ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. ANWR is home to more than 250 animal species, and is a location I’ve returned to many times over the course of my career to capture the tranquil and relatively untouched landscape.

Bare Essentials Magazine was kind enough to include my perspective on this very important matter in the latest edition of their online magazine – check it out! My piece, along with several photographs from various parts of ANWR begins on page 111.

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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge turns 50

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most remarkable and remarkably diverse US national wildlife refuges–the Serengeti of North America with its annual caribou migration. Also it a political bone of contention because of the oil wealth under the permafrost and off its shores.

Fifty years ago today, legislation creating the refuge was signed by Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton.

50 Year Anniversary of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – Images by Art Wolfe

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Arctic Sanctuary

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Earlier this year I had the good fortune of be able to review Jeff Jones’ new book on the subject. It is a call to action to protect this sanctuary of wildlife and wildness & beautifully showcases a pristine land caught in the crosshairs of the greatest of human calamities including global climate change and the grim search for energy resources.

arctic sanctuary cover

Jeff Jones began photographing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge landscape in 1990. As the largest single piece of wild land in the U.S.—larger than any national park or national forest and nearly the size of South Carolina—the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is made up of five ecozones: Arctic Ocean coastline, tundra, mountains, taiga, and boreal forest. The book, ‘Arctic Sanctuary’ by Jeff Jones and Laurie Hoyle, shows the great breadth and diversity of this land. The hard-bound, 184-page panoram ic proportioned book (14 X 9 inches) contains over 150 of Jeff’s landscape images, essays by Laurie, and an introduction by Michael Engelhard. The University of Alaska Press will release ‘Arctic Sanctu ary’ on September 15, 2010. The book and companion exhibit will travel the U.S. to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Arctic Refuge. The book is available through the University of Alaska Press, the University of Chicago Press, and Amazon. See more of Jeff’s work at

Barrier Island Arctic Sanctuary

Barrier Island II

ecozone = coast

Barrier islands occur along much of the refuge’s Beaufort Sea coastline. This delicately curved barrier island protects the mainland’s coastline to the south (and upper left) of this scene. The waters outside of the barrier island (right) are deeply rippled by wind; those inside (left) are calm. Such islands afford protection for lagoons, estuaries, and river deltas that provide prime habitat for waterbirds, fish, and marine mammals.

Barrier Island Arctic Sanctuary

Late Evening Break in Rain

ecozone = tundra

During a break in the storm, clouds create a ceiling of light above the tundra on this early August sum mer’s night (10:15 P.M.) The tundra slips treeless from the peaks of the Brooks Range, seen distant in this southward view, down the North Slope to the Beaufort Sea.

Braided River Arctic Sanctuary

Braided River and Alluvial Fans

ecozone = mountains

In a striking display of erosive forces, a river winds (from lower right to upper left of the image) in shades of gun-metal gray and blue between two alluvial fans partially covered with vegetation. The fans, created by eons of erosion, punctuated by occasional flash floods, flow from side canyons to bracket this valley on the north side of the Brooks Range.

Valley View Arctic Sanctuary

Evening Valley View

ecozone = mountains

A valley is rich with summer colors. While the arctic is frozen for the majority of the year, the refuge is bathed with sunlight and bursting with life during the brief summer. In summer, temperatures can reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the mountains and southerly ecozones.

Taiga Arctic Sanctuary

Rolling Taiga

ecozone = taiga

The taiga seems to swirl in circular motions up, over and around mounds, mixing the colors of veg etation like red and yellow paints. In the Arctic Refuge, taiga is the transitional ecozone between the rugged mountains to the north and the smoother terrain of the boreal forest to the south. It is a large zone extending over vast tracks of the refuge’s interior, encompassing a variety of topographies and climates.

Creek Mouth Arctic Sanctuary

Creek Mouth

ecozone = boreal forest

A creek, sometimes dry in summer, enters a spruce and balsam poplar-lined river that runs through the refuge’s boreal forest. Though rainfall is relatively low—less than 40 inches annually—the forest is full of lakes, rivers, and wetlands which result from low evaporation and underlying permafrost that keeps water in surface soils.

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