Protecting the heart of the Arctic

January 17, 2013

Over the last year, Resource Media has had the privilege to work with leaders of the Gwich’in people of northeastern Alaska and Canada’s Yukon. Together, we recently completed a new website, With powerful words, and stunning images, the new website captures the high stakes for the Gwich’in people in one of America’s longest running, and most polarized political battles.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been an ideological battleground for American energy policy for more than 30 years. Oil companies and their backers in Congress point to the Refuge’s modest reserves of crude as job number one of their “drill baby drill” agenda.

Conservation organizations and their allies hold up the Refuge as a poster-child for special places that should be protected for current and future generations. Renowned for its spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife – polar bears, grizzlies, wolves, moose, caribou, mountain sheep and millions of migratory birds that travel to all 50 states – the Arctic Refuge is arguably America’s last great place.

At the center of the controversy is the coastal plain of the Refuge, which Congress has the power to open to oil drilling at any time. A thin band of land along the coast of the Arctic Ocean, the coastal plain is one of only two places in a vast region of the Arctic where the Porcupine Caribou Herd can find the combination of abundant and nutritious food, and respite from predators and insects they need to birth and nurse their young every year.

For the Gwich’in, the Refuge is “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” The caribou depend on the coastal refuge, and the Gwich’in depend on the caribou in turn – for food, clothing, shelter, and a traditional way of life that goes back thousands of years.

In many ways, the story of the caribou and the Gwich’in mirrors the story of the great herds of buffalo and the Tribes of the Great Plains. The Gwich’in are fighting for a much different ending. Resource Media is honored to help.

Mark Glyde

Image courtesy Subhankar Banerjee