The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is in the news again, as the oil and gas industry—sensing more friendly political winds— takes another shot at the effort to sink oil wells into the permafrost north of the Brooks Range.
A couple of summer ago, I topped the Brooks Range on the Dalton Highway and got my first look at the refuge. Spread out to the north and the east of the famed “Haul Road,” the refuge stretches all the way to the Arctic Ocean and is sliced by rivers and pocked by lakes and marshes, most of them full of fish, ranging from Arctic char to Arctic grayling. The tundra supports caribou, musk oxen and moose, as well as brown bears, wolves and, when the ice melts from the ocean, polar bears.
It’s also the home of the Gwich’in people, who have lived off the land in and around the refuge for thousands of years. They fish. They hunt. They forrage. And now, they’re fighting for their livelihoods. Again.
The video above from Patagonia offers up a unique perspective on the battle to drill (or not to drill) the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a tale told from the eyes of the people who live there, but also from the people who have worked for three decades to drill the refuge to slake the nation’s thirst for crude.
Much like the battle to protect Bristol Bay from the world’s largest open-pit mine on the planet, this is a battle that stretches across generations and, while we often talk about such places in terms of their land, water and wild creatures, we don’t often talk about them in terms of people.
This is a battle for people.
— Chris Hunt