Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Issues pertaining to the environment, the planet and landbase upon which we live – stuff like logging and clearcutting, oil drilling, global warming, energy concerns, rivers, forests and all those great thigns we seem to bent on destroying.

More Stuff To Click On

Morning in the Wrangell Mountains

Morning in the Wrangell Mountains

Hey Folks,

‘Stuff to Click On’; videos, photos, articles, quotes, etc .. stuff that caught my eye during the month. If you missed last month’s posting, you can read it here.

In following up from last month’s comments, I guess one of the things I get frustrated about with the “Social Media” whirlwind is the barrage of cr** that folks seem to love to scatter all over the internet. Jeff Sweat, writing for the Huffington Post, says “It’s as if you’re trying to feed someone by shooting pieces of a sandwich — bread, tomatoes, meat — past their head at 90 miles an hour. And half of the things flying by them aren’t even food, they’re garbage. Or toasters. The odds of someone eating your sandwich are pretty slim.” Note to Twitter users; just because it landed in your feed is no reason to pass it on. It reminds me of those emailers we all seem to have in our address book, who pass along every single joke/cartoon/touching story of faith, etc that comes their way. People, please stop.

An example? Here, look at this article on the Huffington Post. The title of that page is “21 Insanely Gorgeous Valleys Around The World (PHOTOS)”. How about “21 Insanely Mediocre Photos”? We kind of expect this from the news media, I suppose, as they strive to sell advertisements. But friends on Twitter, Facebook, etc, etc .. let’s not stoop to that. You love it, post it and say so. If not, don’t regurgitate drivel. Continue reading

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Arctic lupine and Brooks Range, ANWR, Alaska.

A small bloom of Arctic Lupine in the Brooks Mountain Range catch last light of the summer day. Land of the midnight sun, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, in arctic Alaska where the coastal plain meet the Brooks Mountain Range. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Another photo from the Brooks Range, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Back in September the US F&WS (Fish and Wildlife Service) announced, as part of their Comprehensive Conservation Plan, that “the Service will conduct wilderness reviews for three Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) for potential inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System. These three WSAs encompass almost all refuge lands not currently designated as wilderness”. This is good news. I’ll reiterate my favorite part of the quote: “These three WSAs encompass almost all refuge lands not currently designated as wilderness.

There are numerous steps involved, and, if recommended by the US F&WS, approval is required by the Dept Director, the Secretary of the Interior, and the President. Then, the final decision lies with the US Congress; the actual authority to designate land as ‘wilderness’.

It’s almost comical, really; such a rigorous and formalized process to meander through in order to deem lands “wild”. Implicit in the word wild is ‘free will’ –  yet not quite so wild as to be free of the rigmarole of official procedure, of course.

Anyone who suggests the 19 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge isn’t a wilderness either hasn’t been there or is simply in denial. Perhaps I could say it more clearly this way; if the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t qualify for ‘wilderness designation’, then we might as well remove that term from our vocabulary. Surely there is no place more deserving of such designation than the Refuge?

The “wilderness reviews” should be completed by Feb 2011, which will be followed by a released draft, more public comment, more revisions, and hopefully, a final plan and recommendation in May 2012. Apparently wilderness takes careful planning and review; it’s not simply created overnight.

A reminder that Dec 06, 2010, marks the coming anniversary of the establishment of the Refuge; I’m working on a little project for it, and should have it online soon. Stand warned. 🙂



Happy Birthday, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Coastal plain photo, Section 1002, ANWR, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

Midnight sun on the coastal plain, Section 1002, near the Canning river. A small pond on the plain catches a the skies blue reflection. Pond and reflection, coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Dec, 2010 marks 50 years since the federal government established the area as a national wildlife refuge. To view a larger version of this photo, please click on the image above.

Hey Folks,

Drill here? Drill now? I think not.

How about “Happy Birthday, and Cheers to the next 50 years!”

This year is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – “ANWR”, as folks like to call it. A swathe of wild land the size of South Carolina became a federally protected area in 1960, and then established as a wildlife refuge in 1980 with the passing of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).

One of the most important conservation measures yet taken by this nation, the Act protects over 100 million acres of federal lands within Alaska; this single statute more than doubled the area of national park and refuge land in the country and tripled the area of federally designated wilderness. Roughly 40%, or 8 million acres, of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was (and is) designated wilderness. This one landscape makes up over 7% of the designated wilderness in the United States.

Next month, on Dec 6, 2010, ANWR turns 50 years old. Turn your thoughts northward, and give it a moment. Or several moments. 19 million acres of land this country gifted to itself. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’ve visited the refuge a number of times now, and each year the visit has been unimaginably rewarding. To those who’d rather see it turned into an oil well, I’d ask to what end?



Arctic Ocean, ANWR, Alaska.

The Beaufort Sea along the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Arctic Ocean sea ocean, after spring breakup, rests on the beach. Melting permafrost in the bluffs signals warming temperatures. Arctic Ocean, Coastal Plain, ANWR, Alaska.

The Beaufort Sea along the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Arctic Ocean sea ocean, after spring breakup, rests on the beach. Melting permafrost in the bluffs signals warming temperatures. Arctic Ocean, Coastal Plain, ANWR, Alaska. Click for a larger photo.

Hey Folks,

Another photo from our recent trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Beaufort Sea. I hiked from our final camp across the coastal plain (well, across part of the plain, not the whole thing) with Steve Weaver hoping to photograph some of the icebergs we’d seen the previous day along the shoreline. Unfortunately, strong southerly winds had blown almost all the ice out to sea, and we were largely thwarted. This patch of ice, however, had been resting on shore, stranded when the tide rolled out, and we made a few images.

Coastlines are such dynamic landscapes, and in the Arctic particularly so. They can change drastically in a day or less, and do so frequently.

This photo was taken around 1:15am .. maybe later. I think Steve and I arrived back at camp around 4:00am, and I went to bed at nearly 5:00am. up at 10:00am-ish to break camp, roll the raft, and wait for a bush plane. We arrived, finally, in Coldfoot, around 5:30pm,(the temp was 90deg F, a start contrast from the Arctic Ocean we’d just left) unpacked the gear from the plane, sorted it and loaded the van, ate dinner, and hit the road, rolling into the Yukon River area stop late at night. Then up early the next morning to drive from there to Anchorage. 36 hours later it was out the door to pick up folks for the next trip to Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Summertime can be like that in Alaska.

I’ve been out to the Beaufort Sea here a number of times, now every time I’ve been so fortunate as to have an absolutely glorious final evening. The wind wasn’t bad at all, the bugs had quieted down, and the expansive vastness of the place really moves me. It’s a fantastic experience, to see such a harsh and rugged environment also be so sensitively fragile; the quiet tundra, the shorebirds, a whisper of air and the glowing rays of the sun, low on the horizon. After the trek back to camp I simply couldn’t go to bed, but sat for nearly 45 minutes by my tent, just watching, listening and enjoying the grace of the Arctic coastal plain. It’s a phenomenal place.

The bluffs on the left of the frame, like Castles Made of Sand, slowly slip into the sea – eventually.



Extreme Environmentalists, the Gulf Oil Disaster and ANWR.

Arctic fox and oil barrels on the coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

Arctic fox and oil barrels on the coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Excuse my rant; but, this is my blog, and I’m about to wander in the mtns for a while. Before I go, I need to speak out.

I read earlier today of ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s latest comments about the current disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. She states “Radical environmentalists: you are damaging the planet with your efforts to lock up safer drilling areas”.

Her basic premise is that the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is the work and responsibility of “extreme environmentalists”. Let’s disregard, for now, the fact that she’s been a proponent of offshore drilling for years now (including her 2008 run for VP where she repeatedly claimed that Drill Baby, Drill “also means safely tapping into our offshore sources, safely, environmentally safe”. In her own words, whilst debating then-Senator Joe Biden she stammered “You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore — as raping the outer continental shelf. There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that.

“friendly”? If it weren’t so sad it would be farcical; what the hell is “friendly” about extracting crude oil from beneath the ocean? Makes me wonder what kind of “friends” some of these people keep.  If one of my friends came over to the house and started drilling a hole 20 000′ into the lawn I’d say they’re outta their mind.

I’ve no problem with a discussion of the collective responsibility owned by our society. I hopefully made that clear in my earlier post here. But I won’t absolve the oil industry of their responsibility, nor the clowns who would reduce a discussion of the energy policy of the world’s largest energy consumer to a 3-word bumper-sticker slogan: “Drill Here, Drill Now”  of theirs, which is the intent of Palin’s outburst. Sarah Palin’s remarks, along with this childish assessment from Ted Nugent is not an honest critique of any social construct at all. In fact, it’s nothing more than the opposite of that; an attempt to divert attention from the direct and very palpable targets of hella-oil, political corruption and bumper-sticker political campaigns to a somewhat more nebulous, transparent target. That is intolerable. Continue reading

Designating Wilderness: your choice.

Coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (aerial photo).

Coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (aerial photo).

Hey Folks,

Last night I attended  public comment hearing for the preliminary stages of a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In short, this comment period allows the public to offer information and thoughts on some of the issues they feel might need to be addressed, and oftentimes their thoughts as to how those issues should be addressed. The CCP will be a document that “outlines and guides long-term management” of the Refuge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are the land management agency responsible for managing the Refuge. If you would like to add your input at this stage, here is Comment Form for the Refuge. Before you do, it’s worth browsing the FWS ANWR webpage for some useful ideas on how this works (they’re not looking for reasons why the coastal plain might or might not be opened to drilling – that decision is to be the work of Congress, not the simple folks of the FWS).

One of the critical topics up for discussion is the designation of  “wilderness” in the Refuge. Currently, nearly half (41%) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 19.3 million acres is designated wilderness. The remaining 10 million acres are not currently designated “wilderness”. The FWS are presently proposing to study these areas and determine whether or not they qualify as wilderness; the ‘Wilderness Review‘ section of the CCP. A recommendation could then be made to Congress to designate these areas wilderness. Such a designation would render the Refuge off-limits to oil and gas extraction.

The arguments were the same tired commentaries we’ve heard countless times now; Continue reading

A Tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico

Hiker playing Native American Indian flute on the arctic coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska.

Playing a Native American Indian flute on the arctic coastal plain, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), Alaska. Please click on the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

I’ve been wanting to write for the last week about the current Gulf Oil disaster, but haven’t really been quite sure what to say. There are simply so many tangents to this mess that I’ve not known where to start. The deaths of 11 people seem, unfortunately, to fade into the melée of concern about big oil, political ineptness, poisoned ecosystems, fathomless litigations, ad infinitum. The web we weave seems larger than the spread of oil.

It makes sense, to me, to start at home. The reality is that this catastrophe stares us right in the eyeball. The mirror reflects our own lives – I drive a car, I love my gore-tex and silnylon tents, my synthetic-fill jacket, my polycarbonate cameras. I eat fresh bananas and whole grain breads shipped here from afar. My computer was flown directly from Shanghai, China. The world I live in is a fossil fuel world. That world includes crude oil belching from the ocean floor into the Gulf of Mexico, and on to Gaia knows where.

So I bear responsibility in this mess; I want cheap gasoline, cheap oil. I complained about the soaring gasoline prices just 2 years ago. I failed to demand that the federal government not exempt BP from an environmental impact study. I failed to demand that Minerals Management Services mandate a remote-control shut-off switch on all drilling operations. I failed to demand that the oil industry follow the strictest, safest procedures possible. Continue reading

Internet Radio Interview

Male grizzly bear, brown bear photo, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Male grizzly bear, brown bear photo, (Ursus arctos) Katmai National Park, Alaska. Please click on the thumbnail to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

Just a quick note here to say if you can, check out this online radio interview (GONE) Tuesday, May 4, 2010, at 9pm EST. I’ll be talking with photographers Greg Downing and E.J. Peiker, of, and  host Dave Warner, from Lensflarelive. It should be a lot of fun to do, and hopefully interesting and useful as well. I know I’m excited about it, Greg and EJ are great photographers whom I’ve admired for a long time, and it’ll be nice to talk with them.

Well be talking about wilderness photography, backpacking and hiking and photographing, as well as some environmental/conservation topics that might be relevant to nature photography. Greg also had the idea of present a few images online and we can discuss those and present a little more context about the work. I’m not really sure all of what we’ll talk about yet, but the show is open to call in, and it’d be great to hear from you on air. Hopefully the conversation will be interesting.

The broadcast can be heard live here. If you miss the show, it will be edited and available as a podcast soon after – I’ll add a link to this post when that becomes available.

I hope you enjoy the show,



Manufactured Landscapes – a film review.

Colorful duplex and garden, Orsono, Chile.

Colorful duplex and garden, Orsono, Chile. Please click the image to view a larger version of the photo.

Hey Folks,

I’m depressed. I just watched “Manufactured Landscapes”, (2006) and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. It’s a pretty intense documentary, featuring amazing photography by Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky creates some powerful imagery of some of the most unlikely subjects – largely industrial wasteland. Coal mines, dams, factories (the opening shot shows the inside of a factory over three quarters of a kilometer long), parking lots, construction sites, destruction sites, you name it. It’s compelling stuff – the beauty in his photos is moving, yet discomforting. The reality he brings to the viewer is a bit overwhelming; this stuff IS our world, today.

The film is set in China, largely, though the narration points out that this industrial development is global; almost all of the products being pieced together in factories throughout China consist of raw materials shipped in from around the globe, then shipped back off to meet demand overseas. The stark reality here is that China’s environmental problem is our problem; insatiable demand from the “developed” world is altering not just the landscape, but the land itself. Continue reading

The Baker River and Bob Marley

Waterfalls, Baker River, Rio Baker, Patagonia, Chile.

Waterfalls, Baker River, Rio Baker, Patagonia, Chile. Click the thumbnail to see a larger version.

Hey Folks

“How many rivers do we have to cross, Before we can talk to the boss, eh?” – Bob Marley, “Burnin and Lootin'”.

Today, Feb 6th, 2010, is the 65th anniversary of Bob Marley’s birthday. Bob is one of my highest musical heroes, and this tune, of all his great songs, is probably the one that I love the most. So, in honor of the great Bob Marley, here’s a version of his classic ‘Redemption Song‘ that I recorded a few years back with my friend Steve on vocals.


I thought this photo would be a fitting accompaniment. This photo is of the waterfall on the Baker River, beginning of a series of Class 5 and Class 6 rapids through an unbelievable canyon. Continue reading