On the Brink: The final days in the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

August 08, 2020 11:49 AM
by / Topics: Uncategorized / Comments Off on On the Brink: The final days in the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Article by Syler Peralta-Ramos/ Images by various iLCP Fellows

Where the Brooks Range slopes towards the waters of the Arctic Ocean and the northern lights dance, one of the most wild ecosystems on the planet can be found. It is a place of rebirth in the truest form; where a caribou herd of 200,000 give birth to calves each spring, where millions of birds migrate from  6 of the 7 continents to lay their eggs, and where polar bears travel across the melting sea ice to den and give birth to newborn cubs. Local Gwich’in people know the landscape as “the sacred place where life begins”. Yet with pressure from the Trump Administration to begin the sale of oil and gas leases here as soon as the end of 2020, this important and pristine area will be in peril.

Known by most as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, this life-giving wilderness is as remote as any other in the United States. Few distant landscapes are as recognized widely as the Arctic Refuge. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Americans know of the Refuge not for its unrivaled beauty, but rather, the political controversies that have surrounded the region for six decades. 

Its story began just one year after Alaska achieved statehood in 1959 when 8.9 million acres were set aside for an “Arctic Wildlife Range”, a far smaller preserve that laid the initial groundwork for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that would soon follow. Unlike the Refuge, the Range’s history was simple and uncontested. Only when the preserve was expanded did a small caveat create one of the most heavily-debated parcels of land in America’s history.
Image by Peter Mather. The Porcupine caribou herd crosses a river in the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is this landscape that is slated to be leased for drilling as early as winter of 2020. 

When the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 created the 19.6-million acre Wildlife Refuge, there was a condition that Congress could decide whether or not oil and gas drilling would be permitted in the “1002 Area” – the northern section of the Refuge which is thought to contain reserves of oil, but is also one of the most critical sections of the ecosystem for the species the Refuge was created to preserve. 

Born at the dawn of the environmental movement, the Refuge and its 1002 Area was rapidly politicized, pitting the environmentally-driven Left with the monetarily-driven Right in a battle over the future of the land. The tides shifted back and forth depending on which party held the most political power, but approval for oil and gas exploration always failed to make it through the necessary branches of government – at least until 2017. 

Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration put drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge back on the table. Hidden quietly into an unrelated tax bill, President Trump signed the initial approvals needed to open the land to drilling. For the first time in its history, the federal government had the authority to lease drilling rights in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but it would require a few years of planning before the first heavy machinery could be set up on the coastal plain.  

This is where we stepped in. In response to this news, the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), The Wilderness Society, and the Alaska Wilderness League supported a series of rapid response expeditions into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to highlight the urgent need to protect this threatened national treasure. The Stories for the Arctic Refuge project includes 8 expeditions with a total of forty storytellers gathering images, video, artwork, and stories to share, engage and inspire North Americans to get involved in convincing the U.S. Congress to overturn its decision. With bags packed with the bare essentials, but full of camera gear, the crews set out across the Refuge.

Our efforts have never been more important as, on August 17, 2020, the President signed the final paperwork to move forward with an auction to sell drilling leases beginning as early as the end of 2020. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing, but the fight is not over yet.

Image by Peter Mather. iLCP team members Nathaniel Wilder and Bethany Paquette photograph wildlife while cooking dinner during their mission to document caribou calving on the coastal plain.

The politicization of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may be the greatest tragedy of its story. A logical conclusion to the political divide in the future of the Refuge should imply a similar debate in the voting public, however citizens are far from polarized on the issue. A 2019 Yale Climate Communications study found that nearly 70% of Americans oppose allowing the Refuge to be opened to oil drilling with a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters opposing the policy. Only 11% of the voters in the study were strongly in favor of drilling. Put in different terms, 89% of Americans have at least some reservations about drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

So why, in the middle of an oil price drop and public bipartisan unfavorability, is the Trump Administration moving forward with opening the Refuge to drilling? The answer, it seems, is almost entirely political. In 2018 Donald Trump spoke about opening the Refuge to oil and gas, explaining that when someone asked him if oil drilling on the Refuge would be included in the tax bill he said, “I don’t know, who cares? What even is [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge]?”. 

After finding out that previous Republican presidents had failed to pass a bill that included such a provision, Trump claimed, “I loved it and we fought to get [it].” Trump’s reasoning for the inclusion of the Refuge in the bill was not based on environmental, cultural, or even economic factors. It appears to be purely a matter of personal ego and partisan politics. 

Upon hearing the news that the final paperwork had been signed to begin leasing the Refuge land for drilling, iLCP Fellow Peter Mather, the leader of the iLCP 2018 expeditions, said, “my thought right away was that I feel horrible for all of my Gwich’in friends that live and depend on caribou.” The Gwich’in people are the longest human inhabitants in the area in and around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, having lived there for thousands of years. Their culture is as much a part of the landscape as the caribou that continue to sustain them to this day. 

With the support of iLCP, Fellow Neil Ever Osborne set out to make a film about the Refuge in 2018, but the film “We are Abel” instead focused on a newborn Gwich’in boy named Abel and his father’s fears of his son’s future in a world where the caribou lose their calving grounds to oil development. “Without some human element I think stories about [the Arctic Refuge] get lost in all the noise” Osborne explains. It is easy to lose sight of empathy when the issue at stake is surrounded by politics and takes place thousands of miles away from most of the American population. It was this very idea that inspired Osborne to tell the story of the Gwich’in people. “Hopefully, people will empathize with this little boy, as well as the caribou,” he says. 

Without caribou, the Gwich’in culture may have faded away long ago. Like many Native American and First Nation cultures, many of them live on the edge of poverty, having been shortchanged by the nations that absorbed them. “Without caribou, food would have to be flown in” Mather explains. “It costs as much as 8 U.S. dollars for just one box of mac-and-cheese”. Living off of the land in this part of the world is not just a cultural practice, it is the only sustainable way to live.
Image by David Thoreson. Paul Josie (pictured) is an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman with a dream to run his own eco-travel company in the Old Crow, Yukon, region. Josie is also a young community leader serving as a Counselor for the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation. The ancient culture of the Canadian Gwich’in people developed along the migratory areas of the Porcupine Caribou and the village of Old Crow, 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the Yukon. They are truly the people of of the caribou. They reside along the Porcupine River and the Porcupine Caribou have predictably migrated through this region but now are threatened by climate change and oil development on the coastal plain.

Image by Mark Kelly. A Gwich’in mother holds her young son. If drilling takes place on the Refuge, he could be the last generation of his culture to be able to depend on the Porcupine caribou herd in the ways that his ancestors have for thousands of years.

Katie Schuler, an iLCP Emerging League Filmmaker who accompanied Peter to Alaska believes that “protecting the refuge is a matter of human rights.” Having spent time with the Gwich’in people in the making of her film“Where Life Begins”Katie was able to see firsthand how their culture is intertwined with the migration of the Porcupine caribou herd. To harm the caribou is an act of environmental injustice and racism towards the people who have successfully stewarded the landscape for their entire existence. 

Hunting and fishing are among the only sources of income and sustenance for these remote Arctic communities. Their entire way of life depends on the health of the ecosystem in which they are a part. Life in Gwich’in villages simply could not exist if the caribou disappear, and drilling on the Refuge threatens to do just that.

Image by Patrick Clayton. A fisherman holds a Dolly Varden Trout in the crystal clear waters of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling operations are known for reducing water quality in nearby streams, making life for fish in the far north even more difficult.

The 1002 Area of the Refuge is arguably the most important parcel of land in the Alaskan Arctic ecosystem. Each spring, the Porcupine caribou herd arrives in the tens of thousands to give birth to their calves. The spectacle, along with this vast landscape, has earned this area the nickname “American Serengeti” in reference to Africa’s large-scale land migration areas. 

Peter Mather remembers the moment he truly understood the importance of the Refuge. It was 2018 and with a team of photographers and filmmakers his assignment was to document the calving season, but the task was not an easy one. It was a particularly cold year and only a small portion of the herd’s migration was on the coastal plain with the rest trailing behind in the snow-covered land.

Image by Peter Mather. Nathaniel Wilder and Katie Schuler cross a small creek in a snowstorm on the Refuge. The team ran into a late-season snowstorm while trekking to the coastal plain to document the calving of caribou.

The few caribou that had arrived on-time were shy and easily spooked. “Caribou are quite sensitive and need a peaceful place in order to feel comfortable giving birth, which makes it an incredibly difficult thing to photograph”, Mather described. Instead of trying to approach a caribou giving birth, he set up his tent as a makeshift blind and waited for members of the herd to come to him. 

Before the arrival of the caribou, the land was quiet and empty. “It was as if the land was waiting for the caribou.” he said. 

After sitting practically motionless for 24 hours, Mather saw the first caribou arriving through a fog-bank. In the distance, a female caribou appeared to lay down to rest after having reached the calving grounds at the end of an 800-mile journey. Reaching the coastal plain is a moment of relative safety for caribou after they have left the predator-rich landscape in the mountains and foothills. Despite surviving the long journey, the caribou’s rest was short lived. She began standing and then sitting over and over again. 

“I knew something was going on,” he said. 

Through his viewfinder, Mather could see the hooves of the baby calf beginning to emerge from the mother each time she stood. Almost as quickly as the calf had been born, she was ready to try out her new legs. Wobbling “like a drunk person,” she stood up next to the mother and began to take her first steps across the tundra grasses.

Image by Peter Mather. A female caribou gives birth to a calf on the 1002 lands of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. When the iLCP expedition team arrived on the coastal plain to document the calving season, the area was a frozen slab of ice for most of June, which was horribly bad news for the caribou who have had to give birth to their young in the nutrient diminished foothills south of the coastal plain. The calves spent their first three weeks of life in the foothills where they are more susceptible to predators like wolves, grizzly bears and especially golden eagles. When the caribou do not make it to the 1002 lands on the coastal plain, the calf survival rates are greatly diminished.

Image by Peter Mather. A caribou mother keeps a close watch over her newborn calf on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The memory of that calf entering the world comes into Mather’s mind each time he thinks of the Refuge’s future. “None of that is going to happen if drilling is happening there” Mather believes. He is not alone in his beliefs. Studies have proven that roads displace caribou and increase calf mortality by forcing the herds into unsuitable habitat, and that is before you factor-in pollution, traffic, and drilling noise.

During calving season, the caribou are at their most vulnerable. Their senses are on high alert as a pregnant caribou or newborn calf can be more easily taken down by a pack of wolves or a grizzly bear. Now, imagine the stress of this moment in the caribou’s life-cycle with the addition of towering drills and roaring vehicle traffic interspersed between the herd. 

For the caribou, it is just not possible. In fact, even the Gwich’in people avoid the coastal plain during calving season due to beliefs of its sacred properties and fear of disturbing the cycles that sustain their communities. 

The coastal plain is a place of relative safety because fewer predators venture there. The flat tundra and its flora leaves nowhere for a predator to mount a sneak attack, but provides enough cover for caribou to blend into their environment. The 1002 area – which encompasses the coastal plain – is the only place where this occurs, leaving no substitute for the herd. 

Unlike the caribou, oil companies and politicians have lots of substitutes for this critical habitat. In fact, from an economic standpoint it makes little sense to drill there. While it is probable that a significant amount of oil exists beneath the Refuge, only a small fraction of what exists is worth the money required to extract it, refine it, and transport it to where it will be used. 

A congressional report from 2014 found that the cost of Alaskan oil, primarily from neighboring Prudhoe Bay, is 38% higher per barrel than oil found in the lower 48 states. This means that oil from the Arctic Wildlife Refuge would be costly for oil companies and their customers in comparison to alternative locations or energy sources. Obtaining oil from existing fields until renewables can replace them is not only a more environmentally and socially sound decision, but also a more economically sound decision too. 

Given the high cost of producing oil from the Refuge, low global oil prices, and the dropping price of cleaner renewable energy, it is possible that oil companies may refuse to drill given the lower likelihood of turning a profit there. 

The biggest loss to the average American, however, would not be the lack of oil profits, but the irreversible damage that would be left in its wake. The migration of the Porcupine caribou herd to the coastal plain is the last mammal migration of its scale left in North America and one of the last remaining on the planet. The caribou and their calving ground is the core of this entire debate because the caribou are the heart of the entire ecosystem. 

“Everything there depends on the caribou, from bears, wolves, foxes and people all the way down to plants that are fertilized by their bodies” Mather describes.

Image by Peter Mather. An Arctic fox feeds on a caribou on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Though few people will ever visit the Refuge firsthand we all benefit from its existence in some way: indirectly through the comfort of knowing such a place exists or directly through migratory birds that connect distant backyards directly to the Arctic ecosystem. Though drilling would only occur in the 1002 area, the impacts would cast ripples through ecosystems thousands of miles away. 

This landscape is too vast to comprehend but you immediately get the sense it is also just too wild to be scarred by man” says Neil Ever Osborne. 

With the President’s finalization of plans to open the coastal plain to drilling, the fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is down to its final days. So, is there any hope left for the Refuge and the people who depend on it? 

Luckily, the answer is yes, and that power lies in each of our hands. 

Just two months away is a presidential election that could shape the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration has failed to represent the views of the majority of Americans by moving forward on plans to drill there. No matter what political party you favor, the best way to be heard is by voting and/or supporting organizations that will fight legal battles to protect the land and its living things.

Image by Peter Mather. An Arctic Tern protects a newly hatched chick on the plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The tern has the longest migration in the world, migrating from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back every year to raise their young on the pristine Arctic tundra.

While the decision to approve drilling is up to the Federal Government, the decision to actually drill is held by companies and banks who will finance the operations. Several of the largest U.S. financial institutions including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have expressed opposition to financing any operations in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They have sided with the people rather than partisan politics and given the general public a greater voice over what happens on the Refuge, all because people are speaking out. 

Between legal battles and difficulties in finding financing on top of the already high production cost, would-be oil drilling operations could still be discouraged from ever taking place no matter what politicians approve.

Our voices matter more than ever, so the time is now to use them before it’s too late. In doing so, we speak not only for ourselves but for the millions of living things that depend on the caribou life-cycle, the cultures that were built upon them, and the future generations who will live with the consequences. 

Join The Wilderness Society and iLCP to help make your voice heard here.

Illustration by Stephanie Ryan. Gilbeau Pass, Brooks Range in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

¿Ganar a qué costo? Consideraciones éticas para concursos de fotografía de naturaleza y vida silvestre

July 07, 2020 02:15 PM
by / Topics: Photojournalism, Wildlife / Comments Off on ¿Ganar a qué costo? Consideraciones éticas para concursos de fotografía de naturaleza y vida silvestre

Por Brooke McDonough el miembro del personal de iLCP y el asociado Doug Gimesy
Traducido al español por el asociado Eladio Fernandez y nuestro interno Syler Peralta-Ramos

El Problema
En el mundo competitivo de la fotografía de naturaleza y la vida silvestre, parece que producir una escena usando la fauna silvestre para generar una imagen ganadora en la competencia se ha vuelto más frecuente y, en algunos concursos, premiadas. Hemos visto, por ejemplo, casos en los que dos animales se colocan de forma artificial cerca el uno del otro o se tocan entre sí, o animales en posturas inusuales, y hasta el uso de  estos como cebos vivos, lo cual puede causar injustificado estrés y ansiedad a la fauna silvestre.

Este comportamiento tiene su origen  en el mundo de las redes sociales donde el deseo de crear imágenes sensacionales para obtener “likes” a veces es feroz.

El Peligro
Hay tres peligros en representar fotográficamente la fauna silvestre con el único propósito de lograr una imagen llamativa y ganadora en un concurso: puede tener un impacto negativo directo sobre el bienestar del animal, se normaliza el concepto de que la manipulación es aceptable y se tergiversa la realidad.

i) Impacto negativo directo para los animales
En primer lugar, escenificar una imagen significa manipular al animal y posiblemente sus alrededores. Esto tiene posibles consecuencias negativas para el bienestar de los animales que incluyen:

  1. Impactos físicos (por ejemplo, como resultado de la lucha del animal para moverse / escapar mientras está restringido o colocado)
  2. Impactos en el bienestar mental, que pueden variar desde el estrés hasta la ansiedad por ser confinado y /o manejado,  o al usarse como cebo vivo
  3. Impactos posibles conductuales a corto y largo plazo (por ejemplo, acostumbrarse a la interacción humana, aceptar alimento, y otros)

Es mucho más probable que todos estos impactos ocurran sin la guía de un experto de la fauna silvestre y alguien cuya preocupación principal sea el bienestar del animal.

ii) Normalización
En segundo lugar, el uso de la fauna silvestre para la puesta en escena y así producir una imagen para concurso plantea la noción de que es normal y  aceptable utilizar la fauna silvestre simplemente como un medio para un fin creativo o egoísta.

iii) Falsificación de realidad (engaño)
Finalmente, la producción de una escena usando vida silvestre falsifica la realidad. Por supuesto, esta preocupación intenta sobrellevarse si lo que se está escenificando se ve realmente en el medio silvestre, o mediante la divulgación del método usado en el pie de foto. Aun así, considerando los impactos directos y los peligros de la normalización ya explicados, esta práctica continúa siendo difícil de justificar.

Con todo esto, no se trata de sugerir que la puesta en escena de la vida silvestre para crear imágenes nunca sea justificable. Por ejemplo, en la creación de imágenes educativas, o para crear conciencia sobre un tema importante (donde no se podría esperar razonablemente que la imagen sea capturada en la naturaleza, o hacerla pudiese producir otros impactos negativos). Sin embargo, incluso en estos casos, las consideraciones y consecuencias sobre el bienestar animal siempre deben primar, junto a la divulgación completa sobre las condiciones de realización de la imagen.

Como miembros de una organización internacional de fotógrafos y cineastas de la conservación, nos hemos dedicado a apoyar la conservación y el bienestar animal a través de la fotografía y el cine ético. Al hacer esto, parte de la naturaleza de la conservación y la narración de la fauna silvestre debe ser poner los mejores intereses del animal, la especie y el medio ambiente, como pilares centrales de lo que hacemos. Como tal, sugerimos lo siguiente:

i) Directrices:
Todos los concursos fotográficos de vida silvestre deben tener directrices que:

  1. Descalifiquen imágenes producidas que escenifiquen fauna silvestre o cualquier comportamiento que tenga el potencial de lesionar o afectar a un animal o su hábitat.
  2. Descalifiquen imágenes que usen cebo (especialmente cebo vivo)
  3. Proporcionen textos acompañantes completos y honestos y metadata que incluya:
    • Las condiciones en que se tomó la fotografía
    • Las consideraciones de impactos negativos posibles a la fauna silvestre

Resaltamos y aplaudimos la prestigiosa competencia “Wildlife Photographer of the Year” por tener las siguientes reglas:

“Los participantes no pueden enviar imágenes que … representen animales en cautiverio o restringidos, animales modelos y / o cualquier animal que sea explotado con fines de lucro, a menos que sea para documentar un problema específico relacionado con el trato de animales por un tercero”

“Los participantes están obligados a informar sobre el mundo natural de una manera creativa y honesta”

“Las imágenes participantes no deben engañar al espectador ni intentar disfrazar o tergiversar la realidad de la naturaleza”

“La información acompañante debe ser completa, verdadera y precisa”

“Los participantes no deben hacer nada para dañar o angustiar a un animal o dañar su hábitat en un intento de asegurar una imagen … el bienestar de un animal debe ser lo primero”

ii) Comité de jueces
Todos los concursos fotográficos en las que se puedan presentar imágenes de fauna silvestre deben consistir en un jurado que incluya al menos:

  1. Un fotógrafo experimentado de la fauna silvestre que puede hablar de posibles consideraciones de captura de imágenes
  2. Un naturalista / biólogo que puede hablar sobre el bienestar animal y las consideraciones éticas relacionadas.


Las imágenes tienen el poder de crear comprensión, generar empatía, conectar y catalizar a las personas para tomar acciónes de conservación.

Sin embargo, las entidades que organizan concursos de fotografía tienen el potencial no solo de acercar a muchas personas a la vida silvestre, sino también de influir en aquellos que toman fotografías y la gran audiencia a la que estas llegan.

Debido a esto, tienen la gran responsabilidad de garantizar que su impacto no sea negativo para la vida silvestre o para una especie en particular. Los concursos de fotografía que incluyen categorías de vida silvestre y naturaleza, en realidad solo deberían premiar a aquellas personas que tienen los más altos estándares éticos de honestidad, prácticas profesionales, bienestar animal y empatía con la fauna silvestre.

Afortunadamente, la mayoría de los concursos internacionales de fotografía incluyen algunas pautas para proteger el bienestar animal y garantizar que lo que se captura sea honesto y un verdadero reflejo de la situación. Lamentablemente, todavía hay muchos que no lo hacen.

Como tal, creemos firmemente que tales pautas deben agregarse e instamos a todos los concursos de fotografía a revisar sus procesos y garantizar que se implementen políticas para que no haya peligro de que: (i) la vida silvestre, una especie, el medio ambiente o la profesión de la fotografía de vida silvestre y naturaleza puede verse afectada negativamente por el desarrollo del concurso, y (ii) no se permite la producción de escenas usando la fauna silvestre. Esperamos que con estas pautas, las entidades que organizan estos concursos, el mundo de la fotografía de vida silvestre y de naturaleza, y nuestra vida silvestre queden en un mejor lugar por ello.


“Little Penguin, Big City” “Me tomó 120 horas hacer esta fotografía” – Doug Gimesy
Foto de Doug Gimesy, ganador, People’s Choice – Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2017.

Foto de Peter Mather, ganador: 2018 Big Picture 1st Place – Terrestrial Wildlife. “Un zorro ártico se lame los labios después de alimentarse de un cadáver de caribú congelado. Esta foto simplemente requirió suerte y paciencia. Viajé en una moto de nieve por la tundra de Alaska en invierno cuando percibí un pequeño movimiento por el rabillo de mi ojo. Cuando me detuve, no pude ver nada en las grandes llanuras blancas que se extendían 20 millas delante de mí. Al mirar más de cerca, vi las orejas blancas de un zorro ártico a unos 50 metros de distancia. Era tímido y se escondía en la nieve. Apague mi moto de nieve y esperé a ver qué hacía. Después de 5 minutos, me levanté y comencé a cavar en la nieve. Durante las siguientes 2 horas, lentamente me deslicé sobre mi vientre, acercándome más y más, fotografiando y hablando con él mientras me movía. Siempre hablo con mis animales salvajes y les hago saber cuando me muevo, para asegurarme de no asustarlos. Finalmente, pude fotografiar al zorro a 5 pies de distancia mientras se alimentaba de un cadáver de caribú. Al final, se quedó dormido frente a mí.”- Peter Mather
Photo by Pete Mather, Winner: 2018 Big Picture 1st Place – Terrestrial Wildlife

Foto de Peter Mather, World Press Photo – 2020 Nominee for Nature Stories
“Un oso grizzly es capturado por una cámara trampa mientras mira en un agujero de nieve de un glotón. Estaba trabajando con algunos biólogos en la vertiente norte de Alaska en un proyecto de largo plazo que cuenta la historia de los glotones de Alaska y su relación con la nieve en una era de cambio climático. Realmente quería obtener una foto de un glotón entrando en uno de sus agujeros de nieve, pero tenía que hacerlo de una manera que no impactará al glotón, lo cual es complicado, porque meter una trampa de cámara remota en uno de sus agujeros de nieve Puede ser un acto muy invasivo. Necesitábamos encontrar una manera de hacerlo, que no afectará al glotón. Un día, mientras hacíamos encuestas de glotones con el biólogo, encontramos una serie de 6 agujeros de nieve de glotones en un área muy pequeña en un río congelado. Pensamos que el glotón había encontrado algunos peces atrapados en una pequeña bolsa de agua debajo del hielo, ya que claramente había estado en el área durante varios días. Pensé, esta es la ubicación perfecta, porque el glotón tiene 6 orificios de acceso, por lo que si no le gusta la cámara, simplemente puede usar un orificio diferente y si no le importa la cámara, obtendré mi toma . Desafortunadamente para mí, este oso grizzly apareció poco después de configurar la cámara, arruinó mi foto (estoy bromeando) y ahuyentó al glotón. “- Peter Mather

Atlantic Coast Pipeline CANCELLED: A monumental win for conservation and environmental justice

July 07, 2020 04:37 PM
by / Topics: Assignments, Biodiversity, Birds, Climate Change, Energy/Industry, Flora, Freshwater, Health, Landscapes, Mountains, People and Culture, Photojournalism, Plants & Flora, What are our Fellows doing?, Wildlife / Comments Off on Atlantic Coast Pipeline CANCELLED: A monumental win for conservation and environmental justice

Text by Syler Peralta-Ramos, Photos by Karen Kasmauski

About the Proposed Pipeline:
Pipelines have been at the forefront of American consciousness since the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline sparked nearly a decade of legal controversy and protests. For residents of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina however, the looming threat of a different pipeline has brought similar concerns. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), a natural gas project headed by Dominion and Duke — two of the largest energy companies in the U.S. — would have extended 600 miles from West Virginia to South Carolina with a section to the east through Virginia. 

Along its proposed route, the pipeline would have crossed beneath the famed natural beauty of the Appalachian Trail and Blue Ridge Parkway, George Washington and Monongahela National Forests, and pass just feet from the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. The pipeline’s construction required the clear-cutting of a 125-foot-wide easement and a 75-foot-wide permanent pipeline right-of-way for monitoring and maintenance as well as the access roads required to service it. Environmental concerns go beyond the construction and maintenance of the pipeline. As with any pipeline, there is always the fear of leakage which, though infrequent, can have devastating effects not only for the natural beauty of the region, but also for the people and wildlife that call it home. 

Nelson and Buckingham counties in Virginia are part of the pathway for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project funded predominately by Dominion energy company. The pipeline will go through areas of natural beauty but also of unstable geology. Many of the locals fear damage will be done to the water (everyone is on well water, including the business), the air, the economy and the general sense of community. The project has been on the books for years, keeping everyone in a state of limbo. The three compressor stations for this pipeline will be built in underserved and minority communities.
Shown, the pipeline pathway through the landscape with early morning fog.

As has been the case in other high-profile pipeline cases in recent years, the ACP’s opposition is about more than environmental protection and conservation: it is about environmental justice. Along the proposed route for the pipeline are three compressor stations (a piece of pipeline equipment recognized by the EPA as releasing pollutants that can increase likelihood of asthma, heart disease, cancer, and neurological impairments in people living and working nearby). All three of these proposed stations were slated to be built in low-income areas, two of which are home to majority African American populations. Especially in light of the current national reckoning of racism in America, the political climate is ripe for greater justice and equality for those who have been systematically disadvantaged by projects like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Indeed,  conservation and racial justice must go hand-in-hand.

Nelson and Buckingham counties in Virginia are part of the pathway for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project funded predominately by Dominion energy company. The pipeline will go through areas of natural beauty but also of unstable geology. Many of the locals fear damage will be done to the water (everyone is on well water, including the business), the air, the economy and the general sense of community. The project has been on the books for years, keeping everyone in a state of limbo. The three compressor stations for this pipeline will be built in underserved and minority communities.
General images of Nelson Co, Virginia, early morning sun coming through trees near where the pipeline was once schedule.

Work opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline:
The iLCP Expedition, led by Senior Fellow Karen Kasmauski, focused on bringing greater awareness to the people and places that are most affected by the proposed pipeline. We partnered with grassroots organizations in our first phase, focusing on two Virginia counties: Buckingham and Nelson. In these counties, local activism against the pipeline has led to extraordinary stories of local people stepping up to protect their communities. Karen has worked tirelessly, taking pictures out the windows of tiny two-seater planes, in people’s kitchens, and on foot while trekking through miles of backcountry. She has toured bespoke organic flower farms and craft cider breweries and orchards, all with the goal of sharing this story with the world and bringing plans of the pipeline to a halt. 

In the work we have done on this project thus far, we have been supported by two community organizations; Friends of Buckingham and Friends of Nelson in addition to the Bama Works fund. Friends of Buckingham and Friends of Nelson are two groups that have emerged as forces of opposition to the project under the larger Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance. Together these organizations watch over Dominion Energy’s activities on the pipeline and mount opposition when needed. 

Nelson and Buckingham counties in Virginia are part of the pathway for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project funded predominately by Dominion energy company. The pipeline will go through areas of natural beauty but also of unstable geology. Many of the locals fear damage will be done to the water (everyone is on well water, including the business), the air, the economy and the general sense of community. The project has been on the books for years, keeping everyone in a state of limbo. The three compressor stations for this pipeline will be built in underserved and minority communities.
Union Hill, a historical black community initially settled by freemen is where the 2nd compression station will be built.
A support rally was held in Union Hill on the land own by the Harper family, a family of freemen.

The cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and next steps:
On Sunday, July 5th, Dominion and Duke energy canceled the ACP, citing the mounting costs and uncertainty in legal battles. As opposition to the pipeline has solidified with 8 crucial permits failing approval, in addition to changing economic/market conditions, the project has failed to move forward according to original plans. Despite the challenges and being billions of dollars over budget, Dominion and Duke had remained firm in their determination to complete the project. Though little specific information is yet known as to why they decided to cut the project now, the news is a tremendous win for conservationists, the environmental justice movement, and the many citizens who stood up against one of the largest energy companies in the nation. 

Nelson and Buckingham counties in Virginia are part of the pathway for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project funded predominately by Dominion energy company. The pipeline will go through areas of natural beauty but also of unstable geology. Many of the locals fear damage will be done to the water (everyone is on well water, including the business), the air, the economy and the general sense of community. The project has been on the books for years, keeping everyone in a state of limbo. The three compressor stations for this pipeline will be built in underserved and minority communities.
Union Hill, a historical black community initially settled by freemen is where the 2nd compression station will be built.
A support rally was held in Union Hill on the land own by the Harper family, a family of freemen.
Women involved in the struggle, they are all from Union Hill.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will not continue, though iLCP’s work to tell the story will. The ACP is not the only pipeline currently being contested in the region nor is the project completely off the table. Although farther along in its construction, a nearby pipeline known as the Mountain Valley Pipeline, faces many of the same concerns that ultimately led to the downfall of the ACP. Many people are becoming resigned to the Mountain Valley Pipeline as a done deal; however the same was said about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline may hold important lessons for communities hoping to oppose similar projects. By sharing the stories of the communities that stood their ground along the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the project can serve as a source of inspiration and hope for the people that are still fighting pipelines in their communities. The ACP is an important reminder that when communities bind together for what they believe in, there is always hope for change.   

Nelson and Buckingham counties in Virginia are part of the pathway for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project funded predominately by Dominion energy company. The pipeline will go through areas of natural beauty but also of unstable geology. Many of the locals fear damage will be done to the water (everyone is on well water, including the business), the air, the economy and the general sense of community. The project has been on the books for years, keeping everyone in a state of limbo. The three compressor stations for this pipeline will be built in underserved and minority communities.
Union Hill, a historical black community initially settled by freemen is where the 2nd compression station will be built.
Ella Rose’s home is the closest to the compression station. She lives 150 feet from Dominion property line. She moved there to be near her brother who lives across the street. As evening falls she looks towards where the compression is going to be built. She has no idea what her future will be as she spent her savings to buy this property. She is retired food service worker.

Winning at What Cost? Ethical Considerations for Wildlife and Nature Photo Contests

April 04, 2020 10:49 AM
by / Topics: Ethics, Photojournalism, Wildlife / Comments Off on Winning at What Cost? Ethical Considerations for Wildlife and Nature Photo Contests

By iLCP Staff Member Brooke McDonough and Associate Fellow Doug Gimesy

In the competitive field of nature and wildlife photography, it appears that the staging of wildlife to produce a competition-winning image has become more frequent, and in some competitions, rewarded. We have seen, for example, instances where two animals are artificially placed near or touching one another, or the posing of animals in unusual ways and live baiting – all of which can unjustifiably cause stress and anxiety to the wildlife in question.

This behavior on one level is understandable (if not generally justifiable), in the world of social media where the desire to create sensational images to get ‘likes’, and be liked, is sometimes fierce.

However, supporting and rewarding such behavior for the simple outcome of winning a competition is ethically hard to justify, as staging wildlife can come with significant risks.

The dangers of staging wildlife in photography for no greater purpose than to achieve an eye-catching, competition winning image, are three-fold: direct negative animal welfare impacts, normalizing the view that manipulation is generally acceptable, and potentially misrepresenting reality.

Direct negative animal impacts
Firstly, staging an image means manipulating the animal and possibly its surrounds. This has potential negative consequences to the animals’ wellbeing and includes:

  1. physical impacts (e.g. resulting from the animal struggling to move/escape whilst being restrained or positioned for the shoot),
  2. mental wellbeing impacts – which can range from stress to anxiety from being confined and/or handled, and used as live bait,
  3. potential short-term and long-term behavioral impacts (e.g. becoming accustomed to human interaction, being fed etc.)

All these impacts are much more likely to occur without the guidance of a wildlife expert and someone whose primary concern is for the welfare of the animal.

ii) Normalization
Secondly, staging wildlife for a competition image poses the danger of normalizing the view that it’s acceptable to use wildlife simply as a means to a creative or egotistical end, nothing more.

iii) Misrepresenting reality (i.e. deception)
Finally, staging wildlife presents the danger of misrepresenting reality. Of course, this concern can be overcome if what is staged is actually seen in the wild, or by full disclosure and accurate captioning, however considering the direct impacts and dangers of normalization already explained, it’s usually hard to justify.

With all of this, it is not to suggest that staging of wildlife to create images has no place and may never be justifiable. For example, in the creation of images for educational purposes, or in raising awareness about an important issue (where the image could not reasonably be expected to be captured in the wild, or would produce other negative impacts). However even in these instances, animal welfare considerations and consequences must always be paramount, along with full disclosure about the conditions under which the image was captured.

As members of an international organization of conservation photographers and filmmakers, we have dedicated ourselves to supporting conservation and animal welfare through ethical photography and filmmaking. In doing this, part of the nature of conservation and wildlife storytelling must be putting the best interests of the animal, the species and the environment, as central pillars to what we do. As such we suggest the following:

i) Guidelines:
All wildlife photo contests should have in place guidelines that:

  1. Disqualify images that stage wildlife or any behavior that has the potential to injure or distress an animal or its habitat.
  2. Disqualify images that use baiting (especially live baiting)
  3. Provide full and honest captioning and metadata that includes
    • disclosing conditions under which the photograph was made
    • considerations given to any potential negative wildlife impacts

We note and applaud the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for having the following in place:

“Entrants are not permitted to submit images that …. portray captive or restrained animals, animal models, and/or any other animal being exploited for profit unless for the purposes of reporting on a specific issue regarding the treatment of animals by a third party”

“Entrants are required to report on the natural world in a way that is both creative and honest”

“Entries must not deceive the viewer or attempt to disguise and/or misrepresent the reality of nature”

“Caption information supplied must be complete, true and accurate”

“Entrants must not do anything to injure or distress an animal or damage its habitat in an attempt to secure an image……an animal’s welfare must come first.”

ii) Judging committee
All photography competitions where wildlife images may be submitted should consist of a jury which comprises at least:

  1. One experienced wildlife photographer who can speak to potential image capture considerations
  2. One naturalist/biologist that can speak to any animal welfare and related ethical considerations

Images have the power to create understanding, engage empathy, connection and catalyze people into action.

Organizations that host photography competitions, however, have the potential to not only engage many people in wildlife, but influence those who take photographs and the large audience they reach.

Because of this, they have great responsibility to ensure their impact (driven by what is accepted or rewarded) is not negative to wildlife or a species in any way. Photography competitions which include wildlife and nature categories, or accept images of wildlife within the competition, should really only reward those people who also hold the highest ethical standards for honesty, professional practices, animal welfare, and empathy to wildlife.

Fortunately, most leading international photo contests include some guidelines to protect animal welfare and ensure what is captured is honest and a true reflection of the situation. Sadly though, there are still many that do not.

As such, we feel strongly that such guidelines must be added and we urge all photography contests to review their processes and ensure that policies are put in place so there is no danger that either: (i) wildlife, a species, the environment, or the profession of wildlife and nature photography may be negatively impacted by the running of the competition, and (ii) NO STAGING of wildlife be allowed. The organizations that run these contests, the field of wildlife and nature photography as a whole, and our wildlife will be better for it.

PHOTOS “Small penguin, big city” “This took 120 hours to capture.” – Doug Gimesy
Photo by Doug Gimesy, Winner, People’s Choice – Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year 2017. 

Unstaged photo by Peter Mather, Winner: 2018 Big Picture 1st Place – Terrestrial Wildlife
“An Arctic Fox licks its’ lips after feeding on a frozen caribou carcass. This photo simply required luck and patience. I was snowmobiling across the Alaskan tundra in winter, when I caught a small movement out of the corner of my eye. When I stopped, I couldn’t see anything in the great white plains stretching for 20 miles before me. Looking closer, I saw the white ears of an Arctic Fox about 50 metres away. He was shy and tucked away in the snow. I shut off my snowmobile and simply waited to see what he would do. After 5 minutes, he got up and started digging in the snow. Over the next 2 hours, I slowly slide on my belly getting closer and closer, photographing him and talking to him as I moved. I always talk to my wildlife subjects and let them know when i’m going to move, to ensure I don’t startle them. Eventually, I was able to photograph the fox from 5 feet away as he fed on a caribou carcass. In the end, he fell asleep in front of me.” – Peter Mather

Unstaged photo by Peter Mather, World Press Photo – 2020 Nominee for Nature Stories
“A grizzly bear is captured by a camera trap as it peers into a wolverine snow hole. I was working with some biologists on Alaska’s North Slope on a long term project telling the story of Alaska’s wolverines and their relationship with snow in an era of climate change. I really wanted to get a photo of a wolverine entering one of their snow holes, but I had to do it in a way that wouldn’t impact the wolverine, which is tricky, because sticking a remote camera trap in one of their snow holes can be a very invasive act. We needed to find a way to do it, that wouldn’t impact the wolverine. One day, while doing wolverine surveys with the biologist we found a series of 6 wolverine snow holes in a very small area on a frozen river. We figured that the wolverine had found some fish trapped in a small pocket of water under the ice, as it had clearly been in the area for a number of days. I thought, this is the perfect location, because the wolverine has 6 access holes, so if it doesn’t like the camera it can simply use a different hole and if it doesn’t mind the camera, then i’ll get my shot. Unfortunately for me, this Grizzly Bear showed up shortly after we set the camera, he ruined my photo (kidding) and chased the wolverine away.” – Peter Mather

From Wild to Captive: A Call for Ethics in Modern Nature Photography by iLCP Associate Fellow Melissa Groo
National Geographic: How to photography wildlife ethically by iLCP Associate Fellow Melissa Groo
Audubon: Ethics – a compilation of various articles

Additional article on wildlife ethics and staging
PBS News hour: When whimsical wildlife photography isn’t what it seems
BBC news: Wildlife photo competition disqualifies ‘stuffed anteater’ image
The Guardian: Wildlife photographer of the year stripped of his award

Views from the Photo Desk: Uncloaking the Mystery of Bats

October 10, 2019 09:54 AM
by / Topics: Photojournalism, Wildlife / 2 Comments »

Views from the Photo Desk is a monthly selection of captivating images from the iLCP Image Bank curated by our Visual Assets Coordinator.

Bats are one of the most mysterious and least understood groups of mammals.

Bats provide a valuable service to people – the main prey of many bat species is insects including mosquitoes, beetles, moths, and crop pests. To gain the energy needed to nurse their young, female bats can eat the equivalent of their body weight in insects each night. Having a lifespan of 5 to 20 years and raising only one pup per summer (some species have twins), bats are loyal and will return to the same roost every year.

In the nation’s capital of Washington DC, near where iLCP is headquartered, bats are monitored and inspected for Washington DC’s wildlife monitoring program. Washington DC is home to seven bat species and two of which are listed as either threatened or endangered. iLCP Senior Fellow, Krista Schlyer, documented theses processes to protect these ecologically important animals.

Big brown bat captured for a health inspection for Washington DC’s wildlife monitoring program.

Big brown bat captured for a health inspection for Washington DC’s wildlife monitoring program.

Big brown bat captured for a health inspection for Washington DC’s wildlife monitoring program.

Big brown bat captured for a health inspection for Washington DC’s wildlife monitoring program. Fort Dupont.

Big brown bat captured for a health inspection for Washington DC’s wildlife monitoring program.

View our complete image gallery or email images@ilcp.com for partnerships or licensing information.

From all of us at iLCP we want to wish you a happy Halloween!

What are our Fellows doing? September 2019

October 10, 2019 09:02 AM
by / Topics: Photojournalism, What are our Fellows doing? / Comments Off on What are our Fellows doing? September 2019

Alex Wiles recently finished the Jackson Wild Media Lab at the Jackson Wild Summit. He was one of just 16 participants that were selected out of over 650 international applicants.

iLCP Affiliate Jaymi Heimbuch and Sebastian Kennerknecht taught a seven day conservation photography workshop intensive in Moss Landing, California. The students learned what is involved in telling a conservation photography story from start to finish.

Luciano Candisani had a story in bioGraphic and was interviewed for the “Behind the Lens” section in Ocean Geographic.

Katie Schuler won two awards at the Jackson Wild Film Festival. Her film “Nigerians fight to protect the world’s most trafficked mammal” won Best Conservation Film – short form. Her other film “Where Life Begins” won Best People and Nature Film – short form.  “Where Life Begins” was filmed during the 2018 iLCP Expeditions to Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Clay Bolt’s image of the Wallace’s Giant Bee is featured in the October issue of National Geographic Magazine. This is the first known image of the species with its nest. It was photographed in North Maluku, Indonesia.

Amy Gulick was a keynote speaker at the Alaska World Arts Festival in Homer, Alaska in September. She gave a presentation on her new book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind, at the Islands & Ocean Visitor Center of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. In October, her large format exhibit based on her book will be featured in Washington DC at a reception for the U.S. Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus to honor members of Congress who are salmon champions and to celebrate the International Year of the Salmon. For this event she is collaborating with SalmonState and Wild Salmon Center, advocacy organizations working to protect wild salmon, their habitat, and the ways of life they allow people to live.

Doug Gimesy’s portrait of adventure, author, and environmental campaigner Tim Jarvis AM, will be exhibited in Australia’s National Portrait Gallery in their permanent gallery. Tim is founder of  25zero – a project that uses dramatic images of melting glaciers and stories of people being affected by their decline to ‘show’ climate change, engage new people in the issue, and also fund climate change projects. Doug’s hope is that by getting conservation and environment related images into more mainstream places, it will help engage people who may not normally be deeply interested in this critical issue.

In July, Chris Linder photographed how native communities have been impacted by climate change for the World Wildlife Fund. The first publication resulting from that work was a contribution to a larger online photo essay about climate change in The Guardian that also featured work by James Morgan.

Jasper Doest worked with Keen on a project supporting children’s literacy in Nepal; he produced an article on the topic.

Matthew Cicanese has a fine art exhibition called “Earth Up Close” displayed at the Tampa International Airport.
For the third consecutive year Diana Caballero is publishing a photographic calendar of native bees of Mexico. Each year she donates 8% of sales to an organization linked to conservation and restoration of rainforests and tropical forests in Veracruz, Mexico.

Between September 20th and January 10th Esther Horvath will be on MOSAiC expedition as the official photographer and communication manager on board. She had a National Geographic article published documenting the training for this expedition. She also had images published in the New York Times discussing the expedition. Esther also had another article published in the September issue of National Geographic Magazine.

Joan de la Malla is crowdfunding for his first book: HIDDEN STORIES. The book will use a novel approach that involves the reader in an active decision-making process.

Throughout October, Jason Edwards will be delivering presentations in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane about his role in storytelling, travel, and conservation photography for National Geographic.

Robert Glenn Ketchum continues his long-term work on the No Pebble Mine campaign in partnership with the NRDC.

Photography for Conservation: Join us in London!

October 10, 2019 11:46 AM
by / Topics: Events, Photojournalism, Science, Traps and Remotes, Underwater, Watersheds, What are our Fellows doing?, Wildlife / Comments Off on Photography for Conservation: Join us in London!

We are thrilled to present an event hosted jointly by the IC Environmental Society, the International League of Conservation Photographers, the Grantham Institute, the Natural History Museum of London, Wildscreen UK and IC Photosoc.

Three brilliant conservation photographers will join us at Imperial College to speak about their work using the power of photography in the fight for our planet; unifying scientific background and artistic prowess to perfect science communication and provoke conservation change.

Join us in London on October 17th! Reserve your FREE ticket here!

Our three presenters are iLCP Associate Fellows: Sebastian Kennerknecht, Joan de la Malla, and Michel Roggo!

There are forty species of wild cats in the world. They require large tracts of habitat to survive and can therefore serve as umbrella species — save them and you save all the other animals living within their ecosystem. The big cats, including lions and leopards are often used by conservation organizations for this purpose; an effective conservation strategy, but one that is short-sighted. This talk given by Sebastian Kennerknecht will introduce some of the lesser-known small cats and demonstrate why their conservation is just as important as their more familiar cousins.
Photography plays a key role in conservation of the environment. Not only does it provide valuable documentation, photography is the most universal of languages, and when used well, it can resonate stronger than any other media form. However, not all images can contribute to conservation nor can all images do so in the same way or with the same intensity. In this talk, Joan de la Malla will be speaking about providing the maximum conservation impact through his photography, and his thoughts on why and how certain images serve this purpose.
“We know what coral reefs look like, but what about the creeks, streams, lakes and ponds on our doorstep?” With more than a hundred expeditions behind him and the support of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Swiss photographer Michel Roggo has embarked on an ambitious project, “The Freshwater Project.” In 7 years he photographed forty different and spectacular freshwater environments across the globe from migrating Salmon in Alaska to Lake Baikal in Siberia, the deepest and largest lake in the world. In this talk, Michel will be speaking about The Freshwater Project extended, continuing his work bringing the world’s attention to freshwater habitats.

It’s going to be an incredible event, we hope to see you there!

Conservation Win! The Peel Watershed is Protected

August 08, 2019 12:42 PM
by / Topics: Freshwater, Landscapes, People and Culture, Photojournalism, Watersheds / Comments Off on Conservation Win! The Peel Watershed is Protected

The Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan was signed August 2019, protecting the Peel Watershed!

The Peel Watershed is a large (over 24,000 square miles) and remote area located in the North-East of Canada’s Yukon Territory. It consists of 6 major rivers that all merge into the Peel, which then flows into the Mackenzie River and ultimately into the Arctic Ocean. The Yukon’s Peel River Watershed is one of the largest and most beautiful undeveloped natural areas left in North America. It is also home to several First Nations communities who have inhabited these lands for millennia. However industrial development and mining threatened to fragment this stunning landscape and harm its delicate ecological balance. There are 8,431 active mineral claims in the Peel Watershed, of which a staggering 6,773 were staked after the Peel Land Use Plan process began in 2009. Not surprisingly, the first step for any major development in the Peel would have been building roads and perhaps even a railway. Such infrastructure would have fragmented this stunning, unbroken landscape and harmed the ecological balance as they would foster a proliferation of resource extraction projects.

The 18-day Peel River Expedition down the Wind and Peel Rivers in Yukon, Canada. Part of an expedition organized by the international League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWs) to Protect the Peel. Expedition members Andy Maser, Peter Mather, Tomo Uemura, Kate Weekes, and Dona Novasky. Images also shot in the Gwich’in community of Fort MacPherson of first nations (aboriginal people) using the land in a traditional way to gather foods. The Gwich’in are working hard to protect their traditional lands, as they depend on them for the cultural and subsistence lifestyle.
Dall sheep, one of many animals that call this critical wilderness watershed home. These dall sheep, were surprisingly receptive to people….most sheep in the watershed don’t let you get within 1 kilometer of them. This group are used to paddlers and let us approach and photograph. ©Peter Mather / iLCP

In 2014, iLCP partnered with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – Yukon Chapter to provide the visual assets needed to ensure the area’s protection. The photos served to increase awareness of the area locally, nationally and internationally, to educate the Yukon public and stakeholders, and to lobby with the necessary authorities.


Thousands of canoeist paddle the tributaries of the Peel River every year, seeking solitude, wilderness and adventure. Kate Weekes and Dona Novacosky float over the aquamarine colored waters of the Wind River.. The wilderness provides a relief from hectic city life for thousands of paddlers every year. Kate stands to get a better view of the upcoming rapids. ©Peter Mather / iLCP

What does the final plan look like?

  • 55% permanent protection, called Special Management Areas

  • 25% interim protection, called Wilderness Areas

  • 3% interim protection for threatened boreal caribou, called Wilderness Areas-Boreal Caribou

  • 17% open to various levels of development

In total the Peel will have 83% protection! That’s 55,858 square kilometers of new protected areas in the Yukon! 

Check out some more images from the iLCP expedition, or view the full journey!

Many of these images were taken at the Midway Music Festival a cultural gathering for the Gwichin of the Mackenzie Delta. Gwich’in who depend on the Peel for their subsistence lifestyle. Many people live on the banks of the Peel River getting their year’s fish supply and drying it in their traditional smokehouses.
Tony Alexie is cleaning a freshly killed Canadian Goose. He burns the feathers off in a fire, before cooking the goose over coals to provide lunch for everyone. He is carrying on with traditional subsistence living on the Peel River. His ancestors have hunted goose along this river for thousands of years. ©Peter Mather / iLCP

Pacific Loons nest throughout the Peel Watershed and specifically in the Turner Wetlands…a world-renowned wetland that supports tens of thousands of waterfowl. ©Peter Mather / iLCP

Thousands of canoeist paddle the tributaries of the Peel River every year, seeking solitude, wilderness and adventure. Tomohiro Uemura plays with the water during a long day of canoeing on the Peel River. ©Peter Mather / iLCP

Thousands of canoeist paddle the tributaries of the Peel River every year, seeking solitude, wilderness and adventure. Dona Novacosky and Kate Weekes paddle through the Peel Canyon, a beautiful cathedral of rocks that tower hundreds of meters above the river. ©Peter Mather / iLCP


What are our Fellows doing? July 2019

August 08, 2019 01:23 PM
by / Topics: Assignments, Ethics, Events, Photojournalism, What are our Fellows doing? / Comments Off on What are our Fellows doing? July 2019

Esther Horvath’s work on Station Nord was featured in National Geographic.

Katie Schuler has two Jackson Wild award nominations  for her films “Nigerians fight to protect the world’s most trafficked mammal” and “Where Life Begins.”

Jen Guyton’s photo of a pangolin was featured in BioGraphic.

Kyle Obermann gave a TEDx talk in Chengdu, China about conservation and photography.

In 2017 Doug Gimesy helped establish and then chaired The Victorian Alliance for Platypus-Safe Yabby (crustacean) Traps. Its mission was to prevent the indiscriminate cruel drowning deaths of platypuses that occurred via the (often illegal) use of enclosed yabby (crustacean) traps. After nearly 2 years work, as of 1st July, 2019, the use of these type of nets was banned throughout Victoria, helping protect not only platypus, but other air-breathing freshwater aquatic animals as well.

Doug also had a feature piece in this the July issue of BBC Wildlife magazine on the platypus.

Shane Gross is heading out with Greenpeace to the Sargasso Sea off Bermuda to document the seaweed as a critical habitat to baby sea turtles and many others being harmed by plastic pollution and commercial shipping traffic.

Clay Bolt was the keynote speaker at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s Wild America Nature Festival, which was held in Panama, New York.

Karine Aigner recently wrapped up a Kids Conservation Photography Workshop in London where six students worked with The Fox Project, a UK nonprofit that rescues foxes.  The students were working on the ground with the organization and put together photo stories. She also had a story published in National Geographic and just finished a story with Audubon magazine on the Florida Burrowing Owl to be published soon.

Carlton Ward and Mac Stone have a video and photo story of the pollination of the elusive Ghost Orchid in National Geographic.

Amy Gulick recently spoke at the 10th anniversary of Bearfest in Wrangell, Alaska. Amy gave a presentation about her new book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind, which explores the web of relationships among people and wild salmon in Alaska. Her book also received a coveted starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

Francisco Márquez is the CEO of The Living Med project, with which he is photographing and filming the extraordinary biodiversity of the Mediterranean basin. On his  new website you can see their goals, team and the work they are doing (photography, video, virtual reality).

He is also collaborating as a filmmaker with the Spanish NGO GREFA in his AQUILA a-LIFE project, dedicated to the conservation of the Bonelli Eagle in the western Mediterranean. This raptor has drastically reduced its population in the last decade due to power lines (where they are electrocuted), habitat loss, poaching and poisons. The project carried out by GREFA began in 2018 and will last 5 years, for which Francisco Márquez will make a video every year about the main actions carried out. The 2018 video is now live.

Morgan Trimble’s feature ‘Saved by Safaris’ about how tourism can help fund conservation in Africa is on newstands in the summer issue of Earth Island Journal and online.

Daniel Beltrá was interviewed in a podcast that aired last month.

Ronan Donovan had an article published in National Geographic on arctic wolves.

Robert Glenn Ketchum has continued his long-term work on the No Pebble Mine campaign in partnership with the NRDC. He frequently blogs on the topic and recently released and ad in the New York Times with the NRDC. 

WiLD about Conservation

August 08, 2019 03:37 PM
by / Topics: Events, Multimedia, Photojournalism, Wildlife / Comments Off on WiLD about Conservation

Join us for an evening of incredible tales, stunning imagery, and conservation stories from iLCP award-winning photographers and filmmakers. This event is open to the public and will include a number of speakers from iLCP and a moderated panel with audience Q&A. iLCP Fellows are the world’s best conservation photographers and filmmakers who use storytelling to further environmental and cultural conservation. During this event they will speak on the perseverance, passion and patience required for their projects. This is an evening you won’t want to miss!

The event is happening on Friday, September 20, 2019 from 7:00PM – 9:00PM at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, WY.

Tickets are on sale now and must be purchased in advance so be sure to get your ticket today!

Our speakers have incredible experiences pursuing conservation stories. Find out what it’s like to film pangolins and educate the public on poaching, travel the globe to film the Netfilx series Our Planet, or spend time in Australia working on platypus conservation!