Leave the Arctic Refuge Alone

A guest post by Maggie Sharp, San Francisco

I recently returned from a 10-day float down the beautiful Kongakut River. Our trip gave us plenty of time to hike in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and to experience the feeling of the place as well as the sights and sounds.

It is, quite simply, one of the most stunningly gorgeous places I’ve ever been! (I have traveled widely, both in the U.S.A. and abroad). With the exception of the Serengeti in East Africa, I have never seen so much wildlife in one place, and so much richness and stark beauty. We saw more than 60 species of plants in flower! Many of them were tiny, but their bright yellow, lavender, pink and white blooms created a lovely miniature garden in the soft moss and lichens.

We saw wild animals every day, including 5 grizzly bears, thousands of caribou, wolves, moose, foxes, ground squirrels, Dall sheep, a wolverine (!), and a lone musk ox on the flight into the valley. I was so thrilled to see them!

The birds were amazing. We saw bald and golden eagles, merlins, peregrine falcons, and many species of nesting shorebirds (such as spotted sandpipers and wandering tattlers). Several species of gulls were nesting along the river, and we were lucky enough to see the American dipper on her nest, and gorgeous red-breasted mergansers and Pacific loons with their chicks. Many migratory birds were taking advantage of the abundant seasonal food supply.

The Refuge is so rich and unspoiled, so WILD, that there is nothing left quite like it. Most of the world is so humanized and "developed" that there are few places where the creatures can roam freely. It would be a tragedy of the highest degree if this place was filled with drilling rigs and gravel pits, roads and truck parts. There is enough of this in the world already. Leave the Arctic Refuge alone!!