'We're not talking to the converted,' said Yukon photographer Peter Mather, about the Caribou Commons project. (submitted by Peter Mather)

ANWR protection a cause for Yukon photographer


ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, has been a target for oil and gas companies for decades.

Today, Donald Trump, in his address to fellow GOP members at a retreat in White Sulphur Springs, Virginia, added to the list of all his accomplishments, the opening of parts of the ANWR to oil and gas exploration.

“It deserved more debate”

Tagged onto the U.S. Republicans controversial tax reform bill, the ANWR issues were buried in the process before being passed in December.

For Peter Mather, an award-winning photographer based in Yukon, Canada, this is a tragedy.

He has followed the Porucpine herd of caribou closely. Their calving grounds are within the ANWR.

‘The caribou just hold something in your imagination,’ said Peter Mather, who has photographed the Porcupine herd up close. (Peter Mather)

“People didn’t really have a chance to debate this issue. It just doesn’t fit into the news cycle, with all the crazy things going around. And so it kind of got snuck into this strange budget bill,” Mather told CBC News.

“It deserved more debate.”

Mather has come up with a plan, however, and already it’s garnering a strong response.

Caribou Commons Project

“Our goal is to do eight expeditions this summer, and get 50 different storytellers — like writers, photographers, filmmakers — into the refuge and try to get that story, the stories they see in there, out to the general public in the U.S.,” he said.

“The caribou just hold something in your imagination.”

An aerial shot of a herd of caribou in the ANWR. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/AP)

Mather intends the Caribou Commons Project to generate about 100 stories, videos and exhibits targetted to 20 million people in the United States.

And, he says,”We’re shooting for alternative publications, where people haven’t heard about this issue. We’re not talking to the converted.”

Mather will be contacting niche publications such as Christian magazines.

“This is isn’t one of their core issues, and we want to bring it to them because we think they’re going to care about it, and help us out on this issue,” he said.

ANWR, on Alaska’s remote northern slope is a challenge to get to, and expensive.

It takes another flight, after the one to Fairbanks. But already the plans have doubled.

“We started out as four expeditions, and had room for maybe 25 people. And I’ve had to bring it up to eight expeditions,” Mather explained.

“I’ve had to turn away about 20 storytellers because I just can’t get everybody out there.”

Mather has a great affinity for those he calls the ‘caribou people’ who depend on the Porcupine herd.

“I think there’s lots of people telling this story in Canada. We’re trying to do something a little different, and reach a different audience.” 

(With files from CBC, Sandi Coleman and AP)

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Environment, International

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One comment on “ANWR protection a cause for Yukon photographer
  1. Peter Ashcroft says:

    Businessman Trump believes that natural resources are more important to his nation than wildlife retention.