Pixabay

Today, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge faces daunting challenges, from oil drilling to rapid climate change.

Almost 10 years ago, in the summer of 2005, I attended an outdoor-writing conference that included a silent auction as part of its activities. I had never participated in such an event before, had absolutely no experience in bidding and assumed I wouldn’t be interested in any of the items—much less in guessing what value I should put on any of them.

With some time to spare before my next scheduled session, I decided to wander among the many tables that were covered with various pieces of outdoor clothing, binoculars, fishing gear, and canoeing and kayaking supplies. A book happened to catch my eye; it was titled Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, a Photographic Journey, written by Subhankar Banerjee.

In the refuge, Arctic foxes, such as this one, are being forced to deal with increased competition from red foxes that are moving farther north due to warming temperatures. ©Eric Rock

I had never heard of the 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before, but as a fan of cold and remote places, I picked the book up and thumbed through its glossy pages. The images of faraway glaciers, unnamed lakes, neon northern lights and shaggy caribou transported me, for the moment, away from the numerous white tablecloths and plentiful people milling about the room. The place I was seeing on the flat pages seemed more real, briefly, than the three-dimensional spot I was standing in.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for Arctic hares. ©Eric Rock

Even though I knew that it was highly unlikely that I would ever see in person this remote and inaccessible region, I bid on that book that day. And ever since, it’s been important to me to know that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is and always will still be there.

If, like me, you have a place that strikes a chord in your heart—even though you may never see it—watch the two short videos below. The first, from the Alaska Wilderness League, will familiarize you with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In the second, President Obama explains why he would like to designate the refuge as a “Wilderness” and reminds us why such places are important.

As for my bid? A week after the conference ended, I had a new book to add to my library.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,

Candy