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Arctic Refuge topic of discussion

April E. ClarkVail, CO, Colorado
Jon Waterman / Special to the Post Independent
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CARBONDALE – For the last 22 years, author and adventurer Jon Waterman has traveled to the Arctic wilderness region of Alaska.He knows the land.He knows the climate.And he knows the plants and animals.During a free slide show at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Dos Gringos Burritos in Carbondale, Waterman will share what he knows and what he has seen in the 19.6-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He’ll talk about the National Geographic TV documentary about saving the landscape, scheduled to air in September.”I want people to know what a national treasure this is and how development would ruin this place,” said Waterman, of Missouri Heights.

And he’ll spotlight global warming and its effect on the refuge in the last of the Wilderness Workshop’s winter Wednesday Naturalist Nights. “The climate is changing, even the vegetation is changing,” Waterman said. “Global warming is very profound, and the changes are quite dramatic.Waterman said his slide show – featuring travels by foot, raft and kayak – is an up-close-and-personal look at the changes affecting the Arctic Refuge. He said he did not grasp the extent of the Earth’s climate changes in the area until he met with about two dozen scientists during his two-month trip last summer.”There’s a phenomenon called the greening of the Arctic, where all the shrubs are slowly marching northward,” he said. “There’s ground slumping … where there are whole sections of the tundra collapsing.”He also said animal species, such as a fish called the Arctic grayling, caribou, the endangered shaggy musk ox and the polar bear face extinction.”Everyone knows about the polar bear … but that’s one of more than a dozen species undergoing dramatic changes,” he said. “These changes take a lot of scientific analysis. A lot of my observations are anecdotal.”Along with global warming, the Arctic Refuge – often referred to as the American Serengeti – faces the threat of oil drilling on its 1.5-million acre Coastal Plain. In January, the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (H.R. 39) was introduced in Congress to permanently, and federally, protect the land.

Dave Reed, development director of Wilderness Workshop, which sponsors Waterman’s presentation, said the legislation is much needed.”It’s just barely been kept from being drilled, but now there’s legislation from the Democrats to prevent drilling from happening,” Reed said. “(Waterman’s) presentation is very good timing.”Waterman, a photographer and award-winning author of nine books, describes himself as an adventurer who has traveled the world since his teenage years. He’s trekked to Alaska for the last three decades – a place he once called home.”As an adventurer, and one who has done this for so long as I’ve done this – I’m 50 – you begin to feel debt to these places, that you should share these places,” he said. “The wildest place I’ve seen is the Arctic. People should be concerned about it. I will show people how they can make a difference and take action.”

Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601 aclark@postindependent.com.


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