After decades of battles with environmentalists, Republicans in Congress this week passed a tax bill—which President Donald Trump signed Friday—that lifts a long-standing ban on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photographer Florian Schulz has spent years documenting what’s at stake in this 19.6-million-acre expanse in Alaska’s northeast corner, where northern lights dance above, and no roads lead in or out.
From the salt marshes and river deltas along the coast to the mosses and sedges blanketing the central plain and the jagged peaks of the Brooks Range, ANWR is a wildlife paradise. Birds from six continents find their way here, including dunlins and yellow wagtails. Sandpipers, swans, and eiders nest in the tundra. There are moose and seals, Dall’s sheep, and pygmy shrews. In summer, as ANWR’s vegetation changes color and warmer weather brings hordes of mosquitoes, the Porcupine caribou herd clusters in groups of ten thousand or more and seeks relief from the bitter winds near the coast.
Attempts to find or retrieve the petroleum buried in ANWR could dramatically alter this fragile landscape. Drilling critics point to the roads and pipes and industrial infrastructure at nearby Prudhoe Bay, North America’s largest oil field. Since oil’s discovery there in 1967, Prudhoe Bay has produced 12.5 billion barrels, earning Alaska $141 billion. But a decade ago, more than 200,000 gallons of oil leaked onto frozen tundrafrom a corroded pipeline, sparking outrage even among oil-friendly congressional Republicans. Scientists also say Prudhoe Bay’s developmentchanged the behavior of another caribou herd, perhaps contributing to that herd’s decline.Protect Bears Ears @savebearsears 20 hours ago