Archive for January, 2014

Wilderness Forever Semi-Finalist Selections

Friday, January 17th, 2014
Wilderness Forever Semi-Finalist Selections

On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law. The law would establish the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and create the highest classification of protection for Federal public lands – “wilderness.” It recognized wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It further defined wilderness – for purposes of the NWPS – as an area “retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

Currently, there are 757 wilderness areas in the NWPS – over 109 million acres in 44 states, totaling only about 5% of the total land area of the United States.  The largest addition of acreage to the national wilderness system came in 1980, with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Then, President Jimmy Carter added over 56 million acres in national park and national wildlife refuge lands to the NWPS. Today, Alaska’s share of wilderness constitutes some 56% of the total acreage of the NWPS.

So, when Nature’s Best Photography magazine announced that it was conducting a photo competition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, I knew I would have an advantage given my own photography of wilderness areas in Alaska. My two chief photography projects in the last six years have involved two wilderness areas: Lake Clark Wilderness and Gates of the Arctic Wilderness. So, when the call came out for submissions to the “Wilderness Forever” competition, I looked to my images from those two areas. Why? Both included some of my most recent wilderness photography work, and they included areas that would not likely be included in submissions by other photographers.

I learned this week that five of my images – three from Lake Clark and two from Gates of the Arctic  – have been selected as semi-finalists in the Wilderness Forever competition. As an interesting side note, the three Lake Clark images were all taken during the same trip to the Twin Lakes region in June 2013, and all of the Gates of the Arctic images were from the same trip in early March 2010. Out of 5,500 submissions, they narrowed down the pool to 300 images in the semi-final round of judging. Winning images will be included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  Here’s hoping for a trip to D.C. for the exhibit opening in September!

Feature in National Parks Magazine

Friday, January 17th, 2014
Feature in National Parks Magazine

In December 1980, in the final days of his administration, President Jimmy Carter signed into law what is commonly known as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). A work in progress for nearly a decade, since the 1971 passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, ANILCA is perhaps the most significant single piece of conservation legislation in the history of this country. In a post-ANILCA world, Alaska now possesses approximately 70% of all national park lands in the United States and some 85% of national wildlife refuge lands. In a related note, Alaska now possesses some 56% of all lands designated as wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Aside from creating several entirely new national parks and expanding the boundary of some existing parks, as well as creating several new national wildlife refuges, Title VIII of ANILCA also established a rural subsistence priority for the harvest of fish and wildlife on federal public lands in Alaska. What exactly does that mean? Let’s break that down into a few components.  First, the term “subsistence” refers to a traditional way of life where primary food sources are fished, caught, hunted or gathered – everything from the traditional gillnet harvest of salmon to collecting berries, eggs and edible plants, to the hunting of moose and caribou. Second, Congress indicated that the term “rural” would refer to those smaller communities and remote locations that were places other than the larger urban areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and some other communities. Third, the “priority” would be in place in those times where there is a shortage of the resource and decisions need to be made as to who gets the first (or only) opportunity to harvest – commercial and sport users would have to give way to the subsistence harvest of rural residents. Finally, the “federal public lands” would include most of those new lands created in ANILCA (but exclude the core original parts of some of those existing parks that were expanded, like Denali and Katmai).

In its Winter 2014 issue of National Parks, the National Parks Conservation Association has published an article highlighting the impact of ANILCA on the subsistence way of life for rural Alaskans. I am pleased to note that three of my images, including the opening double-page spread, are included in the article.  All of the images were captured in or near Lake Clark National Park & Preserve and were captured as part of the fieldwork for my upcoming book, “Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.”

 

Media coverage of EPA’s final Bristol Bay watershed assessment

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Media coverage of EPA's final Bristol Bay watershed assessment

Normally, I would use this blog to engage in my own reflections on photography or tell stories about being out in the field.  But, with the release of the EPA’s Final Assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed assessment, I think I will just sit back and reflect on the extensive coverage being offered by other sources.

Before allowing you to examine the coverage yourself, I will add one point of criticism.  I am sick and tired of “He Said, She Said” reporting; that is, when a reporter merely regurgitates what one side says and what the other side says about an issue. This is particularly true regarding the release of this report, where you have an article saying the pro-Pebble side objects to the hypothetical mine scenario and the EPA says is relied on a Northern Dynasty preliminary mine design.  Why the heck don’t these reporters actually look at the Northern Dynasty report for themselves and conduct their own analysis? Grrrr.

 

Bristol Bay salmon: EPA warns of threat from mining

Christian Science Monitor 
A government report indicates a large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could have devastating effects on the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and adversely affect Alaska Natives, whose culture is built around salmon.
 

EPA Says Northern Dynasty Pebble Project May Harm Alaska Salmon

Bloomberg
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (NDM)’s proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Alaska may threaten the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency final assessment. Depending on the project’s size and 
 

EPA sees damage to Bristol Bay if mining proceeds Hastings doc requests cost 

Politico 
With help from Darius Dixon, Erica Martinson and Talia Buford. EPA SEES DAMAGE TO BRISTOL BAY IF MINING PROCEEDS: Mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region has the potential to destroy miles of salmon stream habitat, disrupt Alaska Native 
 

Mine threatens salmon, native cultures: agency

Oman Daily Observer
Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of southwest Alaska, the US Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released on Wednesday. The EPA said a mine could 
 
 

EPA: Huge Alaska mine ‘poses risks’ to Bristol Bay salmon

Seattle Post Intelligencer (blog) 
An enormous open-pit copper and gold mine, proposed near headwaters of two salmon-rich rivers, “poses risks” to Bristol Bay’s half-billion-dollar sockeye salmon fishery, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a final assessment of the proposed 
 

EPA report criticizes Alaska mine plan

Los Angeles Times 
SEATTLE — The largest open-pit mine in North America, proposed for Alaska’s wild and remote Bristol Bay region, would have a devastating effect on the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery and the Alaska Natives and fishermen who depend on it, 
 

Alaska mine threatens salmon, native cultures -US agency

Reuters 
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of southwest Alaska, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released on Wednesday.
 

EPA Critical of Alaska Pebble Mine Project

Wall Street Journal 
WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency released its final report Wednesday on the potential effects of a proposed mining operation in Alaska’s Bristol Bay area, saying that the Pebble Mine could have “significant” adverse effects on salmon 
 
 

EPA: Mining would destroy fishery, villages, part of watershed in Alaska’s Bristol 

Washington Post
A large-scale mining operation in Alaska’s Bristol Bay would destroy a significant portion of the watershed, a pristine fishery that supports nearly half the world’s sockeye salmon and dozens of Native villages that have relied on fishing for thousands of years, 
 
 

Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region could be devastated by mining, EPA report finds

The Guardian 
Alaska mining A worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska. Photograph: AL Grillo/AP. A large-scale gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region would devastate the world’s 
 

Northern Dynasty Acknowledges Completion of EPA’s Flawed Bristol Bay 

Wall Street Journal
VANCOUVER, Jan. 15, 2014 /CNW/ – Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (TSX: NDM; NYSE MKT: NAK) (“Northern Dynasty” or the “Company”) acknowledges that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the final version of its Bristol Bay 
 
 

A big test for Obama on the environment

Washington Post
It’s now common knowledge that, with one party in the grip of climate denialism, the best chance for serious action on climate change during Obama’s second term will be using the federal bureaucracy via executive action. The EPA in particular is the key 
 

EPA: Large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could harm salmon 

Washington Post
JUNEAU, Alaska — EPA: Large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could harm salmon, Alaska Natives. Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. A worker 
 

1000+ sporting groups and businesses call on the EPA to follow the science and 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Jan. 16, 2014 /NEWS.GNOM.ES/ – Yesterday’s release by the Environmental Protection Agency of the final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment brought praise from a vast coalition of 1,048 sporting groups and businesses opposed to 
 

Grim Picture Painted by Final EPA Assessment of Mining in Bristol Bay

Hatch Magazine 
The long awaited final scientific assessment of the potential impacts from large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska was released earlier this week by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The pictured painted by the assessment is a 
 

EPA: “Alaska Gold” Mine a Threat to Salmon Fisheries

FRONTLINE 
A large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed area would endanger the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries and the Alaska Native communities that depend on them, according to a final assessment released this week by the 
 
 

EPA Says Pebble Mine Could Devastate Bristol Bay Salmon Fishery

Earth Island Journal 
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final study of the impacts of large-scale mining, including the proposed Pebble Mine, on Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The science is clear. Mining the Pebble deposit will have severe and lasting 
 

Pebble mine poses risks to Bristol Bay salmon, EPA concludes

FIS 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final Bristol Bay Assessment describing potential impacts to salmon and ecological resources from proposed large-scale copper and gold mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The report, titled An 
 
 

EPA: Pebble mine poses significant risk to salmon

Anchorage Daily News 
FILE- In this July 13, 2007 file photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska. An EPA report indicates a large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could have 
 

EPA: Mining Activity in Alaskan Watershed Harmful to Wildlife

National Journal 
An environmental assessment released Wednesday concludes that industrial-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed would endanger native species.(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images). Clare Foran. By Clare Foran · Follow on Twitter.
 

US EPA publishes ‘final chapter in very sad story’ – Northern Dynasty

Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly
TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The proponent of one of the largest undeveloped minerals resources left in the world, on Thursday said US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final version of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) was “really 
 
 

EPA Critique Of Pebble Copper-Gold Mine Draws Praise, Blame From 

International Business Times
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on a key scientific report that says a potential giant Alaskan copper and gold mine poses serious environmental and ecological threats. Environmentalists hailed the EPA document while industry 
 

Agency concludes mining would hurt Alaskan salmon

AgraNet
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that Alaskan salmon would suffer if a mine were to be dug in Bristol Bay. There is a large deposit of copper and gold in the Bristol Bay watershed, known as the Pebble Deposit. Northern Dynasty 
 
 

Climate Change Wakes the Dead, Big Blow to Alaska’s Pebble Mine, WV Water 

OnEarth Magazine 
Final assessment: The Environmental Protection Agency released its long-awaited assessment of the ecological impact of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay yesterday. Basically, the EPA says the massive pit mine would “erase” up to 94 miles 
 
 

EPA: Pebble Mine Means ‘Long-Term Risk To Salmon, Wildlife, And Native 

ThinkProgress 
This June. 12, 2003 photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows a stream flowing through the Bristol Bay, Alaska watershed. CREDIT: AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management. On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency released what 
 

Large-Scale Copper and Gold Mining In Bristol Bay Poses Major Risks, EPA Finds

Bloomberg BNA
Jan. 15 — A large-scale copper and gold mine operation in Bristol Bay, Alaska, poses significant near- and long-term risks to the region, an Environmental Protection Agency assessment released Jan. 15 found. The assessment found large-scale mining 
 

Jewelers, Fisherman Urge EPA to Safeguard Bristol Bay

Rapaport 
RAPAPORT… The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final report on Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, where the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine is located, and concluded that mineral extraction could have a devastating impact on 
 
 

Gold And Copper Mining Plan In Alaska Would Destroy The World’s Largest 

Business Insider 
Sockeye salmon are seen in Bristol Bay, Alaska, in an undated handout picture provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A large-scale gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region would devastate the world’s largest salmon fisheries, 
 
 

EPA: Alaska mine threatens salmon, native cultures

The Malay Mail Online
Sockeye salmon are seen in Bristol Bay, Alaska in an undated handout picture provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of 
 

Mining could devastate Bristol Bay region

Juneau Empire
In this July 13, 2007 file photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region near the village of Iliamma. An EPA report indicates a large-scale copper and gold mine in the Bristol Bay region could have devastating effects on the 
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Shooting Blind

Monday, January 13th, 2014
Shooting Blind

On the first day of shooting for a two-week trip to Hawaii, my camera had an accident. I was shooting incoming surf along the shore north of Kona on the Island of Hawaii, and I had my tripod standing within the surf line with my Nikon D800 mounted on top. I turned around briefly to grab a filter when I heard my friends with me let out a yelp. The outgoing surf had undermined the sand foundation under my tripod and it had fallen over into the wet sand with the back side of the camera down. Fortunately, it only fell onto wet sand and not into the water. I picked up my camera, saw that the power was still on.  But when I started to check the functions of the camera, I noticed a few things were lacking. Primarily, my LCD display was black. Without the LCD display, there are so many functions of the modern camera that are inaccessible. Primarily among them is the histogram display, the modern digital photographer’s way of confirming the exposure out in the field. Other functions often used were also out of reach: self-timer settings, mirror lockup for cleaning (that meant no cleaning my sensor during the trip), LiveView display, card formatting and the new treat of the D800, the digital horizon (a level check for the horizon).

The next morning, I also learned that I had also lost auto-focus and the ability to change out of aperture priority exposure mode. That meant it was going to be difficult to do any low light or nighttime photography. I could use my back up camera of a Nikon D700 to check exposure settings, but I would not be able to set the exposure manually in my D800.

We have all come so accustomed to the convenience of in-field review of the histogram on the LCD, it has become second-nature, even taken for granted, that we have that ability. So, what do you do when you have a digital camera that, for practical purposes, has aspects of an old film camera? You go old school.

The first thing I did was remind myself of how familiar I am with my camera and what it was capable of with each lens. It pays to be out in the field a lot so you know your camera’s abilities inside and out. Knowing how my camera handled light made it easier to start with the right settings, right lenses, and right filters to do the work.  That is basic camera and exposure knowledge that every photographer should have, regardless of the type of camera they are using. But to make sure that I had the exposure I wanted – many of the locations I shot on the trip would be visited only once so I had to get it right – I did something I have not done in years: I bracketed. But unlike how I used to bracket with my film cameras when I was much earlier in my career, I bracketed minimally and confirmed my exposure at the end of the day when downloading.

The other technique I used during bright mid-day, sunny shooting was also an old film technique for ensuring exposure: I employed the Sunny F/16 Rule. Essentially, for shooting in bright, mid-day sunny light, this rule says that when shooting at f/16, your shutter speed will be the same as your film speed, or, in digital terms, your ISO. So, when shooting at 100 ISO, your film speed is 1/100 (or 1/125), when at 200 ISO, then 1/200 (or 1/250), and so on.

After two weeks of shooting on the Island of Hawaii and on Kauai, I proved that I could survive despite lacking these modern tools that we take for granted.  Of course, as soon as I get home, I am contacting Nikon Professional Services to set up a priority repair order on my Nikon D800. And calling my insurance carrier.