After a week of dense wildfire smoke enveloping Fairbanks, cleaner air over the weekend was a relief, allowing people to participate safely in the 23rd Annual Run for the Refuge on Sunday, July 14. 218 runners and walkers, including several youth participants, took part in this year’s event. The run celebrates the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, currently facing the most severe threat of exploitation in its history. The run’s consistency over the decades is a testament to Fairbanksans’ continued support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1960.
The 5k/10k trail run/walk started at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Ski Hut at 1pm, and features a fun course along the UAF trails. Participants include serious competitive athletes, families with young children, casual runners, and a few canine friends. In the photo above, 5k winners Maria and Stian Stensland cross the finish line with their children.
This year’s t-shirt design features art by Apayuq Moore, whose work celebrates and defends her home region of Bristol Bay. She created this year’s featured art for the Northern Center to embody a the energy and light of Interior summer, and we love the look it gave this year’s run materials!
Arctic Refuge Background
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established for the purpose of conserving the diverse and thriving populations of plants and animals that call this place home, as well as to protect subsistence use by local people, and water quality and quantity. The narrow coastal plain supports vital caribou birthing and nursery grounds, polar bear dens, and migratory bird habitats. The Refuge has immeasurable ecological and cultural values, especially to the Gwich’in and Iñupiat people who have relied on the area for food sovereignty and cultural sustenance for countless generations. The Refuge also supports a prosperous and sustainable economy of ecotourism, guided hunting, recreation, and is a scientific benchmark in a time of rapid climate change.
The 2017 Tax Act included a provision to open the coastal plain to oil and gas leasing and exploitation, undoing this long legacy of stewardship and protection, and undermining the other purposes that have long stood for the management of this land. The administration’s attempt to rush through the process has been defined by its lack of transparency and procedural bungles. Still, many Alaskans remain committed to defending this ecologically rich region. The Run for the Refuge highlights the importance of protecting this place, now and for future generations.