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Lois Epstein and Karlin Itchoak

Winners of the 2020 Constellation Prize for Biodiversity and Indigenous Rights

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Acknowledging their work on Biodiversity and Indigenous Rights, the Constellation Prize recognizes Lois Epstein (above left), Engineer & Arctic Program Director at The Wilderness Society (TWS), and TWS's Alaska State Director Karlin Itchoak (above right).


In response to The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which opened the 1.56 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain to oil and gas development, Epstein collaborated with an industry colleague familiar with North Slope oil development and consulted with TWS’s cartographer MArty Schnure and other experts to create a map showing the likely extent of development under the law.


"Sprawling oil development would have a strongly negative impact on the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the Gwich’in people, and the coastal plain ecosystem in general” said Karlin Itchoak, the Alaska State Director of TWS. The Gwich’in people know the coastal plain as “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins) and depend on the Porcupine Caribou for their subsistence and way of life. Itchoak noted, 

“Lois’s engineering expertise was essential to creating the technically-sound oil development map, which appeared during a 2019 US House of Representatives hearing. This work helped ensure changes to the final Environmental Impact Statement’s infrastructure assumptions.”

For details on the work Lois and Karlin lead, click hereTo experience the beauty of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge simply look below.


top picture: Caribou in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain where the 2017 Tax Act allows oil drilling (credit: Moe Witschard); bottom right: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Coastal Plain (credit: Lois Epstein); bottom left: Robert Thompson (left), an Iñupiaq wilderness guide who lives in the native village of Kaktovik, and Karlin Itchoak, Alaska State Director for TWS (right) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge during the summer of 2020.

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