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Celebrating 30 Years Of Marriage By Protecting The Arctic Refuge

This year, Thea Levkovitz and Rand Little will celebrate their 30-year wedding anniversary, a joyous occasion. At the same time, they remain focused on the serious threats facing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a place near and dear to their hearts.

By: Thea Levkovitz

This year Rand and I will celebrate our 30-year wedding anniversary, a joyous occasion. Yet, we cannot help but remain focused on the tragic threats facing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a place we hold near and dear to our hearts.

You see, after more than 58 years of protection, Congress slipped a provision into the 2017 tax bill to open our nation’s largest wildlife refuge to oil drilling. Those who know me know that I have worked tirelessly along with stalwart colleagues to protect the 1.5 million acres of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. For decades, we supported wilderness bills in Congress for the Arctic Refuge. Now we will have to protect the Arctic lease sale by lease sale, legal challenge by legal challenge.

If development moves forward, the cost will be high for the muskoxen, caribou, fish and the more than 200 species of birds that migrate thousands of miles to breed in these wild lands. Imagine thousands and thousands of caribou from the Porcupine Caribou Herd navigating a vast spaghetti-like network of pipelines, drill rigs and gravel roads to give birth in the one place they have done so for thousands of years.

Rand and I have seen first-hand the impacts of oil in pristine Alaska. Just a little more than a year after we were married and living in Prince William Sound, Alaska, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil. The months that followed were like none we have experienced then or since. While Rand worked tirelessly to protect millions of salmon babies, I traveled to villages to record the stories of the people who scooped up oil with their bare hands. I listened to hardened anglers cry while describing the hundreds of dead oiled birds and to Alaskan Natives describe the loss of the fish they depended for their winter subsistence.

During that spring of 1989, Orca whales died, eagles ate oiled birds, the herring fishery collapsed and entire villages lost their livelihood. Now even 29 years later, oil still seeps from the beaches. No one wants to see oil spilling from a pipeline onto the pristine lands of the Arctic.

As early as this summer, the first lease sales could be sold in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Rand and I are inviting you to join us in opposing these sales, and to help keep the drilling rigs out of this untouched landscape.

Here is how you can help:

Here is a list of birds that rely on the Arctic Refuge. Our friend Aaron Lang of Wilderness Birding Adventures will track every bird he sees during an upcoming journey on the Canning River and compile a log at the end of the birds they have seen.

This is where you come in:

  • Pick one, two or more birds on the list.
  • Pledge a donation in the amount of your choosing on this page – for each bird seen, you promise to contribute that amount.
  • For example, if you pledge $5 and provide a list of three birds, you contribute $5 for each of your birds seen along the trip. If all three of your birds are seen, that means a $15 donation.

Tundra Swan flying over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Arctic swan (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Sandhill cranes (Bob Howdeshell)

Semipalmated sandpiper (Fyn Kynd)

Alaska Wilderness League staff will track your submission, and when Aaron returns back in July, will report back with each of you (with pictures whenever available) on what birds were seen!

If you would prefer to contribute directly to the League as a 30th anniversary gift to Rand and I, you can also do so here.

Please give as generously as you can to help keep these special places free from drilling and pristine for many years to come. For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact League staff at membership@alaskawild.org or 202-544-5205.

Thank you!

Thea and Rand

PS: While circumstances did not allow us to participate in this year’s Canning River trip, we are eager for 2019 when we plan to visit this special place.


Thea Levkovitz is a botanist and a long-time advocate for public lands, specifically the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She and her husband, Rand, lived in the Alaskan bush in Prince William Sound. In the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Thea edited “The Day the Water Died: A Compilation of the November 1989 Citizens Commission Hearings on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.” Rand Little is a salmon biologist and avid fly fisher. Now retired, he coaches USSA Master’s ski racing at his local ski resort and travels throughout the west competing in races.