Acacia Johnson

Photographer
    
Alaskan Brown Bears At Risk
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Nationality: USA
Biography: Acacia Johnson is a photographer and writer from Alaska, focused on human relationships to wilderness. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Acacia received a Fulbright grant to Canada in 2014, to overwinter on Baffin Island . Since... read on
Public Story
Alaskan Brown Bears At Risk
Credits: acacia johnson
Updated: 02/26/20
Location: Alaska
The Alaska Peninsula is home to around 10,000 wild brown bears, which thrive on the region’s pristine salmon-bearing rivers, vast untouched tundra, and intertidal grassland habitat. In carefully managed areas such as McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge and Katmai National Park, tens of thousands of people travel every summer to watch bears fishing for salmon, and millions more admire them via Internet webcams. The bears’ future, however, is threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine.

Pebble Mine is a copper and gold mine proposed for the area north of Lake Iliamna. It proposes to hold its toxic mine tailings in earthen dams at the headwaters of rivers that flow into Bristol Bay – where half of the world’s wild salmon are harvested, supporting a $1.5 billion fishing industry. If the tailings were to leach into the water table, it could destroy the habitat not only of the world’s densest populations of brown bears, but the ancestral homelands of numerous Alaskan tribal groups and the livelihoods of 14,000 people who make a living from fishing.

Pebble Mine’s infrastructure would also result in irreversible habitat loss for bears. A transport route to export ore would border the McNeil River State Game Refuge and cut through a migration corridor for the bears,
which wander up to 80 miles to search for food. The same bears that rely on protected areas would likely come into conflicts with humans, altering the harmonious relationships between bears and people that form the basis of the bear viewing industry.

Of the estimated 50,000 brown bears that once thrived across the continental US, 98% of them have perished due to hunting and habitat loss. Alaska is the last place in the country where their habitat remains untouched. While supporters of Pebble Mine wish to bolster the local economy, opponents of the mine feel that the consequences of an environmental disaster – to the salmon, the people of the region, and the bears – are simply too great to risk.

National Geographic, 2019
1,815

By Acacia Johnson —

VISUAL STORY

Quarantine Diary

By Acacia Johnson — This is an ongoing collection of images from an undetermined period of self-isolation near Gothenburg,..
VISUAL STORY

Deception Island

By Acacia Johnson / Deception Island, Antarctica — Deception Island, an active volcanic caldera in Antarctica's South Shetland Islands, is home to..
VISUAL STORY

Sea Ice Stories

By Acacia Johnson / Arctic Bay, Nunavut — In the spring, when animals migrate north and the sun never sets, Inuit children join their families on..
VISUAL STORY

Under The Same Stars

By Acacia Johnson / Arctic Bay, NU, Canada — Winter in the Arctic - vibrant, pulsing. The throb of club music pours from the community hall, streets..
VISUAL STORY

Origins

By Acacia Johnson / Anchorage, Alaska — These images are a meditation on the boreal landscape of Alaska, my childhood home. In the Far North, a..
VISUAL STORY

Polaris

By Acacia Johnson / Iceland —   Polaris  is an exploration of otherworldly occurrences in the wilderness of Alaska and Iceland...
Join us
for more access