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1Frame4Nature | American Icon in the Alaskan Horizon

What YOU Can Do: 

  • Take a moment to celebrate the times of awe and wonder you’ve experienced in nature, and be thankful. Carve out opportunities in your future schedules to go exploring in the wilderness to create more memories to share and appreciate.

–1Frame4Nature is a collection of images and stories from around the globe of your personal connection to nature. However small, when combined with the actions of others, your individual actions can impact real and tangible outcomes for the preservation of our planet. Submit your story now!

An American icon, the bald eagle soars over the misty waters of Alaska’s Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The protection of this river has preserved not only the largest bald eagle congregation in the world, but vital salmon fisheries for indigenous communities and people like me. Photo by Morgan Heim.

iLCP Senior Fellow Morgan Heim‘s 1Frame4Nature: American Icon in the Alaskan Horizon

These photos come from Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. And by all means, if you ever have a chance to visit the snowy shores of the Chilkat outside Haines, Alaska, I encourage you to do it, especially after the tourists have left, and the temperature now causes ice crystals to form inside your nostrils. This preserve represents the best of who we are as a country. And I think, with everything going on right now, we can at least agree, that we need to remember the things we’ve done right.

It is not uncommon to see many eagles sharing a branch in the the trees that line the Chilkat River. Photo by Morgan Heim.

With this blog post we’re not talking about protecting a specific place, or why one species is more unique than another. We’re sharing a sensibility and a way of being that is good for the planet, and good for us. To quote a certain lifestyle maven (Martha Stewart), “That’s a good thing.”

Andrew Hedden, chief rafting guide with the Haines Rafting Company, takes a breather as I explore a stretch of the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Relying on the expertise of people like Andrew helps make for a richer experience along the river. Photo by Morgan Heim.

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is no doubt special. Like many good things, it takes you time to get there. I flew across the country, rented a car, rode for hours on a ferry, and before the trip was over, would fly on a little prop plane to get back. I later kissed the ground after one of life’s more turbulent flight experiences.

Though salmon abound on the Chilkat River, there never seems to be enough to go around. The Chilkat supports the largest concentration of bald eagles in North America. The salmon run, also protected, is critical for the success of the eagles and many other birds of prey. Photo by Morgan Heim.

The thing is, I wouldn’t trade those experiences, even the bumpy plane ride, for anything. Those experiences paled in the face of the most spectacular sunrises, where the sun bounced off the water in a curtain of brightly colored mist. I rode in a raft down icy rivers and ran into an old friend, who was out setting camera traps to photograph bald eagles as they feasted on salmon.

Like minds think alike, iLCP Associate Fellow, Peter Mather, canoes the Chilkat River in search of the perfect spot to place his camera traps to hopefully capture iconic images of bald eagles feeding on salmon. Despite running the risk of his setups frosting over within 24 hours, Mather came away with spectacular and intimate images of this endangered species success story. Photo by Morgan Heim.

And oh, those eagles, with their frost encrusted wings, which didn’t seem to mind in the least that I wandered (and wondered) beneath their snowy perches and watched them squabble over salmon. I could hardly blame them. Salmon is one of the best foods ever.

The suns early rays thaw the wings of roosting bald eagles before they take flight in search of the day’s meal. Photo by Morgan Heim.

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve exists because we cared and because a bunch of people and organizations worked day and night to make sure it was protected. There are so many things, and so much beauty that thrives here because we had the forethought to appreciate it.  In exchange, it gives back to us. I will never forget drifting through the mist on a sunny Alaska morning and listening to the plaintiff call of eagles as they soar from the trees in pursuit of their meal. This river sustains fisheries and animals and livelihoods and our tummies. It gives us fresh air and peace and adventure.

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve isn’t just for the eagles. It is a safe haven for trumpeter swans, in this case a mated pair, as they awake at dawn. Photo by Morgan Heim.

I am not here saving anything. I was here because Enterprise Rental Car wanted to bring me on this trip, and celebrate that sense of awe we get from exploring our natural world. So this blog post is not to tell you to love this place, though how could you resist? All this blog post requires of you is a moment of reflection to think of where you like to go, or what animals you like to see that perhaps take you out of the craziness of this world that is bosses and deadlines or traffic and gives you a little peace. What I hope for you is a moment to think about those places in nature that take you out of your own head for a minute and makes you into something more.

The last kiss of daylight glows behind the mountain peaks of Haines, Alaska. Photo by Morgan Heim.

Find those places and celebrate them. Having these places is not a choice between jobs and nature. Having these places means vitality and having a damn fine planet to call home, no matter whether you have four legs or two legs or no legs at all. These are things worth fighting for, or as Carol from The Last Man On Earth would say, for which to fight.

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This article is brought to you by the 1Frame4Nature Campaign. Share a picture and story on Instagram with the hashtag #1Frame4Nature, of your personal connection to nature and tell us what action you’ve taken on behalf of our planet.

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