Expedition Arctic Refuge


(Updated May 1, 2019)

Over the past year, Kristin Gates and Jeremy La Zelle have worked with every ounce of their strength to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  They followed the Porcupine Caribou herd migration on foot, they camped with polar bears on the coastal plain, they paddled 500-miles down the Porcupine River, and they spent time in communities across the Gwich'in Nation in Alaska and Canada.  All of this they did to create powerful media to advocate for the protection of the Refuge.  They have to believe that if anyone were to see the Refuge and spend time with the Gwich'in, that they would immediately understand the value in preserving this important place.  They hope that their media helps to achieve this.  

Kristin and Jeremy  have been giving their media and making edits for free for any group that is willing to promote this issue including the Gwich'in Steering Committee, the Sierra Club, the Alaska Wilderness League, Bernie Sanders, and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center.  An edit that they made for the Sierra Club that was shared during a public commenting period has half a million views.  

Kristin and Jeremy have also been traveling across North America on their own dime to give presentations about the Refuge and to share their award-winning 25-minute film about the Arctic Refuge showcasing voices from leaders across the Gwich'in Nation.  

Their hope for the upcoming months are to continue this work, continue creating media for groups who can help spread the word, continue giving presentations and writing articles, and also to complete their full length film about the Refuge and why it needs to be protected.  

Please consider donating to assist their efforts.  This coming year will be very important in determining the future of the Refuge.  This GoFundMe campaign will only be active until May 20th.  Please help them reach their goal so that they can continue this important work.   

For more information about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Kristin and Jeremy's work, please continue reading below:



The Interior Department announced on March 8th, 2018, that it will be moving forward on an aggressive timeline to allow oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, one of the last great intact ecosystems in North America.  The BLM has hurried forward, cutting corners, ignoring science, and disregarding the human rights of the Gwich'in people in order to sell drilling rights before another administration can intervene.  

95% of Alaska's Arctic Coast is already open for development.  The Refuge contains the last 5%, the coastal plains (the 1002 area), a monumentally important place to preserve.  The area open for development is the thickest polar bear denning site in Alaska, it sustains over 200 different species of migratory birds, and is the birthing grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd.  Every year 40,000 caribou are born here and 100% of the land up for development is used by the caribou during the calving and post calving season.  Developing the Refuge would be an irreversible disaster for the polar bears, migrating birds, caribou, and Gwich'in people.  

The fight to protect the Refuge is not over.  We can still make a difference.  

Expedition Goal:

The goal of this project is to embark on a series of expeditions in the Arctic Refuge to produce powerful media to advocate for the protection of the coastal plains.  We have spent time listening and learning in the Gwich'in communities of Fort Yukon, Arctic Village, Old Crow, Tsiigehtchic, and Fort McPherson and the Inupiat community of Kaktovik.  We are eager to bring these voices to the forefront.   The Gwich'in live in 13 villages in Northeastern Alaska and Northwestern Canada.  They live along the Porcupine Caribou herd's migration path and have been physically and spiritually tied to the caribou for over 20,000 years.  Any threat to the Porcupine herd is a threat to the Gwich'in way of life.  

We have been sharing our media and stories during key times in the NEPA process to raise awareness about the opportunity for public comment.  An edit we made for the Sierra Club that was used as a call to acting during a public commenting period has nearly half a million views.  We have been making edits for free for any organization who can use media to promote this issue. 

Here is more information about our time in the Refuge so far: 

The first part of our journey began north of the Arctic Circle in April, 2018.  We spent three weeks living with the Porcupine Caribou Herd, traveling north with them to film one of the last great migrations in our country.   

We also spent time in the community of Arctic Village where we were welcomed with the tremendous hospitality of the Gwich'in, the caribou people.  We were spoiled with caribou meat, stories of time on the land, ice fishing, and fry bread.  We were lucky to interview many in the community from youth to elders.  

We then headed to Anchorage to attend a BLM scoping meeting on the Arctic Refuge.  Below is a picture of Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm speaking in defense of the Refuge while a BLM representative there to listen to comments stares at his phone.  


Next we spent time in Kaktovik and on the coastal plains themselves to visit the land that has been at the center of this political controversy since the 1970s.  There we attended another BLM scoping meeting and were able to learn more about how difficult this situation is for residents of Kaktovik, an Inupiat community that is divided on the issue of whether or not development should occur. 

After this, we attended the Gwich'in Gathering in Tsiigehtchic where we were able to spend time with and learn from leaders across the Gwich'in Nation.  The Gwich'in are 100% united to stand together against the development of the birthing and calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd.  


Finally, we rafted 500-miles down the Porcupine River.  This allowed us to spend time in the Gwich’in  communities of Old Crow and Fort Yukon and to see more of the Porcupine Caribou Herd's range, more of the Gwich'in homeland, and more of the Arctic Refuge. 

During our series of expeditions and our time learning from the Gwich'in Nation, we were successful in filming powerful footage.  Since then we have been editing media for different groups to support the protection of the Refuge, and we have been traveling across North America to give presentations, share our short film, and raise awareness about the Arctic Refuge.  

Through our efforts, we have produced a highly impactful documentary which helps illustrate the beauty of Refuge while also explaining the various issues surrounding the future of this important wilderness. 

Our film has won several awards at different film festivals around the world.  


Any damage done to the fragile Arctic landscape is irreversible.  Arctic drilling means seismic testing, drills, pads, connecting roads, off gasing, air pollution. Seismic testing done back in the 1980s still scars the landscape today.  Developing the Refuge would change the lives of the people and animals forever. 

We need your help.  Please share this campaign and consider donating to help us continue to create powerful media and distribute our work widely.  

More about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:  

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an iconic American treasure comprising 19 million acres of north eastern Alaska.  It's the largest protected wilderness in the United States.  Currently there are no roads inside the Refuge or even leading to the area. 

To the Gwich’in, what politicians call the 1002 area, is "the sacred place where life begins."  The Porcupine Caribou Herd have been migrating to this location for hundreds of years, using it as their calving grounds.  40,000 caribou are born on the coastal plains in the Refuge  every year.  It provides them with abundant food, protects them from predators and insects and is vital to the health of the herd.  

The herd is already threatened by predators, natural challenges of weather and terrain, and a changing climate.  Several studies including one by the U.S. Geological Society predict that development in the Coastal Plain would have major impacts to the caribou.  A threat to the Porcupine Caribou Herd is a threat to the Gwich'in way of life. The Gwich'in are opposed to all oil and gas activities in the Refuge. Opening up the coastal plains is a human rights issue.

The Refuge is also one of the last ecologically intact places on our planet. Wildlife populations are healthy and live undisturbed by mankind. Wolves, musk oxen, dall sheep, wolverines and arctic foxes roam free from roads, fences and pollution. Polar bears den on the Refuge's coast. In fact, it is one of the thickest polar bear denning sites in Alaska.

Every summer, more than 200 species of birds spend time in the Arctic Refuge to nest, raise young, feed, or rest.  Five species of loon, tundra swans, golden plovers, snowy owls and the Arctic tern, which migrates from Antarctica every spring, all depend on the Refuge. 


According to The Hill, "The Arctic Refuge has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades since Republican President Eisenhower and Congress established its first protections in 1960."  Yet recent developments will change the fate of the Refuge.  The Hill continues by discussing the current administration's agenda for the area..  "President Trump's budget assumes that oil company leases in the Arctic Refuge will generate $1.8 billion in revenues for the federal treasury, while the Senate budget anticipates reveneus of at least $1billion."  This revenue is substantial and will change the way of life for many villages.   Is this the future the Gwich'in people want?  Is this the future the citizens of Alaska and America wants?  We have filmed formal interviews with various Gwich'in and Inupiat experts as well as scientists to analyze and discuss the various pros and cons.



KRISTIN GATES:  I moved to Alaska's Arctic when I was 23 years old.  Before arriving to the last frontier, I dedicated my life to embracing America's wildest and most remote areas.  I became the youngest woman to complete the Triple Crown of thru-hiking [Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Appalachian Trail] and I had experienced most of the wilderness areas in our country.  I thought I knew what wilderness was, but as I stood at the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time, I understood this place is something completely different and unique.  This is real wilderness.  When I was 25, I became the first woman to trek solo across the Brooks Range and during that trip, I was lucky enough to walk across the trail-less Refuge.  The experience completely changed my life.  I became more focused on dedicating my energy to showcasing America's wildest areas and how best to continually protect them.  While alone in the Refuge,  I encountered the Porcupine Caribou Herd Migration pouring through valleys as they traveled north to the calving grounds followed by grizzly bears and wolves.  I followed the paths of these incredible animals and the experiences were the holiest and most inspiring I'd ever seen.  This is one of the last ecologically intact places on the planet.  It must be protected.  

Jeremy La Zelle:  His areas of filmmaking expertise have taken him into some of the wildest and most challenging off-the-beaten-path destinations on Earth.  Jeremy writes, produces, directs and films content in exotic places such as the Arctic Circle, swamps of Mississippi, deep inside the Appalachian Mountains, across South America, throughout Africa,  and within the Himalayas.  

Jeremy has written, produced, and directed for Networks such as National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and History Channel.  

With Expedition ANWR, Jeremy hopes to showcase and highlight the magnificent beauty of the area's flora and fauna.  


Sisters Yapper and Yogurt are friendly, outgoing, lovable, and incredibly couragous sled dogs that have completed the Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile international Sled Dog Race.  

Donation Rewards

* All donors will receive an e-mail containing an advocacy pack (a document with information about the Refuge and what you can do to help protect it) 



For $20, you will receive our eternal gratitude and an advocacy pack



For $30, you will receive a postcard written from where the expedition takes us and an advocacy pack


Arctic Refuge Bracelet or Necklace

For $40, you will receive an Arctic Refuge themed bracelet or necklace made by Kristin and Jeremy along with an advocacy pack.


Premium Print

For $50, you will receive one 8x10 inch print (you can select your favorite from three of our expedition photos) and an advocacy pack


Deluxe Print

For $75, you will receive an 11x14 inch print (you can select from three images from the expedition) and an advocacy pack


XL Print

For $100, you will receive a 16x20 inch print (you can select from three images from the expedition) and an advocacy pack



For $150 receive a 2020 calendar with images from our expedition and an advocacy pack


Producer Credit

For $250, you will receive producer credit and your name will appear in the official credits for our film and on our IMDB page. You will also receive an 11x14 print, a postcard from the expedition, and an advocacy pack


Film Screening

For $300 we will send you a downloadable link for the film and you can share it at your event, a postcard, and an advocacy pack


Executive Producer

For $500, you will receive Executive Producer credit (your name will appear in the official credits and on our IMDB page), you will also receive a postcard from the expedition, two prints (11x14), and an advocacy pack


Film Screening/ Presentation

For $700, you will receive a presentation given by Kristin and/or Jeremy and a screening of their film for your group anywhere in New England, the New York City area, or Southern California.

Donations will help us cover the cost of flights, gear, food for us and the dogs, camera equipment, filming, post production, editing.  Kristin will receive the funds and they will be split equally to help towards her and Jeremy's expedition and post production expenses.  This is not for profit and has been a over a year of work out in the field and editing.    We are trying to cover our costs to make this dream a reality and do everything we can to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  

Thank you for your support!

Lots of love, 

Kristin and Jeremy

Donations (0)

  • jody young 
    • $250 
    • 4 mos
  • Chris Cernak 
    • $40 
    • 4 mos
  • Chris Drake  
    • $75 
    • 4 mos
  • Caitlin McDonald 
    • $40 
    • 4 mos
  • Heidi Kreuziger-Holtzman 
    • $50 
    • 4 mos


Kristin Gates 
Fairbanks, AK
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