In our work to protect the Arctic Refuge, our strategy has been to seize opportunities that catalyze new and creative partnerships. The launch of Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions is an exciting new program that will bring attention to Alaska’s Arctic through new onramps and audiences.

A community kickoff event at Compton Creek Natural Park today marked the official launch of Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions, a partnership between IslandWoodSierra ClubChildren & Nature Network’s Natural LeadersREI, and action sports retailer Zumiez. Inspired by the Obama Administration’s commitment to connecting more young Americans to the outdoors and in support of the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, Fresh Tracks will enable young leaders from Compton and Arctic Alaska to experience diverse cultures, explore the outdoors, and build critical leadership and workforce development skills as part of a community exchange.

The transformative powers of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are unparalleled, but Alaska Natives near America’s Arctic Refuge are facing a crisis – climate change and the threat of drilling are destroying their ability to sustain their way of life. Now, an new cohort of diverse youth leaders are together exploring social justice and learning how Alaska Natives are leading the fight against the destruction of their lands.

“I’m looking forward to sharing our culture through Fresh Tracks,” said Margorie Gemmill, Tribal Administrator for the Arctic Village Tribal Council. “The Gwich’in people have always been welcoming of people who are interested in our way of life and the protection of the Arctic Refuge. I think the students from both communities can get a good perspective of what it’s like to see other parts of the world and how life is different for other people.”

The Campion Advocacy Fund is proud to support this important initiative to bring young people to places that they would never otherwise go. Participants will travel from southern California to Arctic Alaska to engage in traditional community activities, subsistence culture, and discussions about local climate change implications. As the Gwich’in people struggle to protect the Arctic Refuge and their traditional way of life, Fresh Tracks will provide a unique connection to a community grappling with these important issues.