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TODAY, WE CELEBRATE… Exactly two years ago, almost to this very day, I was at the Princeton University Art Museum appreciating the sweeping exhibition Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment (which was accompanied by a beautiful and expansive 448-page book). In the introductory gallery, was an extraordinary painting, The Browning of America, 2000, by Indigenous Salish and Kootenai artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. I have little doubt that, today the artist is smiling, celebrating the news: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the first woman, the first African American, the first Asian American elected to that office; and, in the artist’s home state of New Mexico person-of-color members have been elected or re-elected in the Senate, the House, and the State Senate in large numbers drawing attention of international media. Let us celebrate The Browning of America!

TODAY, WE EXPRESS GRATITUDE… President-elect Joe Biden has taken swift action, and introduced earlier this morning, the members of his coronavirus task force—a large team of public health and science experts who will start their work right away “to develop a blueprint for fighting the coronavirus,” the Associated Press reports. Last week, the daily average of coronavirus infections for the week in the U.S. had surpassed 100,000 per day. 

TODAY, WE CELEBRATE… As you turn the corner after The Browning of America in the introductory gallery of Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, you would have seen my photograph Caribou Migration I, 2002, from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The pregnant caribou were on an arduous journey to the Coastal Plain where they would give birth and nurse their calves—a place the Indigenous Gwich’in people call, “the sacred place where life begins.” Today, we celebrate the imperiled Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its connection to other national wildlife refuges all across the United States.

TODAY, WE CELEBRATE… the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System—567 refuges strewn all across the nation. In our time of intensifying biodiversity crisis—when the United Nations says that 1 million animal and plant species face extinction due to human activity—the expansive network of land and waterways of the National Wildlife Refuge System is offering much needed home to the birds and animals—our nonhuman relatives. 

With all that in mind—I invite you to tune in TODAY (4 pm Mountain Time) for a Facebook live conversation “Cross-Continental Connections: Arctic NWR and Valle de Oro NWR” from Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in my hometown of Albuquerque—to learn how New Mexico is connected to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and how what we do locally has impacts across the continent. I will be in conversation with Jennifer Owen-White, Refuge Manager at Valle de Oro NWR, the inspiring conservationist who foregrounds environmental justice and community participation at the inception of a conservation initiative rather than as an afterthought that has long plagued colonial land, water and species conservation initiatives. Our conversation will kick off New Mexico’s contribution to this year’s Arctic Refuge Virtual Bird Fest, a project of Audubon Alaska and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Region. 

         Facebook Event Page:
          Hashtags: #ArcticBirdFest 
          - Monday: #HowDoYouArctic
          - Tuesday: #AskABiologist
          - Wednesday: #PostADuck
          - Thursday: #TeamRaptor #TeamSongbird
          - Friday: #WorstBirdPhoto

A BIT LATER THIS WEEK… Valle de Oro NWR will host “From Alaska to New Mexico: Following the Journey of Three Cackling Geese” How do scientists know where birds travel to during migration, and what routes they take? Follow along on this story of cackling geese to learn how biologists at Arctic NWR tracked three individual geese as they traveled from Alaska to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Follow along the rest of the week to dive deeper into the continental impact of our actions and to learn about the amazing animals that call Arctic and New Mexico home.

I take a moment to honor the hard work of those who have put together Valle de Oro NWR’s contribution to the Arctic Refuge Bird Festival: staff members at the Valle de Oro NWR, including Refuge Manager Jennifer Owen-White and Park Ranger Hannah Redwood; our community organization Friends of the Valle de Oro NWR, particularly the hard work of Executive Director Aryn LaBrake, and conservationists Corrinne and Bryan Crawford.  


On Thursday, November 19—the UNM Biodiversity Webinar Series that U.S. Senator Tom Udall and I are co-hosting this Fall that launched on September 14 and will conclude on December 3—will present our third webinar, “Indigenous Kinship and Multispecies Justice.”

The webinar will feature three distinguished Indigenous panelists: Norma Kassi, Goldman Prize-winning conservationist and long-time defender of the Arctic NWR from Yukon, Canada; Robin Wall Kimmerer, scientist and celebrated author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants; and Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Nation and President of the National Congress of American Indians. The webinar will be moderated by Indigenous scholar Elspeth Iralu, Visiting Assistant Professor of Indigenous Planning at the University of New Mexico (UNM). The webinar will open with welcome messages from Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Deb Haaland, and will be co-presented by the Indigenous Design + Planning Institute (iD+Pi) at UNM and the Species in Peril project at UNM.

The webinar is FREE and open to the public but registration is required: REGISTER HERE.

To learn more about why we are doing all this organizing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic—I encourage you to read a recent op-ed “We Must Mobilize to Avert a Lonely Earth” Sen. Udall and I co-wrote in the Scientific American.

We are honoring and celebrating the Browning of America and our nonhuman relatives!!

Subhankar Banerjee

Director and Founder, Species in Peril project at UNM
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