THE HIKERS Trying To Be Caribou

Karsten Heuer

Karsten currently works as a seasonal park warden in Jasper National Park, and lives in Dunster, BC, halfway between Jasper, Alberta and Prince George, BC. He is finishing a book on Being Caribou for McClelland Stewart, due out in Fall 2005, and works with Leanne to raise their son, Zev, who was born on October 8, 2004. He is also president of the Fraser Headwaters Alliance, an environmental group in the Dunster/McBride area. Karsten worked in the Canadian portion of the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s calving grounds for two years as a park warden in Ivvavik National Park. Prior to that he completed a 3,400km trek from Yellowstone to the Yukon to highlight the need for wildlife corridors in the Rocky Mountains. Taking the wildest route possible, his 1.5 year trek helped bring an ambitious reserve network proposal – the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative – to millions of people via National Geographic Radio, Equinox Magazine, Smithsonian, the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, CBC, NBC, ABC TV and other media outlets. His book about the trip, Walking the Big Wild, hit the Canadian non-fiction bestseller list and hits the U.S. bookshelves as of January 2005.Prior to symbolizing wild animal movements, Karsten studied ecology at the University of Calgary and worked as a biologist in South Africa, Slovakia, and in Canada’s Banff National Park. Karsten's main motivation to “be” caribou was to immerse himself in the rhythms of an animal’s life day in and day out, month after month, without the disruptions of modern civilization. “Some people have said we’re likely to see things no person has ever seen before,” said Heuer prior to embarking on the trip. “For me, that’s reason enough to put our lives on hold for the next 7 months.”

Leanne Allison

Leanne has now completed the Being Caribou film, in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. The film is proving a big hit in film festivals across Canada and in the U.S., and is proving a handy advocacy tool for activists fighting an increasingly desperate war against the forces intent on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.Leanne is a certified yoga practitioner and teacher as well as a new mum. She was involved in the Y2Y Hike, worked for two years with Raincoast Conservation Society in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest where she still holds a position on Raincoast's Board of Directors, and served on Mountain Equipment Co-op's Environment Fund selection board. She is a graduate of the Gulf Islands Film and Television School’s media intensive program, and producer of the film ‘Vadzaih’, which toured hundreds of American towns and cities with the Caribou Commons ‘Walk to Washington Tour’ in the fall of 2002. ‘Vadzaih’, which means caribou in Gwich’in, is a 7-minute documentary that presents the Gwich’in native youth’s perspective on oil and gas development in Alaska’s Arctic Refuge.Before making films, Leanne worked as an assistant to glaciologists and avalanche scientists in such far-flung places as Antarctica and the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia. She was also a member of the first all-women’s expedition to the top of Canada’s highest peak via Mt. Logan’s difficult East Ridge. Leanne wanted to “experience the migration in as pure a way as possible”.  Like Karsten, she feels an urgency to tell the caribou’s story before it is too late. “Once you’ve experienced the migration in real life and all that follows it across the landscape, it’s hard to imagine putting it all at risk for a few month of oil.” Leanne and Karsten, now both 35 years old, were married in the fall of 2002. Their son, Zev, was born on October 8, 2004.