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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting Connected

Florian Schulz takes his Freedom to Roam project into the second phase—Baja to the Beaufort Sea

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His goal remains to inspire the first national wildlife corridor connecting national parks and wilderness areas. But this time around, he turns his lens on hot spots on the western seaboard of North America to document the importance of creating corridors and marine-protected areas along the Pacific to the Arctic Coast. Some of the locations include Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Tongass National Forest, British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, and Mexico’s Guadalupe Island and Laguna San Ignacio.

The scale of this project is enormous. So far, Schulz has spent a lot of time shooting in various parts of Alaska, Washington and British Columbia before moving south to Baja to work in the Sea of Cortez and then heading back up north. With such a vast region to cover, Schulz is splitting up the fieldwork over the next few years. Besides taking stills, he’s capturing high-definition video for a short documentary, and he has dedicated a major portion of his budget to aerial photography.

Like the Y2Y project, there are plans to produce a large-format, full-color book showcasing coastal, tidal and oceanic wildlife and habitats, as well as essays by prominent voices in conservation and marine and coastal ecology. He’ll explore the crucial notion that ecosystem health is entirely dependent upon connectivity by focusing on the relationship between ocean, estuary and coast. Throughout the project, he plans to partner with grassroots and scientific organizations dedicated to preserving the region’s ecological riches, and the linkages between them, for generations to come.

“This is a concept that when you tell people the basic idea, they go ‘Aha, of course,’ because it makes total sense that confining animals to a little piece of land doesn’t work in the long run,” Schulz says. “My dream is to see the creation of the first national corridor. What I learned from the last project is that once you’re able to reach people, they find the idea really inspiring.”

Conservation is a topic that has inspired Schulz’s photography his whole career. Born in Germany, he’s the youngest founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), and he’s constantly searching for images that move people to take action in protecting large endangered ecosystems. With four internationally renowned photographers, Schulz took part in the ILCP’s first Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition, or RAVE, to document El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas, Mexico. The images captured there were instrumental in raising public awareness and money to help ensure its protection.

Twice, the North American Nature Photography Association has awarded Schulz for his dedicated work on conservation, including the first ever NANPA Vision Award. In 2006, he received the Philip Hyde Environmental Grant, and last year, his work earned him Conservation Photographer of the Year honors from the National Wildlife Federation and Nature’s Best. Additionally, his work has been featured in The New York Times, BBC Wildlife magazine, Nature Conservancy magazine and other publications.


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