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Point Hope's Caroline Cannon wins major environmental honor

Alaska Dispatch
Goldman Environmental Prize photo

Caroline Cannon, an Iñupiat leader from the Northwest village of Point Hope, has been awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize.

Goldman Prizes are given each year to one person on each inhabited continent to reward "ordinary individuals who take extraordinary actions to protect the earth and its inhabitants," according to the San Francisco-based foundation that administers it. An international jury chooses the winners from nominations by activists and organizations.

The Goldman awards are described as the largest prizes offered on behalf of grassroots environmental action. Each recipient this year will receive $150,000.

Cannon has been an outspoken critic of oil drilling plans in Alaska's Arctic waters. The foundation's website explains why Cannon was chosen:

Caroline Cannon has become the strongest and most consistent voice against the rush to drill in the Arctic seas. She has traveled across Alaska and to Washington, D.C. to attend hundreds of industry meetings and federal summits, representing Point Hope’s concerns about what’s at stake and sharing her deep traditional knowledge of the Arctic marine environment, including whale migration patterns, walrus habitat and the dynamics of ice floe movements in the region.

She became the face of the Inupiat community in a federal lawsuit challenging the 2007-2012 offshore oil and gas development plan. Her representation of Point Hope as a co-plaintiff in the suit was instrumental in bringing the case to victory when, in 2009, a federal court ruled that the proposed oil and gas leases failed to consider the significant impacts to the region’s marine environment. The court’s decision stopped all but one of the proposed major leases. The only one to move forward, Lease Sale 193, was allowed to do so because the federal government’s actual sale of the lease occurred before the lawsuit began. Cannon and her partners are now challenging that lease in federal court.

Cannon continues to be a force on Capitol Hill, standing up boldly against both industry and government during this election year, amid growing pressure to support domestic energy development and create new jobs. She and her environmental partners are galvanizing public opposition to provisions in the 2012-2017 federal plan that will allow Shell Oil to drill several exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea.

Learn more about the Goldman Prize and Caroline Cannon, here.