Celebrating 15 Years Protecting Wild and Sacred Places

Braided River Founder & Executive Director Helen Cherullo shares her reflections on the last 15 years of working to protect our wild and sacred places through compelling books, images, and films.
Helen Cherullo Helen Cherullo
Mountaineers Books Publisher
November 21, 2022
Celebrating 15 Years Protecting Wild and Sacred Places
The Northern lights in the Arctic. Photo by Florian Schulz, protectthearctic.org.

Braided River, the conservation imprint of Mountaineers Books, has deep roots in protecting nature through visual storytelling. It began with a historic vote on the Senate floor in 2003; the U.S. Senate was set to vote on opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for drilling. At a critical moment during the debate, Senator Barbara Boxer held up a Mountaineers Books publication book with photographer Subhankar Banerjee - showing her fellow senators images that told a much different story than the “blank white nothingness” portrayed by pro-drilling senators and the oil industry. Seeing images of the abundant life in all four seasons encouraged a vote of 52 to 48 against opening up the coastal plain of this refuge to drilling.

As a book publisher, this was a life-changing moment for me.

Seeds were planted with this first effort. More photographers came to us with their projects, philanthropic support materialized to support more ambitious books, events, and exhibits, and impact campaigns were launched. Fifteen years ago we formally incorporated this work as Braided River - a dedicated non-profit devoted exclusively to these conservation efforts. It all begins with a book, and we continue to work closely with our talented colleagues at Mountaineers Books, extraordinary photographers and writers, and our donors and supporters.

The comprehensive, immersive images of the photographers we work with transports readers and audiences to wild and beautiful places. We show who and what is on the land - what is at stake, and what we could lose through reckless development. But books alone are just the beginning - it’s only through working with coalitions with clear advocacy goals and a path toward policy change that any of this work actually makes a difference.

When combined like the channels of a braided river, photographers and grassroots organizations, philanthropy, and the media we produce become art for advocacy - a persuasive force that can change people, politics, and the course of history.

Image of a braided River. Photo by Florian Schulz..jpg

Image of a braided river landscape. Photo by Florian Schulz.

The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness
The Giant Screen Film Comes to Seattle and Portland

Our latest work has been collaborating with a host of partners on an IMAX film - The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness, an arresting journey to the American Arctic featuring the cinematography of Braided River and National Geographic photographer Florian Schulz, now showing on the giant screen (including the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX screen in Seattle).

Those of you who have been following our work will recognize some of the themes in this powerful film about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It will touch on the importance of wildlife corridors and biodiversity, prioritize uplifting the voices of Indigenous and subsistence communities who live on the land, and recognize outdoor adventure as a catalyst for building strong conservation values and advocacy. And you will certainly recognize the extraordinary photographer Florian Schulz, who we’ve worked with now for over 15 years. Even before the film was released, its powerful images and stories were used to create a viral TikTok campaign that stopped seismic exploration in the refuge in January 2021.

We’re excited to share that The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness will be screening at the Pacific Science Center starting on November 25th - Native American Heritage Day. Tickets are available for purchase.

The Arctic - Our Last Great Wilderness film graphic..jpgImage from The Arctic - Our Last Great Wilderness film. Courtesy of Braided River.

From Alaska to Montana, western Canada to the Pacific Northwest, Braided River brings images and stories of wild places most people never see. Our work makes people care, gives tangible actions, and provides hope.

What’s Next from Braided River

Our story continues into 2023 and beyond, featuring the following upcoming books and impact campaigns that span landscapes from Colorado to the Olympics.

Learn More about Braided River