'Nature of America' Stamp Series Treks to the Last Frontier

Jun 20, 2003, 01:00 ET from U.S. Postal Service

    WASHINGTON, June 20 /PRNewswire/ -- On July 2, the U.S. Postal Service
 will celebrate the fascinating flora and fauna of the remote arctic tundra
 when 10 new commemorative postage stamps are issued in Fairbanks, Alaska.
     The first day of issue ceremony for the Arctic Tundra stamps will take
 place at 4:30 p.m. at the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) on the
 campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), 930 Koyukuk Drive. The
 ceremony will be free and open to the public. Parking at the IARC is very
 limited due to construction in the area. A shuttle bus will be available in
 the Farmers Loop Taku parking lot beginning at 4 p.m. For more information,
 call (907) 474-7581.
     The 37-cent, self-adhesive Arctic Tundra stamps will be available only at
 the event and at Fairbanks post offices on July 2. They will be available at
 post offices across the country starting the following day.
     "These stamps are vivid reminders that U.S. mail is delivered to every
 home and business from the east coast to the west coast and north to 'The Last
 Frontier' -- all at reasonable rates," said Postmaster General John E. Potter.
     Scheduled to join Potter at the first day ceremony are Sen. Ted Stevens
 (R-Alaska); Dr. Brian Barnes, professor and director, Institute of Arctic
 Biology, UAF; Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, director, IARC; Orie Williams, director,
 Doyon Limited Native Association; Dianne Horbochuk, district manager, Alaska
 District, Postal Service; and Fairbanks Postmaster Raymond E. Clark.
     The Arctic Tundra stamps come in a pane of 10 stamps. The individual
 designs are part of a larger scene illustrated by John D. Dawson.
     The pane is the fifth in an educational series promoting appreciation of
 North America's major plant and animal communities. The previous issuances in
 the Nature of America series were Sonoran Desert (1999), Pacific Coast Rain
 Forest (2000), Great Plains Prairie (2001) and Longleaf Pine Forest (2002).
     Coldest of the North American ecosystems, the arctic tundra is a vast
 treeless region stretching across northern Alaska and Canada. Here the soil is
 permanently frozen except for the surface layer, thawed by the summer sun,
 where plants take root. The frozen soil, or permafrost, keeps the surface
 layer moist by preventing water from seeping deeply into the ground.
     Summer sunlight in the Arctic is long, but the growing season is short.
 Arctic plants have adapted to survive the cold and wind. Most grow close to
 the ground, many are evergreen, and all are frost hardy. Although there are no
 trees on the tundra, other plants flourish here: shrubs and herbs (nonwoody
 plants), sedges and grasses and lichens and mosses.
     The tundra provides habitat for diverse fauna, including mammals, birds,
 insects and fish. Large mammals such as the muskox, the grizzly bear and gray
 wolf are tundra inhabitants. The tundra serves as the calving grounds for
 caribou and also provides nesting sites for many species of migratory birds.
     The Artic Tundra stamp pane depicts an autumn tundra scene in the northern
 foothills of the majestic Brooks Range in Alaska. In fall the leaves and
 berries of tundra plants make a brilliant tapestry of red, yellow and orange.
 Animals prepare for the long arctic winter. Some migrate, while others have
 found ways to survive the intense cold. Caribou cross mountains, plains and
 braided rivers to reach the taiga, the spruce-hardwood forest south of the
 tundra. Tundra swans fly across the continent to wintering areas on the
 Atlantic coast. Arctic grayling, freshwater fish found in tundra streams and
 lakes, live in deep water under the ice all winter. As willow ptarmigans begin
 molting into white plumage that conceals them in snow, singing voles build
 forage piles of vegetation for winter feeding. Grizzly bears and arctic ground
 squirrels fatten before hibernating. Arctic woolly bear caterpillars, which
 can live as larvae for 14 years before becoming moths, undergo the most
 extreme change: they freeze in winter and thaw in summer.
     To illustrate the diversity of species found in the arctic tundra, Dawson
 portrayed 24 animal and plant species in his beautiful acrylic painting.
 Although the scene itself is imaginary, all species represented are
 appropriate and were recommended by researchers from UAF's Institute of Arctic
 Biology and the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole, Mass., who served
 as consultants on the project to ensure an accurate and dynamic portrayal of
 life in the Arctic. A description of the arctic tundra and a numbered key to
 the artwork appear on the back of the pane, along with a corresponding list of
 common and scientific names for the 24 species.
     To see the Arctic Tundra stamps, visit the Postal Service Web site and
 open this press release at
     Current U.S. stamps, as well as a free comprehensive catalog, are
 available by toll-free phone order at 800-STAMP-24. In addition, a selection
 of stamps and other philatelic items are available at the online Postal Store
 at www.usps.com/shop.
     Since 1775, the U.S. Postal Service has connected friends, families,
 neighbors and businesses by mail. It is an independent federal agency that
 visits 140 million homes and businesses every day and is the only service
 provider to deliver to every address in the nation. The Postal Service
 receives no taxpayer dollars for routine operations, but derives its operating
 revenues solely from the sale of postage, products and services. With annual
 revenues of more than $67 billion, it is the world's leading provider of mail
 and delivery services, offering some of the most affordable postage rates in
 the world. The Postal Service delivers more than 43 percent of the world's
 mail volume -- some 203 billion letters, advertisements, periodicals and
 packages a year -- and serves 7 million customers each day at its 38,000
 retail locations nationwide.

SOURCE U.S. Postal Service