The Postal Service issued a souvenir sheet of the 37-cent Arctic Tundra stamps on July 2, 2003, in Fairbanks, Alaska. The stamps were designed by Ethel Kessler ofBethesda, Maryland, and illustrated by John D. Dawson, Hilo, Hawaii.
The Arctic Tundra stamps were the fifth in an educational series designed to promote appreciation of North America's major plant and animal communities. The previous issuances in the Nature of America Series were the Sonora 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. There 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 days in the Arctic are long, but the growing season is short. Arctic plants have adapted to 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 there: shrubs and herbs (non-woody plants), sedges and grasses, lichens, and mosses.
The Arctic tundra provides habitat for diverse fauna, including mammals, birds, insects, and fish. Large mammals such as the musk ox, grizzly bear, and gray wolf are tundra inhabitants. The tundra serves as the calving grounds for caribou and provides nesting sites for many species of migratory birds.
The stamp pane depicts an autumn tundra scene in the northern foothills of the majestic Brooks Range in Alaska. 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 twenty-four species.
The Banknote Corporation of American, Inc., of Browns Summit, North Carolina, printed the stamp in offset process. 60 million stamps were printed.
Postal Bulletin (May 29, 2003/ June 12, 2003).