Outdoor Industry Leaders Reflect on Opening the Arctic Refuge to Oil Drilling

A caribou calf is calling its mother. Tens of thousands of calfs migrate with the herd immediately after they are born. Photo: Florian Schulz

Photo: Florian Schulz

The outdoor industry has a personal connection to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This is not just another landscape, but one that leaders in our industry know well. We asked a few outdoor industry leaders who know the Arctic Refuge first-hand to tell us how it makes them feel to know that one of the most vibrant wild landscapes on the planet will soon be opened to oil drilling.

“By voting to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Congress is attacking America’s public lands. Having firsthand knowledge of this magnificent place only strengthens my resolve to defend the Refuge from this administration and the oil companies that want to exploit it.”

-Ron Hunter, Patagonia Activism Manager and frequent visitor to the Arctic Refuge.

“We are talking about the wildest place on the planet where I have seen polar bears, wolverines and herds of thousands of caribou with my own eyes. Every trip to the coastal plain, I am blown away by this incredible spectacle as I imagine how America was before Europeans arrived on the continent. A place where Caribou migrate in the hundreds of thousands to give birth in the place the Gwich’in Athabascan Americans call the “sacred place where life begins.” I am struck that still today in our urbanized world I can, for the price of a plane ticket and some camping gear, visit this iconic place and be a witness to this all. I am reminded that it belongs to me and you, and to all Americans. It is our legacy handed down to us from our ancestors to be protected and given to our children. For generations we as Americans have restrained our instincts to exploit this special place. So it breaks my heart to hear our leaders are moving forward with selling our incredible refuge to the oil industry. Are we so poor a nation that we have to sell off our grandchildren’s legacy to pay for tax cuts? Are we so rich a nation and people that we can afford to carelessly despoil the most pristine wilderness in North America? Did we learn nothing from our great grandfathers after the near extinction of the buffalo or the genocide of Native American peoples? Or did we learn all too well? This is a defining moment for our nation.”

-Steve Barker, Founder of Eagle Creek Travel Gear

“The Arctic Refuge is truly the last wild area in the United States. A far-sighted legacy would be leaving this area as it is for the people and wildlife who depend on the Arctic landscape. Future generations should have the opportunity to visit a truly unique and remarkable landscape. There are many more commercially-viable areas for energy development and we should be focused on transitioning to renewable forms of energy anyway. It’s a truly short-sighted and extremely disappointing decision.”

-Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is North America’s and perhaps the planets last remaining major, pristine, wildlife rich ecosystem. It’s a place of incredible beauty and soul searching majesty and home to more major wildlife herds and bird species that migrate through the continent than any other place in our country. To think our Congress just stealthily slipped into the tax bill a provision striping all protections from this ecosystem of unimaginable richness that all Americans have rallied to support over its 60 years of existence, is not only personally devastating but challenges the fundamental premise that elected representation exists to represent the interest of their constituents vs a small number of corporate interests. “

-Peter Metcalf, Conservation Alliance Board Member and Co-Founder of Black Diamond Equipment