With a new law that mandates the Refuge’s fragile Coastal Plain be drilled for oil and gas and the Trump Administration’s unrelenting efforts to expedite its exploitation, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is under threat like never before. Below, Andy Moderow shares how Alaska Wilderness League (AWL) plans to prevent oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge. A lifelong Alaskan, Iditarod finisher, and Cornell graduate, Andy is also AWL’s Alaska Director. We’ve funded AWL’s work to protect and defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for more than a decade. Eager to take action for the Refuge now? Click here.
Thank you for your past support for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Your advocacy helped the Alaska Wilderness League elevate the threat from oil and gas development on the Refuge’s Coastal Plan over the past year. In 2018 alone, over 700,000 Americans took time to weigh in against oil and gas development on the Refuge’s Coastal Plain. Today, we are excited to share our path to victory for protecting the Refuge, focusing on how we’ll fight on every front to hold back the administration’s efforts toward development, while prioritizing our goal to pass legislation that would restore protections for this incredible place.
As you may recall, in the waning hours of 2017, Congress included a provision to open the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development, without full and fair debate, as part of the Tax Reform Act of 2017. This is the first time the Refuge had been open to development in 50 years of protection. To make matters worse, this bill mandated two oil and gas lease sales in the next six years – even going so far as to add ‘oil and gas development’ as a purpose of the Arctic Refuge, representing the first time this has ever been done in the history of the National Wildlife Refuge system. Since the bill passed, the Trump Administration has been working around the clock to further expedite auctioning off the Refuge Coastal Plain.
Fortunately, we are already on the path to restoring legislative protections for the Arctic Refuge. As we work together toward this goal, will we also be working hard to block the Trump administration in their push to drill this iconic Alaskan landscape.
Defending the Refuge from the Trump Administration: Commenting on EISs and Seismic Testing.
As the administration barrels forward toward development, we are building a robust record of opposition to the Trump Administration’s efforts to lease the Coastal Plain to oil and gas companies. There is currently a comment period open on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Comments will be accepted through March 13. We must build a diverse record of opposition, adding to the 700,000 voices that opposed drilling during the scoping period. Click here, we’ve made it easy for you to submit a comment.
At the same time, any day now we expect the Trump Administration to announce plans to grant seismic exploration permit approvals. This would permit an army of more than 50 vehicles to drive on the Coastal Plain, some weighing 90,000 pounds. These seismic exploration vehicles are expected to leave tens of thousands of miles of seismic trails across the fragile tundra. As these trucks proceed, they’ll stop and ‘thump’ the ground, using vibrations to look for oil which will cause significant disturbance, and possible fatalities, to an already stressed polar bear population and to other species. What’s more, to get this done on its self-imposed aggressive timeline, the administration will need to make a ‘Finding of No Significant Impact’ for its seismic activities… which is simply indefensible. We are ready to push back, and we’ll need to comment on permits when they release them… we’ll let you know of opportunities to weigh in when they arise.
The Legislative Strategy: Working with Congress to Protect the Refuge.
As we continue our efforts to fight back against these aggressive administrative actions, our overarching goal remains clear: we must restore protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge… and that responsibility lies in the hands of Congress. We’ll need your help throughout the year (and beyond) urging Congress to pass essential legislation to return the Arctic Refuge to protected status.
Last election cycle was good for Arctic Refuge protections. Not only did a pro-environment Democratic majority take over the House, but an overwhelming majority of the Democratic freshman class are already on record as being pro-Arctic Refuge protection. And, what’s more, with leaders like Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona (D-AZ 03) chairing the House Natural Resources committee, we are optimistic that the House will take quick action toward passing legislation that will restore protections to the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain.
Our House champions, led by Representative Jared Huffman (D- CA 02), plan to soon introduce the legislation that will restore protections against oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge. The time is now to show strong support for this effort, and we ask that you raise your voice to make sure that this legislation passes out of the House this year. At the same time, in the Senate parallel legislation to restore protections will be introduced this Congress, and we need your help getting record support on that bill.
We hope you’ll engage your networks and sign your brand on to this proactive campaign. The Conservation Alliance as prepared a brand sign-on letter for you to consider joining. Click here to read it and add your brand’s name.
Calling all Arctic Refuge Advocates.
Finally, this effort to protect the Arctic Refuge is engaging all generations. With over 50 years of existence, today’s threat to the Arctic Refuge is providing an opportunity for a new generation of Americans to leave their mark on the history of this protected place. Last year, this next generation stepped up, not only to protect public lands, but also in a stand against climate change, and for the rights of the indigenous Gwich’in people. Over 100 professional athletes & influencers got involved to protect the Arctic Refuge during the past year, and we’ll need more of these voices to get this legislation passed into law. If your brand works with influencers and athletes, we’ve got a unique letter for them to consider signing, and we will also provide content for social media and email if requested. Click here to learn more.
We are on the road to victory. Will getting legislation over the finish line be easy? No. But, we have the facts, and the American people, on our side. Nearly two thirds of the American public continue to oppose oil and gas leasing in the Arctic Refuge. And the lay of the land should continue to improve for the Arctic Refuge in the years ahead.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo: Florian Schulz
The Fight Worth Fighting For.
Do we have to win? Yes. If you think back on the biggest conservation victories in the history of our country, it’s not the easy ones that come to mind. It’s the ones that succeed because a diversity of interests worked together, at times against a large odds, to protect something that is simply irreplaceable in our country. It’s when long term thinking prevails over short term profits. With your help, we are confident that the conservation legacy of the Arctic Refuge can be passed on to our children. Public lands should be forever, they should be a promise we make today to future generations, and we ask that you to join with us at this critical moment for this iconic corner of America, that we all hold in common.
If you have any questions or need additional materials, contact me (Andy Moderow) with Alaska Wilderness League at email@example.com, or by phone at 907-360-3622. As usual, we stand by to help you in any way as you weigh in during this important debate.