A Critical Few Months for the Arctic Refuge

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is under threat like never before. Below, Andy Moderow shares how Alaska Wilderness League (AWL) hopes to hold the line until January 20, 2021. 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.

Our country is in transition today in so many ways with Joe Biden set to move into the White House on January 20th.  This administration change is very positive news for efforts to protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as for our nation’s climate and justice future. But we need your help now more than ever to make certain we start 2021 off with a celebration, and not lease sales or bulldozers in the Arctic Refuge.
As you likely know, a law that mandates Arctic Refuge oil and gas lease sales was snuck into the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  Since that time the Trump administration has pushed ahead with developing an Arctic Refuge lease sale plan that ignored science, millions of comments in opposition, and impacts to indigenous communities. The threat to biodiversity in the area is high if oil extraction moves forward, and impacts to our global climate would be real, all the result of drilling in a place that’s warming 2-3 times faster than the rest of the globe. Put simply, this mad dash is a mistake on so many levels.
Yet, for the Trump administration it’s a race to the finish line. In mid-November, the Department of Interior “called for nominations“, asking oil companies to weigh in about which parts of the entirety of the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain they should sell off in a lease sale in the months ahead. Following this “call for nominations”, a notice of lease sale is likely… which could take place as soon as January. We’ll be fighting it every step of the way.
You might not be an oil company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tell them – one more time – that the Arctic Refuge should not be handed over to oil extraction interests. Click here if you’d like to take individual action by December 6th. 
If the urgency created by a potential lease sale wasn’t enough, there’s an additional credible threat to the Arctic Refuge today from a new 3D “seismic exploration” proposal. Just last month a brief comment period opened and closed to address the invasive and damaging seismic activities on over 500,000 acres of the Coastal Plain. We expect that this activity is could start as early as January – even acknowledging how often the current administration simply ignores environmental laws – but we can’t take anything for granted these days. If allowed, the corporation involved proposes to drive a convoy of 90,000 pound ‘thumper trucks’ and bulldozers across the frozen tundra, towing trailers that form a 180 person camp every few days as seismic lines – spaced ~700 feet apart – create a checkerboard of trails on the eastern portion of the Coastal Plain. Impacts will be left for decades, and the project threatens Polar Bears that are spending more and more time in the Arctic Refuge, as the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean dissipates from climate change.
We’ll keep you in the loop about this dual seismic + lease sale threat, and potential solutions to threats as we look ahead to January 20.  Make no mistake about it – we’ll be using every tool at our disposal to hold the line until help arrives this January, but we need you now more than ever to make certain this iconic landscape remains intact in the decades to come!
At Alaska Wilderness League, we are incredibly grateful to The Conservation Alliance for their leadership over the years in this fight, and for each and every one of you for your commitment to protect public lands and waters around the country… including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Conservation Alliance has written a letter to President-Elect Biden, encouraging him to take immediate action to protect the Refuge. Add your company to The Conservation Alliance member letter by December 3, 2020 and text “ArcticRefuge” to 40649 to stay up-to-date.
Photo Credit: Dave Shreffler