Red-necked Phalarope. Photo: Tom Ingram/Audubon Photography Awards
Hasty environmental review ignores science, human rights and public support for protections
December 24, 2018 - Washington, D.C. - On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the tax act that opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, The Bureau of Land Management released its draft environmental impact statement (EIS) in preparation for an oil and gas lease sale in 2019 within the ecologically sensitive coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, America’s premier wilderness refuge. This is the latest move by the administration in a rushed process to allow drilling in one of the nation’s most remote and iconic landscapes.
“The Arctic Refuge is an ecosystem that is becoming more – not less – vital for birds and wildlife as development and a changing climate chip away at their habitat,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president of conservation policy for the National Audubon Society. “With most of America’s Arctic coastline already open for oil and gas development, it’s inexplicable that we are considering destroying one of our last wild places. Every American is connected to this piece of our national heritage, by virtue of the birds that fly through our backyards to one of our most prolific bird nurseries. Maybe that’s why two thirds of Americans representing both major political parties oppose drilling in the Refuge.”
Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced it would develop a leasing EIS with the aim of finalizing it in 2019, and they have recklessly charged ahead with their arbitrary and expedited timeline. Analyzing scientific data, examining the true negative impacts drilling would have on the landscape and wildlife, and engaging in meaningful dialogue with local communities and stakeholders cannot be rushed. This hurried process is incompatible with protecting the subsistence needs of the Gwich’in people who, for thousands of years, have depended on the Porcupine Caribou that migrate through the Refuge to calve in the Coastal Plain. To the Gwich’in, the Coastal Plain of the Refuge is known as “Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,” The Sacred Place Where Life Begins. Drilling the Coastal Plain would forever scar the landscape and eviscerate the way of life for the Gwich’in.
At 19.3 million acres, the Refuge is an amazing, wild landscape home to some of the most diverse and stunning populations of wildlife in the Arctic – vast numbers of migratory birds, polar and grizzly bears, wolves, and the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Nestled between the foothills of the Brooks Range and the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain contains the most important land denning habitat for polar bears across America’s Arctic coast. Birds from all fifty states migrate to the Refuge, including the Tundra Swan and Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Read: 37 Arctic wildlife scientists explain their opposition to drilling in the Refuge in this November 2017 letter to Senators.
An overwhelming majority of Americans support protections for the Arctic Refuge. Yet in late 2017, the Senate added a provision to tax legislation that mandates an oil and gas leasing program in the Refuge without meaningful debate. Publicly, the administration promised a fair and robust review process. In reality, it has placed arbitrary deadlines and limitations on the environmental review every step of the way. In the time since the tax bill became law, the Interior Department has pushed forward with an aggressive timeline for Arctic Refuge drilling that reflects the Trump administration’s eagerness to sell off our public lands to the highest bidder and allow the coastal plain of this premier wildlife refuge to be turned over to oil companies.
Audubon stands with the following wildlife, conservation and Alaska Native organizations in opposing oil development in the irreplaceable and fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:
ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE * CANADIAN PARKS AND WILDERNESS SOCIETY YUKON * CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY * DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE * EARTHJUSTICE * ENVIRONMENT AMERICA * EYAK PRESERVATION COUNCIL * FAIRBANKS CLIMATE ACTION COALITION * GWICH’IN STEERING COMMITTEE * LEAGUE OF CONSERVATION VOTERS * NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE ASSOCIATION * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER * SIERRA CLUB * STAND.EARTH *THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY * TRUSTEES FOR ALASKA *
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using, science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
Source: National Audubon Society