The Trump administration recently completed the first step in its process to hold its first lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and could be on the verge of greenlighting seismic exploration on the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain, rushing forward with plans for destructive oil and gas drilling while disregarding the biological, cultural and climate impacts on a rapidly warming Arctic. This push is the result of Congress passing a controversial tax bill that allows drilling on the coastal plain, sacred lands of the Gwich’in people and vital habitat for caribou, denning polar bears and millions of migratory birds.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, located in the northeast corner of Alaska, is one of the finest examples of wilderness remaining anywhere in the world. It is a perfect example of intact, naturally functioning Arctic and subarctic ecosystems. In fact, such a broad spectrum of diverse habitats occurring within a single protected unit is unparalleled in North America. There are some places, like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, that define what it means to be American. The Arctic Refuge is one of the places.
The Arctic Refuge supports an impressive diversity of arctic and subarctic wildlife, including two caribou herds – the Porcupine caribou herd and the Central Arctic caribou herd. The Porcupine caribou herd in particular depends on the Refuge’s coastal plain, where calving occurs from late May to mid-July. Approximately 200 species of migratory birds have been seen on the Arctic Refuge – the coastal plain is especially important for shorebirds and waterfowl that nest on or otherwise utilize the area during the summer. All three species of North American bears – black, polar and grizzly – can be found on the Refuge. In fact, the Arctic Refuge contains the most important land denning habitat for U.S. polar bears in the entire Alaskan Arctic. Additional species found in the Refuge include moose, wolverines, and birds of prey such as golden eagles and peregrine falcons.