Photo credit: Steven Kazlowski/LeftEyePro.com
WHY TO LOVE THIS PLACE
America’s Arctic Ocean, the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, provides habitat for countless species of wildlife and is central to life in coastal communities. This is one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, home to the entire population of U.S. polar bears as well as walrus, seals, bowhead whales, narwhals and more. The Arctic Ocean also plays a key role in regulating the world’s climate, and whether or not the U.S. drills in Arctic waters will have a major impact on the global effort to address climate change.
Notable wildlife includes endangered bowhead whales, gray whales, walrus, ringed seals, spotted seals, polar bears, spectacled eiders, Steller’s eiders and more.
The Arctic Ocean is home to the entire population of U.S. polar bears, including the Southern Beaufort Sea population listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Arctic sea ice plays a vital role in regulating the world's climate, however it is rapidly disappearing as the Arctic is warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet.
Walrus can weigh up to two tons and prefer shallower Arctic waters with plentiful sea ice available for haul out. Due to climate change, walrus are increasingly hauling out on land.
The Inupiat have lived along the coast and depended upon Arctic waters to provide resources such as fish, whales, walrus, seals and seabirds for generations.
THE FIGHT TO PROTECT THE ARCTIC OCEAN
The Arctic is warming at three times the rate of the rest of the world, sea ice continues to decline, and Arctic waters are quickly warming and becoming more acidic. One powerful way we can slow the effects of climate change is to limit the amount of fossil fuels we are burning, and an effective way to do that is by not opening up new areas to intensive drilling.
The Obama administration took bold steps to protect the Arctic and act on climate, withdrawing much of America’s Arctic Ocean (all of the Chukchi Sea and much of the Beaufort Sea) and portions of the Atlantic Ocean from leasing. These protections were under threat during the Trump administration, but thankfully remained in place. In 2023, President Biden declared 2.8 million acres of the Beaufort Sea indefinitely off-limits to new oil and gas leasing. This expansion of the Obama administration decision in 2016 means that most of the Beaufort Sea and all the Chukchi Sea planning areas are off limits to oil and gas development.