Press Release: Congressional Leaders Introduce Arctic Refuge Protection Bill 


February 2, 2023  

Contact: Aileo Weinmann | 202-538-5038 |  

Congressional Leaders Introduce Arctic Refuge Protection Bill 
“We applaud our congressional champions for upholding the tradition of strong support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” 

Washington, D.C. – Leaders in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House introduced the Arctic Refuge Protection Act to designate the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a wilderness area and protect its sensitive coastal plain from oil and gas leasing and development. The Senate bill was reintroduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA); Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM); and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). The House bill was reintroduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). 

The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge was recommended for wilderness status under its current Comprehensive Conservation Plan—issued in 2015—but the Trump administration ignored this recommendation and instead fast-tracked efforts to hold a lease sale to allow oil drilling in this sacred place. Against the wishes of the 70 percent of people across the United States who favor permanent protection for the coastal plain, the Arctic Refuge was opened for leasing and development by a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 

Statement by Kristen Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Wilderness League:  

“We applaud our congressional champions Senators Markey, Cantwell, Heinrich, and Bennet – and Representatives Huffman and Fitzpatrick – for upholding the tradition of strong support for the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This bill would ensure that one of the most imperiled pieces of our natural heritage will be protected now and for future generations of Americans,” said Kristen Miller, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League. “It’s vital that Congress restore protections to this national treasure and halt a drilling scheme that threatens the culture and survival of the Gwich’in people, and that is deeply unpopular with the American public. We cannot afford to create more climate disasters when scientists agree that an urgent transition is needed to cleaner energy sources.” 


Drilling in the Arctic Refuge could have disastrous effects for people and wildlife. The coastal plain provides vital habitat for polar bears, migratory birds and other species and is the calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Indigenous Gwich’in communities have a spiritual connection to the Arctic Refuge and depend on the caribou to maintain their culture and way of life. 

The Arctic is ground zero for climate change. Temperatures there are rising four times faster than the rest of the planet. Villages are eroding into the sea, thawing permafrost is making infrastructure insecure, and food sources are disappearing. Oil drilling would compound the devastating climate impacts already being felt in the Arctic Refuge and cause permanent harm to future generations. 

Photo Credit: Florian Schulz /