Rallying for the Arctic Refuge in a digital world

On Thursday, June 24, Alaska Wilderness League joined several of our conservation colleagues in hosting the first ever virtual Rally for the Refuge.

By: Isabel Yu

On Thursday, June 24, Alaska Wilderness League joined several of our conservation colleagues in hosting the first ever virtual Rally for the Refuge, and we would like to thank everyone that was able to be a part of it — this event was critical to providing Arctic Refuge supporters across the country the chance to gather and remind Congress that a majority of Americans want them to take urgent action to protect the Arctic Refuge.

You can add your voice by taking action here.

With thousands in attendance, the rally was a great success and included inspirational words from Bernadette Demientieff (executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee), Jeff Corwin (TV personality and wildlife biologist), Reverend Yearwood (president of the Hip Hop Caucus) and Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm (Chief of the Vuntut Gwich’in First Nation). And of course it wouldn’t be a rally without hearing from our champions in Congress! Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Dianna DeGette (D-CO) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) all shared why it is so important that Congress take legislative action to protect the Arctic Refuge ASAP. At the end of the rally, supporters from across the country placed calls to their members of congress urging them to protect the Refuge now.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. (Via Facebook Live)

It is extremely important for us to take action for the Arctic Refuge while we still have strong support for protections in both the current administration and Congress. President Biden has a clear understanding of the importance of protecting the refuge, and has backed it up by suspending all current oil and gas leases issued under the previous administration. Unfortunately, the 2017 tax law requires another lease sale to be held, making the suspension just a temporary fix. That’s why we need to get Presiden Biden to work with Congress to repeal the leasing mandate in the 2017 tax bill and end the oil and gas program in the Arctic Refuge before it’s too late.

It was refreshing to hear the various perspectives on the importance of the Arctic Refuge and the positive changes that are on the horizon due to the new administration’s understanding. The raw emotions from Bernadette Demientieff, speaking on behalf of the Gwich’in Nation, was eye opening for rally attendees as it revealed how relevant protecting the refuge is for her people and their livelihoods in the present moment. As Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation, shared, the health of the Arctic Refuge impacts so much more than just the wildlife within the region. Much more is at stake than just the outlook for the Porcupine caribou. The future of generations to come depends on the fate of the refuge.

The optimism and determination radiating from Chairman Raul Grijalva, Chief Tizya-Tramm, Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and their fellow speakers gave rally attendees — including myself — hope across the nation. It was truly inspiring to see these leaders, along with many more supporters from around the U.S. and beyond, standing together to amplify the message that we aim to protect the Arctic Refuge now and forever!

We hope that in due time, we’ll be back rallying in person and inspiring even more people to use their voices and show Congress that we want legislative action to be taken NOW.

Isabel Yu is an intern at Alaska Wilderness League. Isabel is a junior at the University of Delaware studying Energy and Environmental Policy. She’s originally from New Jersey, enjoys hiking with her dog in her spare time, and is interested in helping preserve Alaska’s wild land as it is such a unique environment that is constantly struggling to stay healthy and protected from destruction.