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Writing a letter to the editor (LTE) to your local or regional newspaper is an effective and easy way to reach a large audience with your message. This is an important tool for organizing — especially now! LTEs are published on a newspaper or news website opinion page, which is one of the most read sections overall. The Biden administration needs to hear from people across the country! Congressional staffers also tell us that members of Congress keep a close eye on media coverage, including LTEs in their local papers, so they can keep a “pulse” on issues of importance to their constituents.
ACT NOW: Write an LTE to remind President Biden about his commitment to climate and environmental justice — he should deny the massive Willow oil development project in the Western Arctic
Please write a letter-to-the-editor today. Use these talking points and the ideas in the sample LTEs below or craft your own letter, letting your passion and own experiences come through!
Three sample letters:
1. Climate disaster approved!? 226 words
I am so angry—President Biden just approved a major climate disaster when much more must be done to curb climate emissions! Scientists agree we must reduce emissions to avoid some of the worst climate impacts. Curbing fossil fuel production on federal public lands—which account for one-quarter of U.S. climate emissions—is a crucial piece of the solution we need. Instead, a climate disaster called Willow has been given the green light in Alaska’s western Arctic.
Officially known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (or simply the Reserve), America’s largest piece of intact wild lands exists on a scale that could only be in Alaska. Nowhere else in the U.S. is there the opportunity to protect threatened habitats and resources at such a landscape level. The Reserve supports a robust ecosystem with caribou, geese, loons, salmon, polar bears and wolves, and is home to 13 communities, including Alaska Natives that depend on subsistence resources. Jeopardizing this ecosystem’s health puts all its inhabitants at risk.
The Willow Project will be the largest new oil extraction project on federal land. Burning the oil produced from this project derails any commitment to addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. We must change the way our nation’s public lands are managed for oil and gas, starting with America’s Arctic. It’s urgent now to express our frustration and stop this climate catastrophe!
2. The biggest new oil and gas project on federal land? Biden Approved Willow. 221 words
Oil giant ConocoPhillips made insanely record profits ($19 BILLION) at all of our expense over the last year, while also working to turn America’s largest piece of public land into a 30-year Arctic climate disaster. Now is not the time for another handout to the oil and gas industry! The Willow project is the largest new oil extraction project on U.S. federal lands, estimated to produce more than 239 million metric tons of climate pollution.
The lands impacted by this massive project are in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (or the Reserve), located in Alaska’s western Arctic. The Reserve supports caribou, geese, loons, salmon, polar bears and wolves. This is also the cultural homeland and subsistence area for several Alaska Native communities. And the Willow project would bring massive industrialization to a region already suffering severe climate damage.
I am so angry that the Biden administration just approved the project! This decision is a significant failure of the Biden administration’s commitment to bringing our nation’s public lands management into line with the urgency—and the President’s promises—to combat the climate crisis. ConocoPhillips is only looking to continue to inflate their insane profits, but Willow is a climate disaster we simply cannot afford. We must change the way our nation’s public lands are managed for oil and gas, starting with America’s Arctic.
3. America the Beautiful? Biden promise fails in this critical test 242 words
We are furious. President Biden has approved a massive oil project known as Willow in Alaska’s Western Arctic! In 30 days more than 5.5 million people(!) reached out to the Biden administration opposing Willow, but these voters who are concerned about our climate future were ignored. The decision to approve Willow defies Biden’s commitments to addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. This is the wrong decision.
Alaska’s western Arctic is home to the largest parcel of public land in the U.S. Nowhere else in the country is there the opportunity to protect public resources at such a landscape level. Safeguarding this area is critical for the Biden administration to achieve its “America the Beautiful” goal of conserving 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. No other piece of land can do more to advance this mission. Likewise, no project has greater potential to set back the President’s goals than Willow.
President Biden failed this pivotal test on climate. This project locks us into three decades of Arctic fossil fuel development at a time when we should focus on climate solutions and a clean-energy transition. It is estimated that over 30 years Willow will produce 239 million metric tons of climate pollution. Creating a massive new source of pollution from a fragile and rapidly warming ecosystem is unacceptable. We must change the way our nation’s public lands are managed for oil and gas and achieve “America the Beautiful” in America’s Arctic.
Additional background and talking points:
PLACES WE PROTECT: National Petroleum Reserve Alaska
• The National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska (Reserve) is the largest single unit of public lands in the nation, spanning nearly 23 million acres across the western North Slope of Alaska. The Reserve includes some of our nation’s most vital natural resources — millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands with critical habitat for migratory birds, brown bears, caribou, threatened polar bears, walrus, and more.
• The Alaska’s Western Arctic is the next major front for fighting the climate crisis, and the Willow project is potentially the Biden administration’s biggest climate test to date. This 30-year development commitment that would pump more than half-a-billion barrels of petroleum from a fragile and rapidly warming ecosystem is incompatible with President Biden’s goal of setting the nation on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.
• Iñupiat people who live in the Western Arctic, and whose families have lived in and moved through this region for thousands of years, rely on its animals, lands and waterways for their food, health, culture, and way of life.
• The Western Arctic includes extraordinary wildlife habitat and rich waterways, nourishing many communities within and adjoining the area’s boundaries, along with hundreds of thousands of animals like geese, loons, salmon, falcons, polar bears, bowhead whales, orcas and three herds of caribou. (Teshekpuk Lake, Western Arctic, Central Arctic)
• The Reserve provides habitat for the Southern Beaufort Sea population of polar bears, one of the most imperiled polar bear populations on the globe. Creating a project of Willow’s scale would fragment and destroy critical habitat they need to survive.
• Birds from all four North American flyways and several international flyways migrate to the Reserve every year to raise their young. Tundra swans from the Atlantic Flyway, white-fronted geese from the Mississippi Flyway, pintails from the Central Flyway, and brant from the Pacific Flyway converge on this summer destination each year. Even shorebirds from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand find their way north to the Reserve.
• Alaska’s Western Arctic is the largest contiguous parcel of public land in the U.S. Nowhere else in the country is there the opportunity to protect threatened land at such a landscape level. Protecting this area is critical for the Biden administration achieving its “30x30” goal of conserving at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. No other piece of land can do more to advance this mission. Likewise, no single project has more potential in the near term to set back the Biden’s administration’s 30x30 goals.
Follow these tips:
1. Respond to an article in the paper. The best letters are those that are in response to an article that ran in the paper, and many papers require that you reference the specific article. Begin your letter by citing the original story by name, date and author. Some papers do occasionally print LTEs because of a lack of coverage on a specific issue. If this is the case, begin your LTE by stating your concern that the paper hasn't focused on this important issue.
2. Follow the paper’s directions. Information on how and to whom to submit a letter-to-the-editor is usually found right on the letters page in your paper. Follow these guidelines to increase the likelihood that your letter will be printed.
3. Share your expertise. If you have relevant qualifications to the topic you're addressing, be sure to include that in your submission.
4. Refer to the legislator or corporation you are trying to influence by name. If your letter includes a legislator’s name, in almost all cases staff will give him or her the letter to read personally.
5. Write the letter in your own words. Editors want letters in their papers to be original. Feel free to use our messaging tips, but also take the time to write the letter in your own words.
6. Keep your letter short, focused and interesting. In general, letters should be under 200 words — often 150 or less is best. Stay focused on one (or, at the most, two) main point(s) and get to it in the first two sentences. If possible, include interesting facts, relevant personal experience, and any local connections to the issue that you may have.
7. Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, address, and a daytime phone number. The paper will contact you before printing your letter.
If you are interested in writing and submitting an LTE or have a question, contact Lois (at) AlaskaWild.org. If you send in an LTE, we'd love to hear about it so that we can keep an eye out for it. Or better yet, let us know when you get published!