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. 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 support President Biden's commitment to climate and environmental justice — and deny the massive Willow oil development project in the Western Arctic
Help elevate America’s Western Arctic now — these special lands are on the razor’s edge of destruction.
The 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is our nation’s largest single public land unit and, despite its name, provides critical habitat for Arctic wildlife including three caribou herds, migratory birds from across the globe, and a full complement of Arctic apex predators including grizzly bears, polar bears and wolves, alongside animals like geese, loons, salmon, falcons, Arctic foxes, walrus and more.
The Willow development plan, proposed in climate-stressed Arctic Alaska, is a massive and far-reaching oil and gas drilling proposal that threatens the entire Western Arctic, including the globally significant Teshekpuk Lake Special Area. It will include up to five drill pads with up to fifty wells on each pad, an extensive road system that includes nearly 1000 miles of water intensive ice roads, 1-2 airstrips, hundreds of miles of pipelines, and a huge new gravel mine.
We must raise awareness now about the massive Willow project and the open comment period. 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. The next climate disaster is on the horizon 236 words
Much more must be done to curb America’s climate emissions to at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, which scientists agree is needed to avoid some of the worst impacts. Pivoting from fossil fuel production on federal public lands—which accounts for one-quarter of U.S. climate emissions—is a crucial piece of the climate solution. Instead, a potential climate disaster called Willow is proposed for 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 United States 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 Native Alaskans that depend on subsistence resources. Jeopardizing the ecosystem’s health puts all its inhabitants at risk.
And the Willow Project is the largest imminent oil extraction project currently proposed on U.S. federal lands. Burning the oil produced from this project would release more than 284 million metric tons of climate emissions, equivalent to pollution from a third of all US coal production annually. It’s urgent to raise the alarm now while President Biden looks to declare a climate emergency! Go to “Alaskawild.org/willowcomment” and call on President Biden to deliver on his climate promises and stop the Willow Project.
2. The biggest oil and gas project ever on federal lands? Biden: Just say no. 206 words
ConocoPhillips' Willow project is the largest imminent oil extraction project currently proposed on U.S. federal lands, estimated to produce more than 629 million barrels of oil over 30 years, which is more climate pollution than the emissions from 62 million cars annually.
The lands impacted by this massive project are in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (or the Reserve), our largest piece of intact public land in the country, 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.
The Biden administration just released an environmental analysis for Willow, allowing for a short window of public input and engagement to be considered: go to “Alaskawild.org/willowcomment” to voice your concerns. The proposal offers a significant test 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.
We must urgently call on President Biden to deliver on his climate promises and say no to approving the Willow project. Willow is a climate disaster we simply cannot afford.
3. 30x30: a promise faces a critical test 252 words
Alaska’s western Arctic is home to the largest parcel of public land in the U.S., and 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 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. No other piece of land can do more to advance this mission. Likewise, no immediate project has greater potential to set back the Biden’s administration’s 30x30 goals than Willow, the largest imminent oil extraction project currently proposed on U.S. federal lands. Willow is estimated to produce more than 629 million barrels of oil over 30 years—equivalent to the annual emissions from 62 million passenger cars.
Alaska’s western Arctic is the next crossroads for America’s climate crisis: the Biden administration just released an environmental analysis for Willow, opening a short window of public input to be considered.
The Willow project is a big test for the Biden administration’s commitment to climate action. Allowing this project to go forward will lock us into three decades of Arctic fossil fuel development at a time when we should focus on climate solutions and a clean-energy transition. Pumping more than half-a-billion barrels of petroleum from a fragile and rapidly warming ecosystem is simply incompatible with President Biden’s 30x30 goal of setting the nation on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. Go to “Alaskawild.org/willowcomment” to call on President Biden to deliver on his climate promises.
Additional talking points:
• 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!