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 thank President Biden for his recent announcement for increased protection for America's Arctic
On September 6, 2023, President Biden announced a suite of actions to protect diverse landscapes across America’s Arctic, recognizing the importance of Alaska’s public lands and waters for communities, biodiversity and our global climate. These announcements are an essential step toward addressing the threat of oil and gas development across the Arctic — a region that provides some of our nation’s last remaining opportunities to protect ecosystems at a landscape level. This announcement comes at a time when the climate crisis has never been more profoundly felt across the globe.
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. No more oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge! 223 words
It's great to hear that the Biden administration has taken steps to cancel the last remaining oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This decision not only respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples but also helps protect the unique and fragile Arctic ecosystem, including its wildlife and millions of migratory birds. Reassessing the environmental impacts of the previous oil and gas leasing program and taking steps to protect millions of acres of Arctic habitat in the western Arctic are indeed significant moves toward safeguarding these vital landscapes.
Celebrating these decisions is a positive step, but it's important to remain vigilant and continue advocating for lasting and guaranteed protection of these critical landscapes as part of the larger effort to address climate change and protect our planet's natural heritage.
That is why engaging in the public comment process is crucial to ensuring that these conservation efforts are thorough and effective. People from across the country can make their voices heard by providing feedback and support for these decisions, which is an important part of the democratic process (go to www.alaskawild.org to register a comment).
We should all thank the President as the administration collects comments from people across the country on these important decisions and continue to push for lasting guaranteed protection for these critical landscapes as a global climate imperative.
2. Huge step forward for the promise of America the Beautiful 243 words
The announcement by the Biden administration to protect diverse landscapes across Alaska is significant and comes at a crucial time. This region is home to immense cultural and biological richness and includes iconic areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Reserve. America’s Arctic presents an unparalleled opportunity to protect public lands on an unprecedented scale, prevent climate change, and prioritize the biodiversity that sustains Indigenous communities.
The administration's commitment to canceling oil and gas leases in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge that were issued in violation of the law during the previous administration's leasing program is an important step. Additionally, the increased protections for over 13 million acres in the Reserve represent substantial progress towards the administration's goal of protecting 30 percent of the nation's lands and waters by 2030, which is crucial for addressing climate change and safeguarding biodiversity.
It's important to note that while these actions are commendable, there is more work to be done to align the management of Alaska's lands and waters with our nation's climate goals. Taking action now to secure landscape-level protections, where wildlife thrives and local communities benefit, is an opportunity to make further progress in preserving the Arctic's unique and valuable ecosystems while also addressing the urgent climate crisis.
For those interested in supporting these efforts and advancing America the Beautiful in Alaska, you can send a message through www.alaskawild.org and contribute to the conservation and protection of this vital region.
3. Celebrating a historic Arctic announcement…. 240 words
Last year President Biden was contacted by millions of people during the fight against the Willow project. Recently he announced exciting plans to protect millions of acres in Alaska’s Arctic including an incredibly strong set of proposed protections in the Reserve. It's encouraging to see the impact of public engagement and advocacy efforts in influencing his decision, it shows us a future where our public lands – even areas that were historically viewed for their petroleum potential – can be prioritized for conservation and climate solutions!
The Western Arctic includes extraordinary wildlife habitat and rich waterways, nourishing many communities, along with hundreds of thousands of animals like polar bears, bowhead whales, and herds of caribou. Birds from all four North American flyways and several international flyways, even shorebirds from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand, migrate to the Reserve every year to raise their young. These diverse ecosystems, teaming with wildlife, show us the thriving, intact environment that existed before our world was facing the existential threat of climate change.
We should thank the president, but it is also vital to continue to push for secure, strong, and enduring landscape-level safeguards. Sites like www.alaskawild.org provide a platform for individuals to make their voices heard and contribute to these conservation efforts. Let's work together to ensure that the vision of a sustainable, protected Arctic becomes a reality and that we avoid the environmental impacts associated with projects like the Willow project.
Additional background and talking points:
PLACES WE PROTECT: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
• The Biden administration announced that the Department of the Interior is canceling the last remaining Trump-issued oil and gas leases on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
• The leases, held by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) – a State of Alaska-owned corporation – were acquired in a rushed January 2021 lease sale that the Trump administration rammed through during his final days in office.
• The Biden administration’s decision to cancel AIDEA’s leases affirms what we have known all along: the Trump oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic Refuge is unlawful and the leases should never have been issued.
• This is a historic win for America’s Arctic and honors the rights of the Indigenous Peoples who have been working to protect their sacred lands in the Arctic Refuge for decades.
• The refuge’s 19.6 million acres are home to an abundance of wildlife—musk oxen, wolves, caribou, and polar bears—and are the summer breeding grounds for millions of birds that migrate here from six continents and all 50 states. Its lands and waterways are also vital to the Gwich’in and other local Indigenous communities who have relied on these rich ecosystems for millennia. The debate over what to do with this landscape has raged for nearly a century, but now, in the midst of a climate crisis that’s wreaking havoc at every latitude but warming the poles at astonishing rates, there’s broad consensus that drilling the Arctic for fossil fuels is beyond a terrible idea.
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, 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!