ARCTIC REFUGE

Urge Senate members to cosponsor the bill to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!

Photo credit: Patrick J. Endres/AlaskaPhotoGraphics.com

WHY TO LOVE THIS PLACE

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, located in the northeast corner of Alaska, is one of the finest examples of wilderness remaining anywhere in the world. It is a perfect example of intact, naturally functioning Arctic and subarctic ecosystems. In fact, such a broad spectrum of diverse habitats occurring within a single protected unit is unparalleled in North America.

LOCATION

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WILDLIFE REFUGE

Species including caribou, polar bears, waterbirds, arctic foxes, black and brown bears, Dall sheep, moose and muskoxen all rely on this diverse habitat.

WILDLIFE NURSERY

The coastal plain serves as birthing grounds for the Porcupine caribou in summer and the most important land denning area for America's threatened polar bears in winter.

MIGRATION DESTINATION

Approximately 200 species of birds call the Arctic Refuge home at least part of the year, including snowy owls, Arctic terns and golden eagles.

PUBLIC LAND

The Arctic Refuge covers 19.6 million acres in northeast Alaska, and includes the Mollie Beattie Wilderness, the second largest wilderness area in the U.S. at 8 million acres.

PEOPLE OF THE REFUGE

The Inupiaq village Kaktovik is located on the Arctic Ocean coast while the Gwich’in people live in several villages to the south along the border of the Arctic Refuge.

THE FIGHT TO PROTECT THE ARCTIC REFUGE FROM DRILLING

The Trump administration recently completed the first step in its process to hold an initial oil and gas lease sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and it could also be on the verge of green-lighting seismic exploration on the Arctic Refuge's coastal plain. It is rushing forward with plans for destructive oil and gas drilling while disregarding the biological, cultural and climate impacts on a rapidly warming Arctic. This push is the result of Congress passing a controversial tax bill in 2017 that mandates development on the coastal plain, sacred lands of the Gwich’in people and vital habitat for caribou, polar bears and of migratory birds.

Reasons not to drill in the Arctic Refuge:

Polar bears: Female polar bears build dens in the Arctic Refuge to give birth to their young, primarily in the coastal plain. Though polar bears prefer to spend the majority of their time on the drifting pack ice in the Arctic Ocean, the sea ice is receding due to global warming, making land denning sites in the Arctic Refuge increasingly important for polar bears.
Caribou: The coastal plain serves as birthing grounds for the Porcupine caribou - a herd critical to the survival of the Gwich'in people.

Migratory birds: Approximately 200 species of birds rely on the Arctic Refuge at least part of the year, including snowy owls, Arctic terns and golden eagles.

And, in addition to exacerbating climate change, here's Center For American Progress' financial rundown on the waste of taxpayer money the tax bill that mandates Arctic Refuge drilling will cause the American people:

Learn more about financial reasons to oppose Arctic Refuge drilling here.

PEOPLE AND THE REFUGE: THE GWICH'IN

The Gwich’in people have lived in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge region spanning from Alaska to Canada for hundreds of generations. The word “Gwich’in” means “people of the land,” and their lives and culture have become inseparable from the fate of the Porcupine caribou herd. The Gwich’in people rely on caribou as a chief food source as well as for clothing, tools and ornaments, and as a central fixture of their culture.

In Alaska, the Gwich’in reside in nine communities: Arctic Village, Beaver, Birch Creek, Canyon Village, Chalkyitsik, Circle, Eagle Village, Fort Yukon and Venetie. For thousands of years, the Gwich’in people have regarded the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as “iizhik gwats’an gwandaii goodlit” or “the sacred place where life begins,” because it has been the most frequently used birthing and nursery grounds for the Porcupine caribou.

Photo credit: Evon Peter

FEATURED ANIMAL: PORCUPINE CARIBOU

Average life span: 15 years in the wild

Length: 64-84 inches

Height: 33-59 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 180-400 lbs., up to 700 lbs.

Well adapted: Relatives of reindeer, moose and deer, caribou are well adapted to their northern habitat and cooler climates, with hollow-hair fur that covers almost all of its body providing insulation in winter and flotation for swimming.

Porcupine Caribou Herd: The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is the central calving ground for the internationally-recognized Porcupine caribou herd, relied upon by the Gwich’in people in the U.S. and Canada as a dietary necessity as well as for their cultural traditions. Each year the Porcupine caribou migrate between winter habitat in Canada and Alaska south of the Brooks Range, and summer habitat (calving and post-calving) on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, the longest land migration route of any land mammal on earth.

Photo Credit: Florian Schulz/FlorianSchulz.org