The Arctic: A place where oil rigs don't belong
Alaska's Arctic is one of the world's last great, untouched wildernesses -- a place where polar bears still roam and massive caribou herds thunder through the land. Yet, the powerful oil and gas lobby is pressuring Congress and the Obama Administration to open sensitive parts of this pristine area to oil and gas drilling. Oil and gas development would irreparably damage the wild character of the Arctic.
Take action: What you can do to help
By standing together, we can ensure this great natural treasure will not be lost.
Animals and people at risk
The Arctic is a place where indigenous people engage in a subsistence way of life that goes back thousands of years, fishing and hunting as their ancestors before them. Polar bears roam sea ice and salmon run up wild rivers during the short Arctic summer. Hundreds of thousands of caribou migrate across vast landscapes filled with migratory birds from around the world. Wolves and snowy owls still thrive. All of this is incompatible with oil and gas development.
Oil threats on land
The oil and gas industry wants access to areas both on land (the Arctic Wildlife Refuge) and in the Arctic Ocean (the Chukchi and Beaufort seas), even though oil and gas development would carve up the Arctic Refuge with roads and industrial infrastructure, fragmenting otherwise pristine habitat and exposing the fragile tundra and wildlife to toxic chemicals and oil spills.
Oil threats at sea
Currently, oil and gas companies, including Shell, are attempting to begin drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean. Offshore drilling threatens the sensitive coasts of both the Arctic Refuge and the Western Arctic Reserve. With the oil and gas industry lacking technology to safely operate or recover spilled oil in one of the harshest environments on Earth, these proposals are dangerous. Despite what oil companies say, oil spills are part of drilling. In the Chukchi alone, the government has predicted a 40 percent chance of a significant oil spill.
The Chukchi and Beaufort seas are home to polar bears, several species of seals and whales, millions of birds and 90 percent of the entire Pacific walrus population. An oil spill could devastate critical feeding grounds for these animals, and put them in direct danger of exposure to oil through oil spills. Arctic ecosystems are less likely to recover from spills than those in more temperate climates. Oil breaks down slower in cold weather, while shorter growth and reproduction seasons means that negative impacts persist longer.
Slideshow: What's at risk in the Arctic
What we're doing
In the Western Arctic, we recently won protection for 11 million acres of special habitat in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. This is a tremendous victory for the Arctic. In Northeast Alaska, we continue to oppose efforts in Congress to open the Arctic Refuge to oil development, and we are working to influence national policy to ensure that the most sensitive areas of the Refuge receives fuller wilderness protections. Offshore, we continue to urge the Administration to stop current leases that put Arctic waters at risk.
Mobilizing our supporters is an important part of this work.