Oil rigs and truck traffic do not belong here in the Arctic Refuge.
Parnell has submitted a plan for oil and gas exploration on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge where caribou and polar bears live.
Parnell said he will ask the Alaska Legislature to commit $50 million for 3-D seismic testing, and he hopes the federal government will match those funds in an effort to open the refuge for drilling even though his plan ignores the very reason the refuge was created.
“The Arctic Refuge was established for the conservation of the landscape’s extraordinary values, including fish and wildlife populations, and habitat for the Porcupine caribou herd, polar bears, grizzly bears, other predators, musk oxen, Dall sheep, and migratory birds and fish, among others,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society.
“Drilling on the coastal plain of the refuge would not lower gasoline prices, but it would permanently diminish one of the last great wilderness landscapes in the world. Instead, this portion of our nation’s heritage should be protected for future generations.”
Parnell originally proposed his idea in May, prompting Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to send the governor a letter reminding him that the Obama administration is opposed to drilling in the refuge, and stating: “Originally set aside by President Dwight Eisenhower to preserve its unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values, the Refuge is a vast, intact ecosystem and continued protection of this ecologically important area is taken very seriously by the Service.”
Jewell’s letter also told Parnell that his proposed seismic testing is prohibited by the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
Like other supporters of the oil industry, Alaska’s governor looks at the wilderness landscape of the Arctic Refuge and sees only dollar signs. But the refuge is worth far more than the value of the oil that may lie beneath it.
Parnell’s assault on the refuge – like all the attacks that came before it – must be stopped. The refuge must be protected for the creatures that call it home, for the Alaska Native communities that depend on its wildlife for cultural traditions and as a source of food, and for future generations of Americans who deserve to inherit an intact, spectacular, wilderness.