Alaska governor targets Arctic Refuge for oil and gas drilling

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's oil and gas exploration plan would target the biological heart of the Arctic Refuge.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a place for oil and gas development? We think not, but Alaska's governor has proposed a dangerous plan.

Despite decades of Americans saying “no” to oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska’s governor has proposed a plan that includes seismic testing and exploratory drilling in the very heart of the refuge – the coastal plain.

Gov. Sean Parnell said that if the federal government will team up with Alaska, he will ask the state legislature to invest $50 million in the multi-year project, which would take place in what Alaska’s Native Gwich’in people call “the place where life begins” because it is vital to calving caribou.

The Gwich’in depend on caribou and other wild species as food.

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"The purposes for which the refuge was established do not include oil and gas exploration or development,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society. “The refuge exists 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.”

“Gov. Parnell’s proposal has no place in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which we hope will soon be finalized with a recommendation for wilderness status for the coastal plain.”

At 19 million acres, the Arctic Refuge is larger than West Virginia and contains some of the most pristine and spectacular wilderness left in the world. The oil industry and its allies in Congress have long sought access to the refuge, but have been rebuffed by public opposition and ceaseless efforts by The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups to protect this irreplaceable landscape.

“Hearing that Gov. Parnell’s plan would specifically target the coastal plain for oil and gas exploration is especially disappointing, and it defies the will of the American people,” Whittington-Evans said. “The Arctic Refuge has been spared from resource development for decades because Americans have said ‘no.’ Some places are simply too special to drill, and the coastal plain is one of them.

 

Map of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by USFWS.

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