The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge faces new threats amid a hostile political environment.
Credit: Peter Mather.
The Senate just passed a bill that lays the groundwork for an all-out assault on wildlife refuges in Alaska. It was both a profound mistake and a troubling precedent as we gird ourselves to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from new threats.
Senate joint resolution 18 (S. J. Res 18) undermines the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) ability to manage wildlife in its natural diversity within refuges. Once enacted, this measure means the agency will no longer be able to ensure ecosystem health for crown jewels of the refuge system.
Once again employing the controversial Congressional Review Act to tear down an environmental rule from the Obama era, the proposal applies to all 16 of Alaska's national wildlife refuges—totaling some 76 million acres—and severely undermines science-based management. In February, the House passed its version of the bill, which was introduced by frequent anti-conservation offender Rep. Don Young.
In a nutshell: Key senators voted to hurt some of the wildest places we have by impairing the nation's ability to care for them responsibly.
But what's even scarier than that is what this vote may hint at for the future. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is America's last big, pristine and wild place, and it is facing challenges greater than at any time in more than a decade. When the time comes to decide its future, we must be sure these lawmakers don't repeat their mistake.
CALL your senators—tell them not to repeat the mistakes of Senate joint resolution 18. They must defend the Arctic Refuge.
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Pro-drilling faction sets sights on Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
While S. J. Res 18 represents a more covert attack on Alaska's wild places, one of the last great, intact ecosystems among them is being threatened in less ambiguous fashion. Emboldened by Donald Trump’s election, Congress has again set its sights on opening Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration, and the threat to the refuge’s fragile coastal plain is greater than it has been in more than a decade.
The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the birthing ground of the famed Porcupine Caribou Herd. Credit: Peter Mather.
As the birthing ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, the coastal plain—which lies between the Arctic Ocean and the beautiful mountains of the Brooks Range—is the biological heart of the refuge. Sadly, it is this region that is in the crosshairs of oil companies and their allies in Congress, who would like to sell it off to special interests when we’re not looking (despite most Americans favoring permanent protection for the refuge).
Congress screwed up on their most recent Alaska refuge vote—we have to hold them accountable when it comes to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.