The U.S. Fish & Wildlife today finalized the revised management plan issued in January for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That document – known as the Comprehensive Conservation Plan – includes a recommendation that Congress designate the fragile coastal plain and other areas of the refuge as wilderness.
“This wilderness recommendation is a huge step toward permanent protection for one of America’s last great wild landscapes, and a victory for millions of Americans who want Alaska’s Arctic Refuge left in its natural state,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska regional director for The Wilderness Society.
“Protecting the refuge – particularly the fragile coastal plain – from oil and gas development is vital for the long-term survival of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the Native Gwich’in communities that depend on the herd for food,” Whittington-Evans said. “The Obama administration’s decision is bold and visionary, and ensures that the Porcupine Caribou Herd will not go the way of the great bison herds, because important calving, winter and migration habitat for the herd is protected. Pregnant and nursing caribou are very sensitive to industrial infrastructure, so drilling in the coastal plain would post a major threat to the herd’s future.
“Many people and organizations worked for decades to make this happen. Protection of the Arctic Refuge was at the very core of the founding of The Wilderness Society 80 years ago, so we are very grateful to the Obama administration for supporting designated wilderness for an additional 12.28 million acres of the Arctic Refuge.”
Howard Zahniser, a former executive director of The Wilderness Society, wrote the 1964 Wilderness Act. Olaus and Mardie Murie, who served as Wilderness Society president and governing council members, respectively, worked tirelessly for the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Range, which later became the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“Some places are too special to drill,” Whittington-Evans said. “Our early leaders knew that many decades ago, and they recognized the importance of preserving places like the Arctic Refuge for future generations. We are deeply proud of the fact that their early work started the nation down the path that led us to the point where we have a recommendation that would protect virtually all of the refuge as wilderness.
“We will continue working toward the goal of seeing Congress pass a wilderness bill for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”