As another National Wildlife Refuge week winds to a close, it is time to recognize some of the favorite Refuges around the country. Some are famous, and some are hidden gems, but all are wonderful testaments to America’s conservation heritage.
The 150 million plus acres are home to thousands of species of birds, fish, and wildlife – nearly 21 million acres of these incredible landscapes are permanently protected from degradation and destruction in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
With Congress back in session, our staff and policy experts have been working full-speed with members of the presidential transition team and with members of Congress to prepare them on steps they can quickly take to right many of the environmental wrongs of the past eight years.
The US Congress is again considering opening the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. The proposal threatens to violate the internationally recognized human rights to culture, subsistence, health, and religion of the Gwich’in people of northeastern Alaska and northwestern Canada. Since time immemorial, the Gwich’in have relied physically, culturally and spiritually on the Porcupine Caribou Herd that calves each spring on the Coastal Plain.
Energy bills that have narrowly passed the House of Representatives (H.R. 4 August 2, 2001; H.R. 6 April 11, 2003, H.R. 6, April, 21 2005) contain language designed to make oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sound more palatable to the public. One such scam was an amendment claiming development would be confined to a 2,000 acre area. In reality, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling would cause environmental devastation across the entire 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the Refuge.
In the push to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development, the big oil companies and their allies in the Congress, Administration, and Alaska state government say drilling on Alaska’s North Slope has been clean and environmentally benign. They profess a commitment to strict environmental regulation, and they assert that new technologies – particularly ice roads and directional drilling – will reduce even further any impact of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.