Senator launches new assault on vital habitat in the Arctic Refuge

At the foot of the Brooks Range is the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge

New Senate bills would authorize drilling in fragile caribou lands.

To the native Gwich’in people, the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is “the sacred place where life begins.” But to many Alaska politicians, it’s just the cap on a pool of oil, and they want to open the lid and start drilling.

New bills introduced in the U.S. Senate by Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski (S. 2408 and S. 2409) would authorize drilling and production of oil on the fragile calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

Truly wild

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011 began formally considering this area for designation as wilderness. The Arctic Refuge is the only national wildlife refuge established with a mandate to preserve wilderness values.

GALLERY: The Arctic Refuge

The Arctic Refuge's coastal plain is a vital part of the larger ecosystem that is home to some of America’s iconic wildlife species - including whales, seals, wolves, polar bears, grizzly bears, muskoxen and caribou. Nearly 200 bird species from six continents depend on the Arctic Refuge, including birds that migrate to every state in America. The coastal plain also functions as a critical birthing grounds for polar bears, many bird species and the internationally important Porcupine Caribou Herd. 

The native Gwich’in people have relied on the caribou to feed their families for thousands of years, so protecting the coastal plain is also a human rights issue because the area is a vital piece of their culture and traditional way of life.

The Arctic Refuge is currently the only portion of Alaska’s North Slope that is legislatively closed to oil and gas leasing, exploration and development. Year after year, millions of Americans have reaffirmed their support for the protection of one of our nation’s last great wilderness places.

With this new attack on the refuge, we must renew our fight to protect the coastal plain from oil drilling. And we need your help. Together, we can preserve this irreplaceable wilderness for future generations of Americans.