Time is running out! Join us today to protect Arctic wildlife

Ribbon seal. Photo by Kamchatka Burkanov, Courtesy NOAA.

Democracy, sweet democracy. How blessed are we Americans that it doesn’t take a street full of burning tires to get the government’s attention.

So entrenched is our glorious democracy that even the federal government cannot finalize decisions about how to use our lands and our waters without first consulting us citizens. That’s how it works in theory — though I can think of one recent administration, (starts with a ‘B’, ends with an ‘h’) that could have used a little flaming rubber in this regard.

My point is that right now the government’s Minerals Management Service is accepting public comments, as required, about its potential leasing of more Arctic waters off the north coast of Alaska to the oil and gas industry. Ie., it’s time for us to exercise a little democracy.

The Wilderness Society is doing that full-force. Since mid-March we’ve been engaged in a major campaign to stop the leases. This includes mobilizing our many members to put a collective foot down about a decision that could harm Arctic animals and ecosystems.

Our original goal was to get 90,000 member letters to the MMS. But already, as of March 27, our members had sent a resounding 86,191 letters of protest. Oh sweet democracy.

The waters in question (73-million acres in fact) are teeming with wildlife from your friendly Pacific walrus and polar bears to majestic bowhead whales to your pick of seabirds, all of which are already struggling to adapt and survive as climate change wreaks havoc on their world.

Once leasing happens, it will be too late. The machinery, chemicals and noises of industry will move in starting with the seismic booming of exploration which disturbs and displaces sea life from their usual hunting and fishing grounds. The oil spills come down the road, which the MMS says are inevitable. In fact, their own research says there is a 40 percent chance of a major oil spill. And as we know, there is no technology for cleaning up oil spills in icy waters.

The MMS public comment period is only open until March 30. After that, the agency is required to review the comments and address any major issues brought forward. Of course how major issues are ‘addressed’ is up to interpretation, so that’s why it’s critical that our Alaska regional leaders have the resources they need to stay involved.

To keep this campaign strong and running, we need 2,500 new or renewed members to join us by March 30. That support will ensure we have the resources to tackle this urgent issue and protect Arctic animals at risk.

If you’re one of the 831 caring citizens who have hopped aboard this effort, thank you! Your help will make a difference. If you haven’t joined yet, it’s not too late, but we do need to hear from you by March 30.

Ribbon seal. Photo by Kamchatka Burkanov, Courtesy NOAA.
Bowhead whale. Courtesy NOAA.