Fast-Talking Sen. Gardner Spins Arctic Refuge Drilling

Nov 2, 2017

Porcupine Caribou Herd in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.

Florian Schulz
Conservation group calls out Senator Gardner’s arguments.

In a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing held this morning, Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner argued that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would abide by all existing environmental laws and could be done in a way that doesn’t impact wildlife. The Wilderness Society was quick to point out that these assumptions are false. 

“Drilling in the Arctic Refuge will destroy the last remaining undeveloped region of the Arctic coastal plain,” said Jeremy Garncarz, Senior Director with The Wilderness Society in Durango. “If Senator Gardner believes in protecting America’s public lands he needs to stop arguing that drilling in the Arctic Refuge can be done with little to no impacts to the environment. The only legislation currently being considered, S. 49, actually waives all environmental regulations and provides no assurances that wildlife will be protected.”

“Coloradoans care about our nation’s public lands and wildlife,” said Garncarz.  “Some places are just too wild to drill. We would never stand for drilling in Rocky Mountain National Park and we shouldn’t stand for drilling in our nation’s largest wildlife refuge.”

Background on the issue: Drilling in the Arctic Refuge was included as a provision in the President’s proposed budget as well as the House and Senate fiscal year 2018 proposed budgets. Using the budget process requires only a majority vote in the Senate to enable drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Earlier this year, the Trump administration said that drilling in the refuge is one of its top priorities. 

The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the biological heart of the refuge, providing vital denning habitat for polar bears, and the calving ground of the 197,000 strong Porcupine Caribou Herd that sustains the culture and communities of Alaska’s indigenous Gwich’in people. 

America’s largest wildlife refuge has been protected by the federal government since 1960, and has a long history of bipartisan support to keep it pristine.

Senator Bennet continues to be a champion of the Arctic Refuge.  He sponsored recent legislation to designate the Coastal Plain of the refuge as wilderness and to protect the land from future development. See more here:

This summer and fall, more than 100 Colorado Outdoor Businesses and more than 50 breweries, wineries and distilleries submitted letters to Senator Gardner asking him to similarly stand up for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by leaving it closed to oil and gas drilling.

The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 700,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.   

Contacts: Jeremy Garncarz, Senior Director, The Wilderness Society; 970-403-6186,