Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
An Irreplaceable Treasure
Called "America's Serengeti" for its tremendous biological productivity and diversity, the coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most intact and untouched ecosystems in America. The refuge is home to 42 mammal species, including more than 120,000 head of caribou; 36 species of fish, and over 160 species of birds. Many of these birds migrate to and from all fifty states and from six continents to feed and reproduce, taking full advantage of the burst of biological growth which blossoms here in the long days of the Arctic summer.
The Refuge as a Target
The refuge was established in 1960 under President Dwight Eisenhower, and while much of Alaska remains open to oil and gas drilling, oil and gas interests continue to lobby hard to drill in the refuge.
In recent years, special interests have persuaded their supporters in Congress to force several votes to allow energy extraction in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge, putting at risk the incredible array of wildlife that rely on the refuge for their survival. While they have gotten close, conservation groups like Audubon have held firm and helped prevent this pro-drilling legislation from moving forward in Congress.
You Can Help Protect The Arctic
For the first time in more than 20 years, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The final CCP will help direct management of the Refuge for the next fifteen years! This is a great opportunity to ensure that the Refuge's most biologically productive region, the Coastal Plain, is managed in a manner that maximizes its unparalleled biological values and maintains its unique Wilderness character for future generations. This process, which began in the Spring of 2010, should be completed this year. The draft plan contained six alternatives for long-term management, ranging from the continuation of current practices to the designation of three geographic areas (including the Arctic Refuge coastal plain) for potential inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the potential designation of four additional Wild and Scenic Rivers on the refuge. In early 2013, the FWS will be releasing a copy of its Revised CCP and final Environmental Impact Statement, after which a Record of Decision will be announced. Information on the CCP can be found at http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm.
The Search for Lasting Energy Solutions
Drilling is a dirty and dangerous business that has historically always resulted in spills and harmed the environment. In addition, it feeds the nation's dangerous addiction to oil, which is also a major cause of climate change. Major and minor spills occur almost daily in Alaska oil fields, and these occurrences can cause lasting damage to the environment.
In addition to the threat of spills, if drilling were allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge the network of roads, pipelines, gravel mines, and heavy machinery that would be needed to produce oil would industrialize the pristine wilderness of the refuge. Despite what drilling supporters have claimed, energy extraction in the Arctic Refuge would do virtually nothing to bring down energy costs or increase energy security, and new supplies of oil would not arrive for years. According to government estimates, oil from the refuge would lower prices at the gas pump by a little more than a penny/gallon and not for 20 years.
There are better solutions to our energy problems that can both protect the pristine habitat found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and make us less dependent on oil. Audubon endorses raising fuel efficiency standards, energy conservation, and responsible development of renewable energy sources like properly-sited wind farms and solar power.
Read Audubon magazine’s article on the Arctic Refuge: "The Last Great Wilderness"