New Report: The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, A Crown Jewel in Need of Protection

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest intact ecosystems in the world. With its unique wildlife, unspoiled wilderness, cultural heritage that bespeaks its importance to Alaska Natives and diverse habitats for hundreds of species, it is the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System and one of the most important protected areas on Earth.Arctic_Refuge_Report_Cover

President Eisenhower established the Arctic Refuge in 1960 “for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values.”

However, this area–specifically created to protect the array of unique native species and the pristine ecosystem–is under threat. The oil and gas industry is intent on exploiting potential oil and gas resources in the Coastal Plain, the most important wildlife habitat in the entire arctic region. Development would disturb and destroy wilderness where wildlife thrive, thus harming indigenous traditions and their way of life.

We cannot permit this to happen. The Arctic Refuge is too special to drill and must be left in it’s natural state.

“America’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last places on earth that has been undisturbed by human development, and we owe it to our children and their children to permanently protect this invaluable resource,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “By permanently protecting the Arctic Refuge, we are safeguarding a unique and irreplaceable wildlife mecca while honoring the integrity of our shared conservation values in America.”

Among the wildlife, vital habitat and indigenous traditions, that we must safeguard, included in The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: An American Crown Jewel in Need of Permanent Protection:

  • Climate change. Air temperatures on the Arctic Refuge have already increased by several degrees Fahrenheit and are projected to warm 6° by 2040, shrinking habitat and food sources. Burning the Refuge’s oil and gas reserves would not only add fuel to the fire but would exacerbate the risks to polar bears and other species already struggling in the face of melting sea ice.
  • Wildlife. This is a rare chance to protect a small slice of true American wild in pristine condition, not only for the protection of the fish, wildlife and migratory birds that depend on it, but also for the Native Alaskans and future generations of Americans. No other protected area in the entire five nation circumpolar north has such abundant and diverse wildlife.
  • Wilderness. Together with the two adjacent Canadian National Parks, the Arctic Refuge is largest and wildest protected landscape in North America, affording unparalleled opportunities for those seeking the solace of undisturbed areas and is vicariously enjoyed by many throughout our nation who will never be able to personally experience it. Few areas on Earth remain as unspoiled as the Arctic Refuge.
  • Native people. Indigenous populations subsist on the Refuge’s abundant natural resources, particularly the Gwich’in, who live in 15 villages along the Porcupine Caribou Herd’s migration routes. Oil and gas drilling and industrialization in the Arctic Refuge threaten their way of life.
  • No need for Arctic Refuge oil. With many politicians and the oil industry now calling for the export of U.S crude oil, the report points out how past arguments about energy security don’t hold scrutiny. The report notes that even optimistic, speculative assumptions about refuge oil have the area meeting less than 5% of U.S. oil needs at peak production decades from now. Conservation measures and increased domestic oil production led U.S. oil imports to decline from 12.5 million barrels per day in 2005 to 5 million in 2014. Increased fuel economy standards, when fully implemented, will save the United States more oil than we import from the Persian Gulf and Venezuela combined.

Download the complete report, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: An American Crown Jewel in Need of Permanent Protection.

Read the joint press release issued with National Wildlife Federation.

Snowy Owl in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge | Credit: Kevin McCarthy

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