By Teresa Welsh |
From the peaks of the Brooks Range, across rolling tundra, wild rivers and vast wetlands to sparkling coastal waters, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to a stunning array of wildlife. The refuge contains the greatest diversity of animal life of any conservation area in the circumpolar region. It was created to protect the many unique, and often endangered, animals that exist in the delicate balance of the extreme Arctic conditions.
But the Arctic is home to more than just rich scenery and stunning wildlife. The indigenous Gwich'in and Inupiat people have lived in the Arctic and relied on the bounty of the refuge for more than 20,000 years.
Opening the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas drilling will irreparably damage the fragile tundra and its wildlife, threatening native subsistence communities. To understand what's at stake, look at Prudhoe Bay, where less than 100 miles west of the Arctic Refuge drilling has resulted in hundreds of spills involving tens of thousands of gallons of oil each year. A similar fate awaits the coastal plain of the refuge if oil companies get their way. Oil and wildlife do not mix. Behind shallow assurances of safety and environmental responsibility is a dismal record of spills, air and water pollution by oil and gas companies.
Drilling proponents will say anything for a chance to exploit this American treasure for their own gain. Last week, Arctic Refuge drilling was heralded as the answer to our budget woes. This week? It is a jobs' savior. Next week? Perhaps Arctic Refuge drilling will be hailed as the answer to world peace.
The truth is, drilling in the Arctic Refuge, one of our nation's last great wilderness places, will do next to nothing to reduce unemployment, our budget deficit, or gas prices--and it likely won't bring about world peace.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of our nation's last great wild places. It should not be opened to destructive oil and gas drilling but saved for future generations. If we have the vision and boldness to protect it, our children will thank us.
The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently deciding the future of the refuge. The agency should protect the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, prohibiting oil and gas drilling. Some places are just too special to drill; the Arctic Refuge is one of them.
About Dan Ritzman Alaska Program Director for the Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats Campaign
Cindy Shogan Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League
Edward J. Markey U.S. Congressman
Doc Hastings U.S. Congressman
John Fleming U.S. Congressman
Marilyn Crockett Executive Director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association
Robbie Diamond Founder, President and CEO of Securing America's Future Energy
Lisa Murkowski U.S. Senator