Polar Bear, © Ralph Lee Hopkins / National Geographic Stock

Voices are Loud and Clear on Protecting the Arctic Refuge

When the Obama administration asked the public what they thought about protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the response was loud and clear — over 860,000 comments came in asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend that Congress designate the refuge’s coastal plain a wilderness area, bringing us one step closer to keeping dangerous oil and gas drilling out of the area for good. Defenders joined groups today to hand-deliver the comments to the Department of the Interior, letting the administration know just how important it is to keep the refuge wild for future generations.

We couldn’t have done it without you! Together with our partners at the Animal Rescue Site, Care2 and Change.org, Defenders supporters generated 315,000 of these actions. They may not know it, but the animals of the refuge are lucky to have you on their side.

Over 860,000 comments came in asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to recommend that Congress designate the refuge’s coastal plain a wilderness area, bringing us one step closer to keeping dangerous oil and gas drilling out of the area for good.

Despite this overwhelming show of support, the Arctic refuge is far from safe. This Friday, two Congressional hearings will take place to discuss the future of drilling in the refuge. The first of the two will consider a bill by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would allow for oil and gas development on the refuge’s coastal plain, a 1.5 million-acre stretch on the refuge’s northern edge.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge_courtesy of USFWS

Photo courtesy of USFWS

Such a move would mean big trouble for the iconic wildlife who call the refuge’s coastal plain home. The most important onshore denning habitat for America’s vanishing polar bears, the coastal plain is also the calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd on which the native Gwich’in people have depended for thousands of years. Industrial-scale oil and gas development would destroy the pristine nature of the Arctic refuge’s coastal plain forever. For the wildlife already impacted by the damaging effects of climate change, preventing these operations is critical.

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Defenders is working to make sure the Obama administration’s long-term management plan keeps the refuge and its wildlife healthy and protected for years to come. Stay tuned for more as the fight to keep the refuge safe continues.

Oil and gas development isn’t the only threat facing the animals of the Arctic refuge. Read Defenders’ report, Climate Change and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Which Species Are At Risk? and see which mammals in the refuge are the most vulnerable to climate change, and what we can do to protect them.

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