Environment Washington acts as a watchdog in Olympia, and along with our national network in Washington, D.C., we keep an eye on any legislation or policy that threatens the special places Americans love. Right now our public lands team is actively engaged with a broad coalition focused on protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
In 2015, President Obama declared the Arctic Refuge “an incredible place, pristine, undisturbed, [supporting] caribou, and polar bears, all manner of marine life, countless species of birds and fish, and for centuries has supported many Alaska native communities,” and for the first time made it the official position of the Department of the Interior to manage the coastal plain as wilderness, and to ask Congress to designate it as such.
In December of 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a massive overhaul of our nation’s tax code. Tucked into the bill was a provision that requires the Department of the Interior to offer at least two lease sales for oil and gas development by 2027 in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge, reversing decades of protection with the stroke of a pen.
Drilling for oil in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge would put the health of the Porcupine caribou herd at risk as well as the Gwich’in people’s entire way of life. It would endanger the most important denning area in Alaska for polar bears, result in thousands of miles of pipelines, roads and gravel pits, and consume massive amounts of the available fresh water in the region to construct ice roads. Drilling in the refuge would forever change the very wilderness values for which it was originally set aside.