Press Room

37 Leading Arctic Wildlife Scientists Oppose Arctic Refuge Drilling

Following the introduction of legislation to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, dozens of Arctic wildlife experts unite in opposition.

WASHINGTON — Today, 37 leading Arctic wildlife scientists sent a letter opposing drilling on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator Maria Cantwell, the Chair and Ranking Member respectively of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Senator Murkowski introduced legislation yesterday to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling in an effort to raise revenue and off-set tax cuts as part of the tax package currently making its way through Congress.

Excerpts from the letter:

Based on our experience in the Arctic, we oppose oil exploration, development and production in the Arctic Refuge. Such activity would be incompatible with the purposes for which the refuge was established, including “to conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity.” […]

Decades of biological study and scientific research within the Arctic Refuge have confirmed that the coastal plain specifically is vital to the biological diversity of the entire refuge. Within the narrow (15-40 miles) coastal plain, there is a unique compression of habitats which concentrates a wide array of wildlife native to the Arctic, including polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, caribou, muskoxen, Dolly Varden char, Arctic grayling, and many species of migratory birds. In fact, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arctic Refuge coastal plain contains the greatest wildlife diversity of any protected area above the Arctic Circle. […]

Indeed, proposals that would limit the “footprint” of oil development to 2,000 acres on the coastal plain within the Arctic Refuge are of little value, since those acres may be spread over much of the coastal plain. This would be especially true if oil reserves are scattered in multiple pockets across the refuge, as is suggested by the U.S. Geological Survey (Fact Sheet 0028-01). Since the effects of industrial activities, starting with seismic surveys, are not limited to the footprint of a structure or to its immediate vicinity, it is highly likely that such activities would result in significant impacts on a variety of wildlife in the refuge’s narrow coastal plain.

Read the full letter here.

Every year 200 species of birds migrate through six continents and all 50 states to breed in the Refuge. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an iconic American treasure on par with the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite. First protected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, leaders from both parties have worked together for generations to stop attempts to open the biological heart of the Refuge—it’s pristine coastal plain—to oil and gas drilling. (maps available for download here, here and here)

Audubon is asking its one million members and supporters to contact their members of Congress and urge them to protect the Arctic Refuge from future development. 

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, ngonzalez@audubon.org, (212) 979-3100.

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