Fifty years ago the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge came into existence, a milestone commemorated with stories, books, including one by Douglas Brinkley, which we featured yesterday, and events around the country. The anniversary provides a historic opportunity to designate the remaining 1.5-million acres within the refuge’s boundaries as wilderness area, protecting the last piece from energy development.
“For a quarter-century a debate has raged about the best use of the refuge’s unprotected northernmost section, the coastal plain along the Beaufort Sea. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report due for completion in 2012 may well shape the refuge's fate,” we wrote in the November-December issue of Audubon. “Although it will have no binding authority, the Comprehensive Conservation Plan, as it’s called, gives the public its say in government decisions and could recommend the coastal plain be designated as pristine wilderness, the highest form of federal protection. If Congress acted on such a recommendation by passing a wilderness bill, all development would be banned.”
In a stunning documentary (see the trailer below) about the refuge and the people who know it best, the creators of America’s Wildest Refuge: Discovering the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge point out that the 19.6-acre expanse is significant to not only those who live in Alaska, but to the public at large.
Congress has the power to award wilderness designation at any time and keep developers off of the coastal plain, but a bill to do just that appears stalled. To submit your comments on the Comprehensive Conservation Plan this spring, click here and encourage your senators and representatives to take action.