Statement from David Yarnold, President & CEO of Audubon
“Today, on behalf of our 500,000 plus members, Audubon joined hundreds of thousands of Americans to call on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to recommend the Coastal Plain Wilderness Study Area be included in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Audubon strongly supports this recommendation and believes that the Refuge’s Coastal Plain – which serves as the “biological heart” of the Arctic Refuge – should be managed in a manner that protects its unparalleled biological values and maintains its special Wilderness character.
“With the release of a draft revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the FWS made an important decision to formally consider Wilderness for the crucial Coastal Plain. As part of this plan, a full Wilderness Review was done for the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain for the first time ever – presenting a historic opportunity to protect the Arctic Refuge for future generations.
“Audubon and our grassroots supporters, along with many other dedicated conservationists, have worked long and hard to keep the Arctic Refuge safe from oil and gas drilling. Now, we call on the FWS to take this historic opportunity, in finalizing the CCP for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to recommend Wilderness for the Coastal Plain.
“Due to its size, remote location, wilderness character, and diversity of values, the Arctic Refuge is an irreplaceable treasure that provides a globally-significant benchmark of ecological integrity in the Arctic. Audubon especially appreciates that the CCP expressly recognizes climate change as a fundamental challenge for the Arctic Refuge and encourages the FWS to incorporate new scientific information pertaining to climate change into future management decisions. Audubon supports climate change-related efforts on the part of the FWS focused on scientific research and monitoring, sharing of traditional knowledge, and public awareness.
“Protecting wild Alaska was bold and audacious 50 years ago. Defending it today is even more important. The Eisenhower administration’s establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960 and recognized the importance of ‘America’s Serengeti’ to both wildlife and the human spirit. It was a visionary act – not only in the protections that it has provided for more than 180 species of birds, 36 species of land mammals, and nine marine mammals, but in its awareness that future generations deserve and need an opportunity to be inspired by the enduring presence of wilderness.”
Related release from Audubon Alaska
Audubon Supports Protection of Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain
ANCHORAGE, AK –November 15, 2011--- Today marks the end of the historic comment period for future management of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. More than 10,000 Audubon members submitted comments supporting Wilderness designation for the Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the refuge. Species that nest in the Arctic Refuge have ranges that reach all 50 states, and 180 migratory bird species from six continents depend on the Arctic Refuge.
“Migratory birds that nest in the Arctic Refuge are a tangible link between the backyards of people across the United States and the Refuge,” said Taldi Walter of Audubon. “A Wilderness recommendation for the Coastal Plain by the US Fish and Wildlife Service would be an important first step for protection many Americans have long supported.”
At the public hearing in Anchorage in September, Wilderness supporters outnumbered development promoters by two to one.
Two designated Important Bird Areas (IBAs), places essential for migrating and nesting birds, are located on the Coastal Plain. The Eastern Beaufort Sea Lagoons and Barrier Islands IBA provides sheltered foraging areas for large numbers of molting seaducks, as well as nesting areas for significant numbers of migratory waterfowl. Snow Geese rely on the Northeast Arctic Coastal Plain IBA as a place to feed and build energy reserves for their long migration. In some years, more than 325,000 Snow Geese have staged here before winging their way south.
The 50-year-old Arctic Refuge is the only National Wildlife Refuge established specifically to preserve wilderness values. Its Coastal Plain is a vital part of the larger Arctic ecosystem, home to some of America's iconic wildlife species—including wolves, polar bears, grizzly bears, muskoxen, and caribou.