Audubon Condemns Backdoor Arctic Drilling in House Budget Bill

House budget would expose America's bird nursery to oil and gas development.

WASHINGTON — “Wishful thinking about Arctic drilling revenues will do massive harm to the crown jewel of America’s refuges while falling short on revenue. It’s a lose-lose,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon's president and CEO, after the full House passed a budget resolution that included a backdoor provision for drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

“It looks like it’s up to the Senate to reject any budget that will open the Arctic Refuge to drilling—it’s bad for birds, it’s bad for people and it’s just bad math.” Yarnold added. 

The Numbers:

President Trump’s budget calls for $1.8 billion in revenues for the federal treasury to be raised by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing.

Don’t forget: Alaska takes 50 percent of all lease sales in the state, which means a total of $3.6 billion would need to be raised to reach President Trump’s $1.8 billion figure.

To reach $3.6 billion, companies would have to bid an average of $2,400 for every single acre of the 1.5 million acres on the refuge’s Coastal Plain which is an extraordinarily high cost per acre.

Companies already are drilling or are planning to drill in Alaska. Each year land is put out for lease. Last year, when the final bids were in, Alaska had its biggest sale in years totaling $18.8 million --an average $28.25 per acre, or about 1 percent of what President Trump and Congressional supporters need to hit their $1.8 billion revenue promise.

Furthermore, President Trump’s budget assumes companies will bid on every one of those 1.5 million acres they plan to open in the Arctic Refuge. But, between 2010 and 2015, industry only bid on 1.5% to 5.5% of the acres offered in one large area, the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska lease sales. Even in the 2016 NPRA lease sale--touted as a banner year-- industry leased just 42% of the acres offered.

Every year 200 species of birds—including the Northern Pintail—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 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.organd follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.


Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez,, (212) 979-3068.