Press Room

Audubon: Rushed Lease Sale Process Jeopardizes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Migrating Arctic birds face an uncertain future as the Department of the Interior circumvents proper process.

ANCHORAGE – US Department of the Interior (DOI) officials announced on April 19 that the department will be opening a comment period on an oil and gas leasing plan for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Coastal Plain is the biological heart of the Refuge, supporting millions of migratory birds, the 200,000-animal Porcupine Caribou Herd and a cohort of iconic predators, such as wolves, grizzly bears and polar bears.

The comment period will last for 60 days. DOI is seeking information to inform areas to offer for lease sale and the terms and conditions to be applied to leases.

“This administration is about to sell the Arctic Refuge to the highest bidder and turn one of America’s premier bird nurseries into an oilfield,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), president and CEO of the National Audubon Society.

“We cannot and will not allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Such a disastrous approach to managing our protected public lands threatens birds and robs our kids and grandkids of their natural legacy.”

DOI’s announcement comes on the heels of a bill opening the Refuge to oil and gas drilling that was attached as a rider on the federal government’s tax bill in December.

“Opening the Refuge was a grave error that went against the wishes of many Alaskans and the majority of Americans,” said Nils Warnock, executive director of Audubon Alaska.

“In order to garner support for this unpopular action, drilling proponents gave false promises about how they would approach development in the Refuge with care. Now these same officials are hastily throwing together a lease sale in contradiction to their political pledges.”

“Protecting the Refuge’s Coastal Plain is an unassailable piece of responsible Arctic management. No administration should seek to develop a place as significant as the Coastal Plain, but the Trump Administration’s slipshod and rushed approach to this leasing program is particularly concerning,” continued Warnock.

About 200 species of birds, including the Tundra SwanSnowy Owl, and Northern Pintail, depend on the Arctic Refuge. Species migrate from all six continents and all 50 states to breed in the Refuge. The Refuge is an iconic American treasure on par with the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. It was first protected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and leaders from both parties have worked together for generations to stop attempts to open the biological heart of the Refuge—its pristine coastal plain—to oil and gas drilling. Late last year, 37 leading Arctic wildlife scientists united to oppose drilling in the Arctic—making clear that wildlife and oil drilling don’t mix in the Refuge.  

(Maps available for download and use herehere, and here.)

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 and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Since 1977, Audubon Alaska's mission is to conserve the spectacular natural ecosystems of the state, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats, for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. Audubon Alaska uses science to identify conservation priorities and support conservation actions and policies, with an emphasis on public lands and waters. Audubon Alaska is a state office of the National Audubon Society. Learn more at

Susan Culliney, Policy Director,
Audubon Alaska,, 907-276-7034, 907-891-3422.
Nicolas Gonzalez, Media Relations Manager, National Audubon Society,, 212-979-3100.


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