Press Room

Opening the Arctic Refuge to Drilling Doesn’t Make Sense

Oil-drunk drilling advocates ignore sobering economic and environmental realities to justify phantom budget figures.

WASHINGTON — “Drilling in America’s bird nursery is reckless conservation policy and even worse economic policy. We will oppose this lose-lose proposal every step of the way,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon’s president and CEO, in advance of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s hearing to receive testimony on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Not only will this tax plan never pay for itself, but it will permanently destroy an irreplaceable wilderness and haven for millions of birds that migrate to all 50 states and six continents.

“Republicans, Independents and Democrats all support keeping the Arctic Refuge out of the budget. Let this proposal rise or fall on its merits, not as fake math in a tax bill that just doesn’t add up.”

The Senate budget calls for $1 billion in revenues for the federal treasury to be raised by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas leasing.

Companies already are drilling or are planning to drill in Alaska. Each year land is put out for lease. Between 1999-2016, the average sale drew only $50 per acre, which is only 3.7% of $1,334 per acre required to hit the Senate's goal.

Furthermore, this flawed 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 percent to 5.5 percent 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 percent of the acres offered.

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—its pristine coastal plain—to oil and gas drilling. (maps available for download herehere 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.

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