Press Room

Statement of Audubon President David Yarnold on the 50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

“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 ago 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. Today, Audubon joins people across our nation and around the globe to celebrate the beauty, diversity, and unadorned splendor of this unique place, now known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And we also honor the foresight and commitment of those who took the first action to protect it.

“It is now up to us to make sure that one of the most untouched Arctic ecosystems in America remains intact. The combination of climate change and oil and gas development poses a “double threat” to America’s Arctic wildlife and wildlands. Warming temperatures are already causing significant ecological disruption, while industrial oil and gas development imperil species like the polar bear and migratory caribou. At risk is the biological heart of the Arctic Refuge, the 1.5 million acre Coastal Plain. Even though it includes some of the best polar bear denning and caribou calving habitat on the entire North Slope, this vital area lacks permanent protection.

“Audubon and our grassroots supporters, along with many other dedicated conservationists, have worked long and hard to keep the Refuge safe from oil and gas drilling. Now, we call on our nation’s leaders to continue the work their predecessors began five decades ago, by extending permanent protection to the Coastal Plain. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we must take this historic opportunity to take the next critical step to preserve America’s great Arctic wilderness.”

Now in its second century, Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation.

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