We’re All Losers if We Drill in the Arctic Refuge

Today's Senate vote to allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge sacrifices America’s bird nursery for fantasy oil revenues.

WASHINGTON — “This plan is bad conservation policy and even worse math. And we’re going to fight this plan until common sense prevails,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon’s president and CEO, after the Senate failed to pass an amendment to remove instructions to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from the 2018 federal budget. The vote failed 48 to 52.

“There is no money to be had in the Arctic Refuge to pay for a tax plan and if we go down this road, we will have forever lost the last true wilderness in America. Drilling the Arctic Refuge just doesn’t add up.

“Today’s bipartisan vote proves that opening the Arctic Refuge to drilling would never pass if it had to stand on its merits.

“More than 200 species of birds—birds that we find in our backyards in the Lower 48—will lose the places where they nest in the summer. With our one million members who span the entire political spectrum, Audubon will continue to resist every attempt to drill the most important bird nursery in world.

“We want to thank and offer our support to all the leaders in the Senate who have stood guard over the Arctic Refuge. As we enter the next phase of this process we will work alongside you to urge more members of Congress to pass a budget that actually adds 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—it’s 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, ngonzalez@audubon.org, (212) 979-3068.