For decades we have been fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from dirty fuel development. Every year Big Oil and its friends in Congress make new attempts to weasel their way in to this special place. Fortunately there are those willing to stand up and fight to save our last great wild places, including the Arctic Refuge’s crown jewel-- the coastal plain.
Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) are among those willing to take a stand. At a time when bi-partisan legislation is hard to come by, they've introduced a bill to protect the Refuge’s coastal plain as wilderness. The bill would finally protect the area for good.
Senator Kirk has said, “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last pristine environments in the United States, and its value to our environment is undeniable. We have a responsibility to protect this fragile ecosystem to allow wildlife to roam free without disruption of their natural habitat. Designating this land as wilderness will benefit generations to come.”
Alaska is plagued with elected officials who owe too much to the oil companies. Alaska Governor Sean Parnell released the latest unwise proposal to begin opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to damaging oil and gas development earlier this year. And even our Democratic Senator Mark Begich insists he should “bang Obama over the head” to change the president’s mind against protecting the Refuge. The reality is, sometimes Alaskans need others to save us from ourselves. I’ve come to terms with that—I just wish our delegation would too!
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is our nation's greatest wilderness icon. Located in the northeast corner of Alaska, it is the only refuge specifically designated for wilderness purposes. The Refuge is home to some of our most beloved species of wildlife, from Dall sheep to polar bears, and the coastal plain is its biological heart. The coastal plain is the calving ground for caribou and nesting site for migratory birds that visit every state. For the caribou and other Arctic wildlife there is no alternative to this vital and sensitive habitat that they have depended on for millennia. It is no place for drilling.
Time and again the American people have said they do not want to see dirty fuel exploration or development on the coastal plain. Just last year nearly one million activists from across the country—many of them Sierra Club members—called on the president to protect the Refuge’s coastal plain as wilderness. Support like that can't be ignored, and the senators in Washington and Illinois have responded. We need more members of congress to get on board to designate the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as Wilderness, to protect it once and for all.
There is no question that the coastal plain is the heart of the Refuge, and we’ve got to keep it beating. Join us in protecting the Arctic Refuge.
-- by Lindsey Hajduk, Arctic Organizer based in Anchorage, AK