Defenders in Action: Fighting Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the most important onshore denning habitat for America’s vanishing polar bears. Home to one of only two polar bear populations in the United States, the Southern Beaufort Sea population, roughly 1,500 bears rely on the refuge for survival. But this national treasure has been caught up in a decades-long battle between those who wish to preserve the refuge's integrity, and those pushing to open it up for oil and gas drilling.
Industrial-scale oil and gas development would destroy the pristine nature of the Arctic refuge’s coastal plain forever, damaging natural habitats and harming the wildlife that calls the area home. An oil spill would not only directly harm polar bears, but would also contaminate their habitat. Even without an oil spill, some level of pollution from oil and gas activities is inevitable with expanded development.
How We’re Helping
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is currently developing the Arctic refuge’s long-term management plan, the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP). One of the key recommendations of the CCP could be for Congress to formally designate the refuge’s coastal plain a wilderness area. Such a designation would keep the coastal plain intact and protected from harmful human activities, including oil and gas development.
When the Obama administration asked the public what they thought about protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the response was loud and clear—more than 860,000 comments came in asking the FWS to recommend that Congress designate the refuge’s coastal plain a wilderness area. Together with our partners at the Animal Rescue Site, Care2 and Change.org, Defenders of Wildlife supporters generated 315,000 of these actions.
Where We Are Today
Despite overwhelming public support for permanent protections, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is far from safe. Big Oil and its lobbyists in Congress continue to call to open up the refuge to drilling, falsely claiming that the amount of oil that lies beneath the refuge will solve our country’s energy crisis. The adjacent Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are under similar attack. The Obama administration has already given Shell Oil the green light to drill in Alaska’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as early as summer of 2012. Defenders will continue to fight Arctic drilling, protecting polar bears and the rest of the wildlife that call the pristine region home.