More Than 500 Scientists Call on White House to Halt Plans to Drill in Arctic Wildlife Refuge

(03/20/2001) - WASHINGTON -- More than 500 leading U.S. and Canadian scientists called on President Bush today to stop trying to change the law that prohibits oil extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The letter urged President Bush to "support permanent protection of the coastal plain’s significant wildlife and wilderness values."

The scientists said oil development could seriously harm caribou, polar bears, muskoxen and snow geese -- among other wildlife. They warned it could disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the coastal plain, which they said could lead to even more widespread injury to wildlife and its habitat.

"Nearly the entire Arctic Coast of Alaska north of the Brooks Range is available for oil and gas and gas exploration or development. The 110-mile-long coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 1.5 million acres of key wildlife habitat vital to the integrity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We urge you, Mr. President, to permanently protect the biological diversity and wilderness character of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from future oil and gas development," the letter concludes.

The 506 signers are experts in the fields of ecology, wildlife and conservation biology, resource management and cultural anthropology. They include George Schaller, world-renowned as the greatest naturalist of the 20th century; Edward O. Wilson, winner of the National Medal of Science and two Pulitzer Prizes for his landmark books on social biology; and David Klein, professor emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, noted Arctic scientist and winner of the prestigious Aldo Leopold Award for lifetime distinguished service to the profession. More than 50 of the signers are Alaskan scientists.

The letter was organized by Defenders of Wildlife, the Alaska state office of the National Audubon Society, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"This letter poses a stark choice for this administration. Will they stop ignoring an overwhelming scientific consensus and large majorities of the American people that support protection for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, or keep listening only to oil corporations that want to exploit the last protected five percent of Alaska’s north coast?" said Robert Dewey, vice president for government relations of Defenders of Wildlife.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270