For Immediate Release
U.S. Senators, Conservationists Stand Together Against Arctic Drilling
WASHINGTON – Defenders of Wildlife joined a media event today with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and other Senate champions in advance of an expected vote on a budget resolution that could allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Statement from Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark:
"We stand with champions in the Senate in opposing this underhanded budget scam to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. It is unnecessary and simply wrong to destroy an incomparable wilderness that serves as our nation’s most important polar bear nursery, provides essential habitat for the world-renowned Porcupine caribou herd and supports more than 200 species of migratory birds. Enough is enough. All Americans have a stake in protecting this vital refuge. Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling won’t balance the budget, but it will break the trust of the American people who object to a greedy few robbing us of our irreplaceable natural heritage."
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge comprises 19.6 million acres of public lands in northeastern Alaska. Much of the area was first set aside in 1960 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower; the full refuge, which is about the size of South Carolina and one of the largest intact ecosystems in the world, was established under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980. About 40 percent of the refuge, mostly in the Brooks Range, was designated as wilderness to permanently protect this treasured habitat.
The Arctic refuge provides vital nesting habitat for hundreds of species of migratory birds from all 50 states; the most important onshore denning habitat for threatened polar bears in the United States; spawning streams for trout and other valued fish species; and room to roam for caribou, wolves, muskoxen, Dall sheep, Arctic foxes and many more.
Most of the Arctic refuge’s coastal plain is designated critical habitat for imperiled polar bears. Mother polar bears with cubs are increasingly dependent on this area as sea ice melts due to a warming climate. The coastal plain is also the principal calving ground for the nearly 200,000 strong Porcupine caribou herd, which migrates hundreds of miles to birth and raise their young on the Refuge each year.
The coastal plain is also where Big Oil wants to drill. Oil development would irreparably damage this pristine landscape. The wilderness and habitat values would be forever destroyed by an industrial complex, replete with oil spills, leaks and pollution. Pipelines, drill rigs, buildings and other infrastructure accompanied by the noise of industrial development would threaten the suite of sensitive species that call the refuge home. The Arctic refuge may be far away, but the impacts of drilling there would put some of America’s most iconic wildlife at risk, and could have ramifications for ecosystems throughout the United States.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 1.2 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.