The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Needs to be Permanently Protected
TJ Lauderback, Steve Bishop and Dale Hicks are U.S. Air Force veterans who enjoy hunting and fishing on public lands and waters in their home state of Arizona and all across the nation.
When the three of us were captains in the U.S. Air Force, we were proud to serve our country, fighting to protect American ideals. We served together, became best friends, and now we’ve been fortunate to continue that camaraderie by hunting, camping, and fishing together on our nation’s incredible public lands.
One of the most spectacular places we’ve explored together was the wilds of Alaska. The stunning landscapes, robust wildlife populations, and beautiful night skies are like no place else on earth.
Unfortunately, the heart of this diverse ecosystem — the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — is now threatened by oil and gas development. Such development would mean the construction of roads, well pads, and pipelines that would disrupt migration patterns, crush polar bear dens, and forever alter this magnificent place.
That’s why the three of us have come together again to fight for what’s right. We see it as our continued duty to our country to ensure that an extraordinary national treasure is protected.
We know how important our public lands are for returning veterans in order to heal and connect with our natural world. Veterans share a strong connection with the outdoors and believe that protecting our public lands is a patriotic duty. Like so many Americans, veterans count on our national public lands for hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and to seek solace from a stressful world.
Sportsmen and women across this nation dream of the opportunity to hunt or fish in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: it’s on nearly every sporting enthusiast’s bucket list. The refuge has a wealth and diversity of plant and animal life unique to the Arctic: from salmon and halibut to grizzly bears and the iconic caribou — the refuge is a true sporting paradise. Whether or not you ever get a chance to go to the refuge, the large intact landscapes of Alaska hold a special place in the mind of American hunters and anglers.
This fall, Congress is expected to take action that would finally protect this rare ecosystem by reversing a provision in the 2017 tax act that opened up 1.56 million acres of the coastal plain to oil and gas development. The first lease sale in January was a complete financial bust, raising just $14 million — far from the billions that had been promised. Thankfully the Biden Administration has suspended those leases for the time being but under the current law a new lease sale must take place before 2024. That’s why it is so urgent for this Congress to step in and protect the wildlife refuge.
As Arizonans, we know how important it is to protect national treasures. The Grand Canyon has endured because of protections put in place more than 100 years ago. It’s now time for Congress to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
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