Trump budget declares war on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Musk oxen are one of dozens of mammals that rely on the Arctic Refuge. Photo: Florian Schulz

President Trump’s proposed budget shows how far this administration is willing to go to give special treatment to the oil and gas industry. 
 
At a time when the world is transitioning away from dirty fossil fuels, Trump’s 2018 federal budget includes a proposal to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.

Fight back! Tell your Congress members to defend the Arctic Refuge.

The budget, released on May 22, also proposes large cuts to environmental agencies and programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been critical to funding our national parks and monuments.

Learn more about why Alaska’s Arctic Refuge is simply too wild to drill.
 
Trump’s budget specifically calls for Arctic Refuge drilling as a source of revenue, presenting the biggest threat to the refuge in many years. This is simply a reward for oil companies and anti-conservationists who view America’s public lands as a fast track to private profiteering for a handful of special interests.

Left: The Gwich-in people have relied on the Arctic Refuge and the Porcupine Caribou herd for thousands of years, Peter Mather. Right: Caribou move through the Arctic Refuge in epic migrations that thunder through the land, Florian Schulz.

Trump’s proposal to open the Arctic Refuge, which is known as the crown jewel of America’s refuge system, would result in sprawling infrastructure, habitat destruction and noise and pollution that is harmful to Arctic wildlife and their ancient migration and birthing patterns. 
 
The proposal “declares war on one of the last pristine, untouched wild landscapes in America,” said The Wilderness Society’s government relations director, Lydia Weiss. 
 
Now is the time for Americans to speak out against selling out the public lands and waters that should be the inheritance of our children and grandchildren.

A unique and irreplaceable wilderness

The Arctic Refuge is a national treasure. Located on the northern coast of Alaska, the refuge is largely untouched by human activity, except for subsistence hunting by local Alaskan Native tribes such as the Gwich’in who have relied on the refuge’s Porcupine caribou herd for thousands of years.

What’s also unique about the refuge is the vast array of wildlife often not found in similar quantities (or at all) in the mainland United States. Those species include polar and grizzly bears, wolves, Dall sheep, musk oxen, Arctic fox and migratory birds from all 50 states. The refuge is a truly unique place and we have a moral obligation to preserve it for future generations.

Polar bears how hunt on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean rely on the Arctic Refuge for denning “© Patrick J Endres /http://www.alaskaphotographics.com

Trump renews what should be a bygone battle

The Arctic Refuge originated as the Alaska National Wildlife Range in 1960, and joined our National Wildlife Refuge System. Ever since, the oil industry’s allies in Congress have tried to open the refuge for drilling, but they have always failed because of strong public opposition to any bill that would sell our Arctic Refuge to the highest bidders.
 
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, oil drilling advocates pushed the Arctic Refuge issue to the point that it became one of the major environmental issues of the era. In 1995, Congress almost succeeded in destroying the refuge by passing legislation to allow for drilling. Fortunately, that legislation was vetoed by President Bill Clinton.

In 2005, Congress almost succeeded again when Arctic Refuge drilling was initially included in their budget. In one of the final moments of negotiation, however, the refuge narrowly escaped inclusion. The 2005 budget process was similar to the one we face today, now that the president’s budget has been released and includes drilling in the refuge.

Oil infrastructure could disrupt age-old migration and calving traditions. Photo: Florian Schulz

The Arctic Refuge was free from threat during the Obama Administration, as his support for the refuge discouraged Congress from making any serious advances to develop it. Moving from defense to offense, President Obama even proposed that the refuge was so special it should be designated as protected wilderness. In fact the Arctic Refuge is that special. And earlier this year, 40 senators led by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced their own legislation to designate the Arctic Refuge as wilderness.

Their bill and any chance to protect the refuge for future generations would be lost if Trump wins this vile attempt to sacrifice this unique and irreplaceable wild place to a shortsighted fossil fuel agenda. 
 
Trump’s brazen attempt hijacks the federal budget process and reveals the toxic nature of the Trump administration and its willingness to use dirty politics to advance fringe policies that are opposed by the majority of Americans. 
 
Drilling in the Arctic is difficult and dangerous. Oil and gas development and the accompanying air, water and noise pollution would threaten the existence of wildlife in the refuge and harm indigenous populations that rely on this ecosystem for subsistence hunting. 
 
The Wilderness Society has always been a steadfast defender of the Arctic Refuge, and we will wage a vigorous fight to protect it from Trump’s senseless attack.

Fight back. Tell your Congress members to defend the Arctic Refuge.

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