Halt the expansion of oil drilling on Arctic public lands
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Outside the industrialized oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, vast areas of relatively untouched wildlife habitat remain in Alaska's Western Arctic. The region—globally recognized as an invaluable ecological resource—remains one of the wildest, most remote land areas in the United States because of decades of hard work that yielded vital, commonsense protections from oil drilling.
Now those protections are under attack from the Trump administration. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has issued an order kicking off the process of opening up the agency’s management plan for the Western Arctic. He announced the order at an oil industry conference in Anchorage, Alaska, where he declared Alaska “open for business,” leaving little doubt as to his intention to expand drilling in the Western Arctic.
Secretary Zinke has a responsibility to protect this land and our climate future—not surrender it to his cronies in the fossil fuel industry. Tell Secretary Zinke not to roll back the 2013 management plan protections for the region.
At close to 23 million acres, these Western Arctic lands—managed as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska—are home to bears, musk oxen, caribou and wolves. The region’s lakes and lagoons are the birthplace of millions of birds that fly to all 50 states and 5 continents, and harbor marine mammals like walrus, seals and beluga whales.
For decades Earthjustice and our allies have worked hard to protect the unique wildlife and other resources of the Western Arctic from the threats of oil development. These efforts have resulted in significant protections for key habitat areas like Teshekpuk Lake, one of the most important and sensitive wetland complexes in the circumpolar Arctic. In 2013, the Obama administration put in place the first-ever comprehensive management plan for the reserve. The plan put about 11 million acres of the most sensitive and important areas off-limits to oil drilling, including several lagoons and the areas in and around Teshekpuk Lake.
Opening sensitive areas in the Western Arctic would threaten essential habitat for caribou, polar bears and countless birds from around the world. These areas are already suffering dramatic effects from climate change. They are no place for oil drilling.
Expanding oil drilling on these public lands also would lock in our dependence on fossil fuels well into the future. To preserve a livable planet, we need to wean ourselves off oil, not double down on it by developing our most sensitive, wild places.
Please take action and tell Secretary Zinke not to sacrifice our iconic and special public lands—and our climate future—to the oil and gas lobby.
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