Without notifying the public, the Trump Administration has moved to allow oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in 30 years. In a series of memos the Department of the Interior has proposed to permit seismic studies – that were previously deemed unlawful – to assess the available oil within the Refuge, the first step toward full blown drilling that would destroy the ecological integrity of this pristine area.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a vast 30,000 square mile patchwork of wild rivers, wilderness, and coastal plains that serve as a sanctuary for polar bears, caribou, and wolves. It contains one of the best collections of Wild and Scenic Rivers in Alaska, and therefore the country.
The Ivishak, upper Sheenjek, and Wind Rivers were designated as Wild and Scenic Rivers in December 1980 when Congress enacted the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. These rivers play an integral part in supporting the web of life within the Arctic Refuge. The rivers support salmon and arctic char and the grizzly bears that feed on them. The river valleys provide wintering habitat to the famed Porcupine Caribou herd, some 120,000 strong, and support migratory birds from all over the planet.
The refuge is also fed by over 800 miles of eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers, meaning they have been found by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be free-flowing and have truly outstanding values. The agency completed a robust analysis of the river resources on the refuge and found exceptional remote recreational opportunities and abundant historical, cultural, and archaeological values worth protecting.
These rivers, including the Porcupine, Canning, Kongakut, and the Hulahula, are truly wild, home to all kinds of wildlife – polar bears, caribou, Dall Sheep, wolverine, and raptors. The Gwich’in Athabascan people rely on the caribou, beaver, and salmon as a part of their living cultural traditions. These same rivers also provide unmatched remote and rugged multi-day paddling opportunities. Given their status as eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers they must be managed to protect their free-flowing condition, water quality, wild character, and their outstandingly remarkable values.
The watersheds of these incredible Wild and Scenic rivers are no place for oil drilling. We must defend our public waters and lands from a corporate giveaway by the Trump Administration and anti-environment members of Congress.