Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
What's At Stake
One of the last unspoiled wild places on earth is at risk of oil drilling.
Gray wolves, musk oxen, caribou, and imperiled polar bears roam the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s 19.6 million acres. Migratory birds visit from all 50 states and six continents. These lands—first recognized with federal protections 60 years ago—are vital to the culture and survival of the Gwich’in people, who have relied on the Arctic refuge for thousands of years, as well as the Indigenous communities that stand with them.
But the fossil fuel industry has been fighting for decades to access the land and drill for oil that may lie within the refuge’s coastal plain—an area that the Gwich’in have called “the sacred place where life begins.” Before leaving office, the Trump administration rammed through a last-ditch effort to auction portions of the refuge to oil and gas companies, even though drilling and seismic exploration would be incredibly destructive to the refuge’s imperiled ecosystem—and our climate. Fortunately, thanks to NRDC and our coalition partners, the lease auction was largely a bust: No major oil companies showed up and the proceeds amounted to less than one percent of what boosters had promised.
On his first day in the White House, President Joe Biden placed a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities on the coastal plain through an executive order. A few months later, the U.S. Department of the Interior suspended leases until the agency completes a full review of the Trump administration’s decision to initiate a leasing program.
While promising, these actions are all still temporary. NRDC is part of an Indigenous-led coalition working to achieve permanent protections for these lands and waters, and we are fighting in federal court to reverse the previous administration’s attempts to exploit them. We cannot risk the oil and gas industry destroying one of the last remaining wildlands—especially when it is time to turn toward a more just, clean energy future.
Call on the Biden administration to take bold action for our environment
Reporting, expert commentary, analysis, and more.
In its first markup of the 116th Congress, the House Natural Resources Committee today approved legislation to restore protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Even during a government shutdown, President Trump has somehow found a way to barrel ahead with his project to permanently scar the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that will send dozens of seismic exploration trucks across the fragile tundra of the refuge’s Coastal Plain.