Protect the Arctic Refuge from Oil Exploration

NRDC is fighting to save the refuge for future generations in court, Congress, and the White House.

Atigun Gorge in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Credit: R. Vickers/Shutterstock

Each year, pregnant caribou from the 130,000-strong Porcupine herd travel hundreds of miles to give birth and nurse their calves on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This makes it "the sacred place where life begins" for the region's Gwich'in people, whose culture revolves around the herd's health and regular migrations. Referred to as America's Serengeti, the plain also draws polar bears, grizzlies, Arctic wolves, the endangered shaggy musk ox, and other wildlife.

The refuge has long been a target for the oil and gas industry. Today, the charge to open this unspoiled region to drill rigs, pipelines, roads, and other industrial development is being led by the state of Alaska. Hooked on oil revenue, the state has never seen federal lands it didn't want to exploit, no matter how unspoiled or globally renowned.

NRDC is fighting to save the refuge for future generations in court, Congress, and the White House. We are defending against Alaska's lawsuit seeking exploration rights there. Our analysis shows that the oil beneath the coastal plain is spread out, and tapping it would require a vast network of roads and pipelines that would disastrously fragment habitat and displace wildlife. Our successful work in increasing fuel efficiency means we can readily do without the supply of oil in this pristine wildlife haven.

We are also fighting the big polluter agenda of the oil industry's allies in Congress, successfully defeating legislative efforts to open the reserve. We helped persuade the Obama administration to propose wilderness status for the refuge in 2015. We are building political support for congressional action on that recommendation while also working with the White House to do all it can to preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for generations to come should Congress fail to act.

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