Update: The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has released its final environmental impact statement, which opens up the entire coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fossil fuel extraction. It's a slapdash effort to carve up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and lease it to industry, as soon as this year.
The Trump administration just took a big step toward allowing oil and gas drilling in one of the country's most pristine stretches of wilderness—Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Bureau of Land Management has released an environmental impact statement (EIS) that offers up four potential plans for opening the region’s coastal plains to fossil fuel extraction. If approved, the EIS could make way for lease sales as soon as this year, posing a significant threat to polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and migratory birds. Drilling in the refuge would also threaten the Porcupine River caribou, a population that has been essential to the way of life of the indigenous Gwich’in people for thousands of years. Just before leaving office, President Obama adopted a plan to maintain the area as wilderness, but a rider in the 2017 tax bill reversed those protections. The Trump administration now appears to be capitalizing on the opportunity to appease oil executives by barreling forward with a rushed environmental review.