U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order paving the way for more drilling in Alaska, including within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Specifically, Zinke directed that his agency develop plans for increasing oil production in the vast Western Arctic reserve near the refuge within 21 days, as well as complete an assessment of how much oil and natural gas could be extracted from the coastal plain of the refuge itself . Each year, pregnant caribou from the 130,000-strong Porcupine herd travel hundreds of miles to give birth and nurse their calves here. It is a "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.
Congress established the Arctic Refuge in 1980 and since then it has remained off-limits to drilling, despite repeated attempts to open this pristine area to energy development. Zinke’s reasoning for drilling more on more public lands in Alaska (and elsewhere) is also a ruse—if the Trump administration really were committed to securing the national energy supply, its attacks on clean energy would cease. Instead, it just continues to auction off America’s natural heritage to the fossil fuel industry.