WCS’s John Calvelli: “Opening this area to oil and gas development, no matter how minimal, would fundamentally change the nature of this place from one of the last truly wild landscapes in our country to one where the spread of human development is felt and will result in long-term damage to this national treasure.”
Members of the public can take action here: bit.ly/2mnNoHl
WASHINGTON (Nov. 13, 2017) – WCS today released a letter sent to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), urging a rejection of pending legislation to open portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development.
The letter details WCS’s long history of research in the refuge and the incredible unique biodiversity that makes it special.. WCS understands the need for economic opportunity in Alaska and supports responsible development in other areas of Alaska’s North Slope, but the unique quality of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge warrants protection from energy development.
The letter was sent by John Calvelli, WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and reads in part:
“WCS’s conservation legacy in the Arctic Refuge goes back more than half a century. On an exploratory field survey co-sponsored by WCS, graduate student George Schaller, whose later work with WCS established him as the pre-eminent field biologist of our time, accompanied the famed Murie Expedition into northeastern Alaska. The expedition’s findings prompted the Department of the Interior under the Republican Eisenhower Administration to set aside this dramatic landscape in 1960.
“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to a wide variety of wildlife and roughly 700 kinds of plants, 200 bird species, 47 mammal and 42 fish species can be found there. The Refuge provides critical habitat and migration passage for a diverse array of wildlife, including caribou,
muskoxen, wolverines, Arctic foxes, lemmings, gyrfalcons, ptarmigans, and a vast international assemblage of migratory birds that breed there in the summer. In addition, the coastal plain has the highest density of denning polar bears in Arctic Alaska.
“As you know, the refuge also includes the 1.5 million acre “1002 area” adjoining the Arctic Ocean. This part of the Arctic slope extending northward from the Brooks Range to the Arctic Ocean is a critical site for polar bears to make their dens and give birth. It is also the calving ground of one of America’s largest caribou herds, which migrates widely through the region and is an essential subsistence and cultural resource for local communities.
“Given the United States is one of the eight Arctic Council members, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also represents the most significant protected landscape we have in the Arctic. The area helps fulfill numerous needs as articulated by the Arctic Council’s working groups such as the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna.
“Even though vast portions of the Arctic slope and coastal waters of northern Alaska are already open for oil leasing and drilling, I understand that the Committee is expected to soon consider legislation that would open this area as well. I urge the Committee to reject this legislation. WCS understands the need for economic opportunity in Alaska and supports responsible development in other areas of the North Slope, but the unique quality of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge warrants protection from energy development.
“Opening this area to oil and gas development, no matter how minimal, would fundamentally change the nature of this place from one of the last truly wild landscapes in our country to one where the spread of human development is felt and will result in long-term damage to this national treasure.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.