WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Reps. Jared Huffman of California and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania introduced bi-partsian legislation Thursday to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic Refuge Protection Act featured 75 co-sponsors. If passed, the bicameral bill would grant wilderness designation to the coastal plain of the refuge. Wilderness designation is the strongest protection in the American public lands system, safeguarding areas from development and preserving them as truly wild places.
The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is truly wild, with hundreds of thousands of caribou and millions of birds migrating through annually. Polar bears den there during the winter, and the hardy muskoxen live there year-round. The Trump administration made an 11th hour attempt to open the coastal plain, rushing through a lease sale that ended with the signing of leases for nine tracts just a week before inauguration. President Joe Biden immediately issued a temporary moratorium on all leasing activity in the refuge, but to protect the area permanently, Congress must act.
Environment America Public Lands Campaign Director Ellen Montgomery issued the following statement:
“This legislation should be a no-brainer. It feels like a twisted Tim Burton movie to even have to debate whether to rip up a wildlife refuge with polar bears, caribou, birds from every state, and wildlife galore -- all for a little more oil. It’s 2021. Let’s remind ourselves that renewable energy is surging and General Motors has announced they are ending their relationship with the combustion engine. We need a clear-minded approach to protecting more nature in this country.
“Permanent protection for the Arctic National Refuge’s coastal plain is long overdue, plain and simple. The wildlife who live there should live unharassed by seismic equipment and pipelines. The survival of arctic wildlife shouldn’t depend on the price of oil or who inhabits the White House. If any place in our country is deserving of wilderness status, it’s this one. We thank the bill’s sponsors for taking the long view. We should permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups. Our staff work together for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the United States put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which runs organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done.