Protecting the Arctic Wildlife Refuge

By Hammond Green Team Members

Biden vs. Trump 

Throughout their presidential campaigns for the 2020 election, both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have clashed bitterly over controversial topics such as the economy, COVID-19, racism and violence in America, and, possibly the most at stake, our climate. Biden has prioritized combating climate change by propelling the United States on a path toward net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (Moore, 2020). Moreover, he’s invested nearly $2 trillion over four years into various areas, including infrastructure and nature conservation efforts (Moore, 2020). Trump, on the other hand, has focused his efforts on bolstering the country’s oil and gas industries and rolling back on Democratic environmental regulations. And now, after three years of struggle, the Trump administration has succeeded in opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil leases, a major environmental reversal with detrimental consequences. 

The Bill

Enacted in 1970, The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandates all agencies and corporations to conduct a preliminary environmental impact assessment on the infrastructure being built on the land. The Trump Administration assigned the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency in the Interior Department, to develop a plausible agenda for extracting oil from the Coastal Plains of Alaska. Although the plan failed to pass the environmental impact assessment, on August 17 2019, the Trump administration ratified a plan allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The plan includes leasing the 1.6 million-acre coastal plain and building “four airstrips, major well pads, 175 miles of roads, vertical supports for pipelines, a seawater treatment plan, and a barge landing and storage site” (Moore, 2020). According to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Cut Act of 2017, 400,000 acres of the coastal plains must be leased two times in the span of seven years. The first lease occurred before December 22, 2021, and the second is set for before December 22, 2024.

The Impact

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, spanning 19.6 million acres, is home to approximately 220 species of mammals, 250 species of amphibians and reptiles, and over 1,000 species of fish. Every spring more than 200 bird species migrate to the Arctic, traveling from 6 continents and all 50 states. It also serves as a habitat for endangered polar bears and the Porcupine Caribou Herd. The Arctic Refuge is not only inhabited by animals, it is also home to the indigenous Gwich’in and Iñupiat communities that rely not only on the land but also on the animals. The Gwich’in use the endangered Porcupine Caribou Herd as a source of food and clothing, They also hold a strong spiritual connection to the land. The Iñupiat people value the plentiful bowhead whale population and rely on it for survival. As the lives of these animals are put at risk, the indigenous communities will be directly affected. These animals and people depend on the Arctic and its resources to survive. The infrastructure needed for drilling and transporting oil and gas will contribute to habitat loss and have a catastrophic impact on climate change. Drilling will destroy the dens and nests of many animals, especially polar bears, whose young need to stay warm in a den. Gas explosions and oil spills also pose a risk, as animals may consume food that has come into contact with oil and other chemicals. Many species living in the Arctic are already at risk of extinction and oil extraction will only contribute to the problem. If the plans for drilling are implemented, the effects will be disastrous and a tragedy to the beauty of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

How to Help

There are numerous ways to help save the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, one of the main ones being spreading information and raising awareness on how oil-drilling will suffocate the beauty and life of the refuge. Here are a few ways to do so:

1. Share informative posts regarding the Arctic Wildlife Refuge on Instagram or other social media platforms. Here’s a link to a possible post you can share: www.instagram.com/Arctic Awareness

2. Sign petitions to put an end to the proposed bill. Here’s a possible petition to sign: www.change.org/Protect the Arctic  3. Send letters to the US President-Elect Biden, expressing your opposition to the bill. Here’s a link that’ll guide you through the process: Take Action to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

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