Before I jump in to my topic this morning, grab your coffee and pull up a chair … I have some gorgeous pictures I want to share with you!Gorgeous place, isn’t it? Don’t you just love all the wildlife running free? What? Where is it? It is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Feel free to grab a couple of the pictures to remember it by, for soon … soon it is likely that it will no longer be so pristine, so beautiful, and the animals are likely to be gone.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), one of the last unspoiled landscapes in the world, occupies 19.3 million acres of stunning wildlands in northeastern Alaska.This land has long been a source of controversy between those who would protect both the land and the wildlife, and the others who would like to drill for oil on the land. In 1987, an impact study showed that if drilling were to take place …
“… expected displacement and reduction of wildlife populations and natural processes would cause a major reduction in the value of the area as a pristine, natural scientific laboratory.”
During the past decade, with climate change initiatives, a lower demand for oil, and President Obama’s push to add further protections to the refuge, the controversy died down considerably. And then came Donald Trump, beholden to the big oil companies and caring not a whit for the environment, wildlife, or the raw beauty of the land.Shortly after taking office, Trump unveiled his fossil fuel-dependent “America First Energy Plan”. In his first months, he signed several Executive Orders designed to pave the way for opening previously protected lands and waters for resource extraction. In May, Interior Secretary Zinke signed an order that requested an updated assessment of untapped potential oil and gas reserves in Alaska, which could then be used to make a case for drilling in the Arctic Refuge.In an August memo, it was revealed the Department of the Interior wanted to lift a longstanding moratorium on exploratory seismic studies in the refuge. Now – remember the donor tax cuts bill that passed last December? Yeah, that one … the one that gave all those lovely tax cuts to the wealthiest 1%, increased both our debt and deficit, and left the rest of us in worse shape than before. Well, turns out that the republicans in Congress folded legislation into that bill that will ultimately open the doors to drilling for both gas and oil.This week, the first permit application to begin seismic testing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), was submitted by two Alaska Native corporations and a small oil services firm. The Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service was not happy, however. The Fish and Wildlife Service complained that the permit application failed to provide studies about the effects of the seismic work and equipment on wildlife, the tundra and the aquatic conditions in the refuge. In other words, no environmental impact study was included.
Peter Nelson, director of federal lands at the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, said: “One thing is pretty notable: how many inaccuracies and missing pieces of information there are. It really provides more evidence that industry and the Trump administration are being pretty reckless with this process.”The area is home to polar bears in winter and porcupine caribou and hundreds of migratory bird species in summer. No drilling has been done there since it became a refuge in 1980 and no seismic work since the mid-1980s.
Hats off to the Fish and Wildlife Services for standing up for further testing before any drilling is done, but thumbs down to the republican-majority Congress who sneakily embedded this proposal into the tax bill in such a way that denied democrats the opportunity for opposition.
The Arctic National Wildlife Preserve is one of the few such unfettered areas left in the world. Look back, if you will, at the pictures in this post, and then ask yourself … do we want those beautiful areas to
… in just few short years?