The Artic National Wildlife Refuge is the quintessential example of a wild, untrammeled landscape, a place for wildlife, for science, for connection, for learning, for discovery. But not oil drilling.
PRESIDENT Donald Trump recently released his 2018 budget, which many have noted is mean-spirited toward the poor, disenfranchised and the elderly. Tucked into it is a plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. In addition, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recently signed an order that could lead to oil drilling in the refuge. As with all previous attempts to open this area, this one is unwarranted, shortsighted and should be rejected.
I write this as someone who has been lucky enough to visit the refuge. Several years ago I traveled with a group of college students and rafted for eight days on the Aichilik River, which flows out of the Brooks Range, north across the coastal plain, along the eastern boundary of area 1002 (the 1.5 million-acre section of the refuge where drilling would occur), and ends up on a barrier island on the Arctic Ocean. We also spent time meeting in Fairbanks with natives, scientists, government officials and oil company representatives to hear their points of view.
My arguments are not about oil (estimated at possibly 10.4 billion barrels, which would provide a 530-day supply, based on present U.S. consumption). Nor about caribou (the oil industry always touts the population rise in caribou at Prudhoe Bay but the vastly different herd size and the landscape in the refuge make comparison useless). Nor about the development footprint (legally mandated at 2,000 total acres of development but think about 2,000 McDonald’s spread across a flat plain and how far you could see them). Nor even about national security (even at full capacity, refuge oil would reduce our…