Arctic Refuge Protection Act officially Introduced

(Image: Screenshot, YouTube video "Arctic Refuge Protection Act", Lisa J. Ellwood, Indian Country Today)

Senators Markey, Bennet, Cantwell, Carper, Schumer, and Udall Introduce legislation to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

News Release

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.)

Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.)

Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.)

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) today introduced the Arctic Refuge Protection Act, legislation to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by designating the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System. In 2017, the Republican-led Senate attached legislation to open up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling to the Republican tax bill, using the budget process to avoid a filibuster. The Senators’ action to save the Refuge comes as House Democrats are expected to pass legislation repealing the Republican drilling provisions later this week.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower established the original refuge, which comprised 8.9 million acres, as the Arctic National Wildlife Range. It was later expanded in 1980 to its current 19.6 million acres and renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The 1.56 million-acre Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the Refuge, supports more than 250 species, including caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, muskoxen, wolverines, and migratory birds It is also the sacred home of the Gwich’in Nation, who are linked to the Porcupine Caribou herd of the Refuge through their food system, shared environment, and long-standing culture.

“The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Climate change is putting the entire region at risk,” said Senator Markey. “We don’t need to make it worse by disrupting and drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, especially to produce more oil that will only worsen the climate crisis. The United States exports more American crude oil than could ever be produced from drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Our public lands belong to all of us—they are our nation’s greatest treasures. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the crown jewel of this collection. This legislation will keep it safe and not allow it to be used as a polar payout for polluters. I thank all of my colleagues for their leadership in supporting this legislation.”

“Senate Democrats won’t stand idly by while the Trump administration seeks to exploit and devastate one of our nation’s most pristine ecosystems for oil and gas drilling,” said Leader Schumer. “The Arctic Refuge Protection Act halts the administration’s reckless efforts and ensures that the land, deeply sacred to the Gwich’in people and home to an abundance of wildlife, will be protected and preserved. As we all fight to protect our planet, I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation.”

“By voting to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling in 2017, Senate Republicans upended forty years of bipartisan consensus to protect this land that is sacred to the Gwich’in Nation and vital habitat for wildlife. These pristine lands are under attack, and it’s on us to protect the Refuge as the wilderness that it is,” said Senator Bennet. “Coloradans and Westerners know how vital it is to protect our wild places – from the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde to the Coastal Plain of the Refuge, we know that these places are valuable to our communities and our economy. This bill will bestow the strongest protections for public lands on the Arctic Refuge, safeguarding these iconic landscapes for future generations.”

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest and most pristine intact wildlife habitats on the planet, and its million-year old ecosystem must be preserved for future generations,” said Senator Cantwell, top Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “The Trump administration’s rush to jam through Arctic drilling has resulted in a sham review process that ignores the warnings of government scientists and the will of the American people. I will continue to do everything I can to protect this fragile ecosystem from the devastating impacts of oil and gas development.”

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge belongs to the American people. Considering the refuge is already bearing the brunt of the climate crisis, it’s imperative we do what we can to protect its environmental quality and defend its wildlife,” said Senator Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee. “By designating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain as wilderness, this bill would help to prevent activity or development on the coastal plain that could jeopardize environmental quality and endanger an important habitat. I’m proud to support Senator Markey in this important effort.”

“Some places are just too special and too fragile to lose to oil drilling, and the Arctic Refuge is without a doubt one of them. This pristine and complete ecosystem is one of the wildest places we have left on earth, home to more than 250 species that rely on it for survival. And for thousands of years, the Gwich’in people have subsisted on this land. That’s why my Uncle Mo Udall fought so hard to protect the Arctic Refuge, and that’s why I’m proud to join Senator Markey in carrying forward this work,” said Senator Udall. “Today we also face both a climate change crisis and conservation crisis where we are losing natural land at an unsustainable rate—and exploiting the Arctic Refuge for oil will only make both problems worse. That is why we are introducing legislation today to designate the Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as wilderness -- to protect its unmatched natural beauty for future generations.”

A copy of the Arctic Refuge Protection Act can be found HERE.

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