The U.S. Conservation Alliance, founded in 1989 to protect wild places where outdoor enthusiasts recreate, and 77 corporate members from the outdoor, craft beverage, financial and renewable energy sectors have penned a letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to take immediate action to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The reason is the holding of a lease sale for drilling rights in the Refuge’s coastal plain by the outgoing Trump administration after decades of efforts by the fossil fuel industry to open the Refuge to oil development.

“Protecting the Arctic Refuge has been a top priority for The Conservation Alliance for decades. As threats to the Refuge increased this year, so did our advocacy. It’s encouraging to see so many of our business members across different industries […] joining forces to advocate for the protection of the Refuge,” said Brady Robinson, executive director of The Conservation Alliance. “Our members understand that protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not just an environmental fight, it’s about combating climate change, growing sustainable economies, and advocating for human rights.”

First established as the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower protected the Arctic ecosystem north and south of the iconic Brooks Range, including the Coastal Plain. In 1980, Congress expanded President Eisenhower’s Arctic Range and formally established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, thereby legally closing the Coastal Plain to oil development.

In December 2017, President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed into law with a provision to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s Coastal Plain to oil and gas extraction. Since then, the Trump administration has been working aggressively to expedite leasing the Coastal Plain to oil developers. The Conservation Alliance supported efforts to restore protections for the Refuge through the legislative process, and hold the Trump administration accountable during its hurried process to exploit the Refuge. Now, with just two weeks until President-elect Biden’s inauguration, leases to drill in the Coastal Plain are being offered to developers.

“We look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his choice for Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland, to halt development in the Refuge and permanently protect this awe-inspiring landscape,” said Kirsten Blackburn, advocacy manager for The Conservation Alliance.

Photo: © Steve Halama on Unsplash