“Thanks to congressional leaders Rep. Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Sen. Markey (D-MA) for introducing legislation to protect the coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to upend the destructive leasing program mandated under the 2017 tax bill. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is vital to the way of life for the Gwich’in, home to imperiled polar bears and migratory birds, and its protection is strongly supported by the American people. It richly deserves permanent protection as one of our most iconic refuges. Congress’ action has given us hope for a new path forward,” said Robert Dewey, Vice President for Government Relations at Defenders of Wildlife. 

 

Washington, DC

Following the Trump administration’s last desperate effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas lease sales earlier this year, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Congressman Jared Huffman (CA-02), Chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, today reintroduced the Arctic Refuge Protection Act, legislation to restore protections to the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain and prevent oil and gas exploration and development activities from taking place in one of our nation’s greatest treasures. The legislation would protect the region by designating the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System, while also safeguarding the subsistence rights of the Arctic Indigenous Peoples. President Joseph Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as an executive order prioritizing Tribal sovereignty and self-governance in use, management, and conservation of public lands.
 
“After a recent failed set of lease sales, it’s clear that Republicans’ promises of a major fiscal windfall from development on the coastal plain were really a major fiscal flop,” said Senator Markey. “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is worthy of protection, with deep value to Arctic communities and to the nation as a whole. In tandem with efforts to safeguard the Refuge from harm, we encourage meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples regarding the use, management, and conservation of the coastal plain.”
 
“As expected, Trump’s rushed attempt to sell off the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas interests fell short and proved to be nothing more than a bad business venture, failing to meet the lofty promises Republicans made at the expense of the American taxpayer,” said Congressman Huffman. “It’s time we put these failed special interest boondoggles behind us and reverse the damage done by the past administration. Building upon President Biden’s swift action to protect the Arctic, we must work side-by-side with the Indigenous Peoples of the coastal plain to permanently protect and manage these treasured public lands.”
 
“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an iconic and priceless American landscape that we must pass down to future generations,” said Senator Bennet. “Coloradans take our uniquely American responsibility to protect our public lands seriously. After four years of the Trump Administration playing politics with the Refuge, it’s time that we restore the bipartisan consensus to protect this sacred land. This bill will recognize and protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge as the wilderness it is, safeguarding vital wildlife habitat.”
 
“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a pristine, million-year old ecosystem unlike anything else we have in the United States, which is why it should be permanently protected,” said Senator Cantwell. “The future of the Arctic is in tourism, and with new sea routes opening up the real value of this land is conservation, not exploitation.”
 
“Thanks to congressional leaders Rep. Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Sen. Markey (D-MA) for introducing legislation to protect the coastal plain of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to upend the destructive leasing program mandated under the 2017 tax bill. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is vital to the way of life for the Gwich’in, home to imperiled polar bears and migratory birds, and its protection is strongly supported by the American people. It richly deserves permanent protection as one of our most iconic refuges. Congress’ action has given us hope for a new path forward,” said Robert Dewey, Vice President for Government Relations at Defenders of Wildlife. 
 
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers 19.6 million acres and is the largest unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 1.56 million-acre Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the Refuge, contains the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd and is home to denning polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and more than 150 species of migratory birds. The Gwich’in Nation, living in Alaska and Canada and 9,000 strong, make their home on or near the migratory route of the Porcupine caribou herd, and have depended on this herd for their subsistence and culture for thousands of years.
 
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
 
Original co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate include Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) Tom Carper (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
 
Original cosponsors to Congressman Huffman’s measure include: Representatives Andy Levin (MI-09), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamal Bowman (NY-16), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-14), Matt Cartwright (PA-8), Jesus "Chuy" García (IL-04), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Jason Crow (CO-06), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Val Demings (FL-10), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Mike Levin (CA-49), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Nydia Velázquez (NY-07), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Peter Welch (VT-At-large), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Rick Larsen (WA-02), and Jamaal Bowman (NY-16). 
 
 

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit defenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.

Media Contact

Gwen Dobbs
Gwen Dobbs
Director of Media Relations
gdobbs@defenders.org
(202) 772-0269

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