WASHINGTON – Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Reps. Jared Huffman of California and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania introduced bipartsian legislation Thursday to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
If passed, the bill would grant wilderness designation to the coastal plain of the refuge. Wilderness designation is the strongest protection in the American public lands system, safeguarding areas from development and preserving them as truly wild places.
Hundreds of thousands of caribou and millions of birds migrate through the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge annually. Polar bears den there during the winter, and the hardy muskoxen live there year-round.
The Trump administration made an 11th hour attempt to open the coastal plain, rushing through a lease sale that ended with the signing of leases for nine tracts just a week before inauguration. President Joe Biden immediately issued a temporary moratorium on all leasing activity in the refuge, but to protect the area permanently, Congress must act.
The Arctic Refuge Protection Act features 75 co-sponsors.
Environment Massachusetts state director Ben Hellerstein issued the following statement:
“This legislation is a no-brainer. We shouldn't even have to debate whether to rip up a wildlife refuge with polar bears, caribou, birds from every state, and wildlife galore -- all for a little more oil. It’s 2021. Renewable energy is surging and General Motors has announced they are ending their relationship with the combustion engine. We need a clear-minded approach to protecting more nature in this country.
“Permanent protection for the Arctic National Refuge’s coastal plain is long overdue, plain and simple. The wildlife who live there shouldn't be harrassed by seismic equipment and pipelines. If any place in our country is deserving of wilderness status, it’s this one. We thank the bill’s sponsors for taking the long view. We should permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”