Arctic Refuge

The Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic public lands. It spans 19.6 million acres, and supports the greatest variety of plant and animal life in the entire circumpolar north. It is home to the Porcupine Caribou Herd, denning polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and nearly 200 species of migratory birds. Its biological heart, the coastal plain, is where the Porcupine Caribou Herd make the world’s longest migration to each year to give birth and raise their young. The coastal plain is also the most important onshore denning habitat for polar bears in the United States – mother polar bears with cubs are increasingly denning in this area as annual sea ice melts more quickly due to a warming climate.

The Gwich’in Nation, living in Alaska and Canada, make their home on or near the migratory route of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and have depended on the animals for their subsistence and culture for thousands of years. The Gwich’in people – along with Iñupiat land protectors – have worked to protect these lands for generations. They strongly oppose any efforts to drill for oil and gas within the Refuge, which would threaten to alter caribou migrations and population, risking the Gwich’in way of life

The Arctic Refuge is also a shield against increasing threats from climate change. The permafrost found in the Refuge is an effective storage container for carbon, at risk of release as temperatures continue to warm and permafrost continues to melt. On the Refuge coastal plain, permafrost warmed 3 to 5°F between 1985 and 2004. And research suggests that even temporary changes in Arctic sea ice can have significant effects on the atmosphere, which may in turn have downstream consequences for the weather in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Drilling in the Arctic Refuge is deeply unpopular with the American people. According to public polling done by Yale Climate Connections, a large majority of American voters (67%) oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The case for protecting this sacred land is so clear that all major banks in the U.S. and Canada are among the two dozen banks around the world that have announced they will not fund any new oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge.

Oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Refuge is counterproductive to climate action, wildlife conservation, and the human rights of the Indigenous Peoples who strongly oppose any effort to drill.