WASHINGTON -- The Department of the Interior said Monday that it will begin an oil leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, according to multiple media reports. The 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the refuge has been in the crosshairs of oil and gas companies for decades. With this decision, oil lease auctions are expected to begin before the end of the year.
Environment America Senior Conservation Program Director Steve Blackledge issued the following statement:
“This decision by the Trump administration is both wrongheaded and tragic. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a unique and unspoiled symbol of our nation’s commitment and connection to the natural world. Its breathtaking landscape is home to endangered polar bears, caribou, wolves, muskoxen and approximately 200 species of migratory birds that travel annually to all 50 states.
“Now, the door is being flung wide open for oil and gas drilling to impose irreversible harm to one of America’s iconic spaces. Claims that this thoroughly invasive industrial work can be done in an environmentally responsible way are either naive or, even worse, cynically deceptive.
“We will turn to the courts to fight this foolish and deeply damaging effort because once drilling begins, there will be no way to return one of the world’s great natural wonders to its former self.”