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Chill the Drills: Protect America's Arctic!

We don't need to spoil America's last great wilderness in the pursuit of oil and other fossil fuels.

Take Action! Tell the Obama administration to protect America's Arctic.

Arctic Ecoregion Map | Special Places | Arctic Factsheet | Chill the Drills Factsheet

Alaska is home to some of the finest wildlife habitat and most pristine wilderness in the United States. To the north of the Arctic Circle and beyond the Brooks Range mountains lies America's Arctic -- the final frontier in American conservation. From Point Hope on the far western edge up against the Chukchi Sea to the pristine coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge in the east, this land is perhaps the single most endangered national treasure.

America's Arctic wilderness is under siege from local and global forces being shaped by human actions: Oil and gas drilling, coal mining, and invasive development are combining with global warming's effects to wreak havoc on this vast remote landscape. From the hilly tundra and wild rivers of the southern Arctic to the wetlands, ponds, and clear deep water lakes that push up against the Arctic Ocean, this area is home to a stunning array of wildlife, including caribou, polar bears, musk ox, bowhead whales, and nearly 200 species of birds.

Now, throughout their Arctic home, rapid climate change is altering their fragile habitat. While global warming is causing average temperatures to rise around the world, the effects are being felt most dramatically in the Arctic, where temperatures are climbing at roughly twice the global pace. While remote for most of us, the changes happening today in the Arctic are important signs of what may come for the rest of the planet.

Even as much of Alaska's wilderness already feels the heat of global warming impacts, the push to drill for oil is mounting and mine for coal is mounting. It is irresponsible to create additional sources of global warming pollution -- from oil development in the Arctic Ocean to coal mining in the foothills of the Brooks Range mountains -- in these wild places. To understand what's at stake, one need only look as far as the Prudhoe Bay oil fields -- one of the world's largest industrial complexes. Hundreds of spills involving tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products occur annually. Decades-old diesel spill sites still show little vegetation re-growth. Gravel fill, excavation, and waste disposal alone have destroyed 17,000 acres of wildlife and marine habitat. A similar fate awaits the coastal plain, the special areas of the Western Arctic, and the Polar Bear Seas if the oil companies and their allies have their way.

The best defense is a strong offense pushing to protect large areas of wild lands and surrounding buffer areas which are linked to other core areas by protected corridors. The wild lands in America's Arctic are critical caribou calving grounds and core migration routes, key grizzly bear and wolverine habitat, and the most important waterfowl and shorebird habitat in North America. This connected wild lands network will allow species to move to more hospitable habitats as the climate changes, thereby increasing their chances of survival. Habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, and other human-induced stressors on an ecosystem act in synergy with climate change to increase the threat of species extinction. Ill-conceived energy development needs to be controlled to give species the fighting chance they deserve.

The Sierra Club is working with the Obama administration and Congress to permanently protect America's Arctic from additional threats posed by drilling and mining that could push wildlife over the brink. Among the Club's specific objectives:

  • Permanently protect the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge and the special areas of the National Petroleum Reserve- Alaska in the western Arctic, including: Teshekpuk Lake, Utukok Uplands, Colville River and Kasegaluk Lagoon;
  • Prevent oil development in the Arctic Ocean;
  • Work with Alaska Native communities to prevent resource development harmful to subsistence; and
  • Advocate for a comprehensive Arctic Conservation Plan.
  • Chill the Drills

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