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It’s not enough that polar bears, caribous, foxes, seals, grizzly bears, wolves, muskoxen, and other wildlife are battling ice storms, and catastrophic fires in the Arctic triggered by climate change. Why not throw another epic trial their way and completely massacre their homeland?

A shocking decision that clears the way for an oil and gas lease auction on one of the most spectacular coastal plains, could be the final nail in the coffin for millions of already threatened animal species.

The Trump administration has announced it will open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, a move that will allow oil and gas rights to be auctioned off on the 1.6 million-acre coastal plain, part of a nearly pristine wilderness that is home to migrating caribou and waterfowl as well as polar bears and foxes that live there year-round.

In a conference call with reporters Monday, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said that his department was following through on the 2017 budget bill that instructed the federal government to conduct oil and gas leasing on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Bernhardt added that the plan was “carefully tailored” to minimize its impact on the surrounding environment.

“How the Tump administration can make the claim that an oil and gas leasing program won’t have an effect on the surrounding environment is ludicrous,” said David Barritt of Network for Animals (NFA).

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) was originally founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 to protect immense areas of wildlife and wetlands in the United States. This refuge system created the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which conserves the wildlife of Alaska. If Roosevelt knew what the plans were now for the Refuge, he would roll over in his grave! The ecosystem in the area is already fragile due to the impacts of a changing climate and easily destroyed by human disturbance. Instead of plundering this vital landscape by drilling and seismic testing, we should all be fighting to protect it.”

The numbers of animal species in the Arctic are already plummeting – to the point where many Arctic dwellers are flagged as vulnerable to being wiped off the planet. The decline of the caribous is one such example. Severe icing episodes - when the vegetation caribou feed on gets encased in ice because of fluctuating temperatures – results in thousands of these hooved animals left to suffer and starve to death. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada lists the Peary herd as “at imminent risk of extinction” due to climate change. Other animals, like polar bears, are also battling to survive as the Arctic gradually loses snow and ice. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the only refuge that regularly dens polar bears in that local region, and contains the most consistent amount polar bears in the area.

The question of whether to drill for oil in the ANWR has been an ongoing political controversy in the United States since 1977. ANWR is 30,000 square miles (78,000 square kilometers). The coastal plain is 1,500,000 acres (6,100 square kilometers). The current proposal would limit development to 2,000 acres (8.1 square kilometers) of that plain.

Barritt said: “This is particularly tragic because Americans have been supportive of renewable energy. Many Americans have made positive changes to their lives, because they realize we have to save what’s left of the natural environment. Yet, in recent months, the Trump administration has expanded oil and gas drilling, weakened gas mileage standards and rolled back energy efficiency standards for appliances.”

According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, the lease sales would result in the release of more than 4.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide over the projected life of the field. That total, which includes the impact of oil and gas once it is burned, is equal to roughly three-quarters of U.S. annual emissions.


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