Celebrating 50 years of safe livin’ for Arctic wildlife & habitat.
One of America’s most cherished wilderness areas, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), is celebrating a big one: this year marks its 50th anniversary. The refuge was officially established on December 6, 1960 after seven years of passionate campaigning led by conservationists Olaus and Margaret Murie. Tucked in the top northeast corner of Alaska’s frontier, the ANWR is now 19.2 million acres of undisturbed wilderness. It’s also home to some of our nation’s most iconic wildlife including polar bears, caribou, grizzly bears and gray wolves, as well as hundreds of unique bird, mammal and fish species.
To mark this major milestone, many of our favorite environmental groups along with members of congress, scientists, and hundreds of businesses and organizations are calling on our current administration to designate the refuge as a national monument. The proposed new title would help to discourage any future oil drilling efforts in the region.
Think this is a done deal? Believe it or not, the argument about opening up this last remaining pristine wilderness to oil drilling is still a point of debate. You can help make sure the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sticks around for another 50 years by lending your voice to this effort; all you have to do is sign the e-card here to show your love and send a clear message that it's time to make a commitment to protect the Arctic Refuge forever.
Check out President Obama’s anniversary proclamation here, and visit this amazing slideshow to be stunned by the beauty of this place and reminded of why it’s so important to protect it. Want to stay on top of what’s happening with ANWR? Friend them on Facebook!
Speaking of polar bears…
With an ever-shrinking habitat and struggling populations, polar bears don’t often seem to catch a break. But this week brought good news as the U.S. government announced plans to set aside 187,000 square miles in Alaska as “critical habitat” for polar bears.
Much of the newly protected habitat overlaps with coveted oil exploration territories sought after by Shell and other big oil companies. In fact Shell recently sought government approval to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea – a particularly crucial region for polar bear populations. Alaska’s Governor Sean Parnell has rallied against the new designation, citing economic reasons.
The polar bear was listed as threatened in May 2008 under the federal Endangered Species Act due to rapid habitat loss from melting sea ice. Scientists are predicting that more than two-thirds of the remaining bears will disappear in the next 20 years. The fact that both government and scientific models are predicting about an 80% chance of extinction by 2050, has many EarthShare charities questioning the bear’s status as merely “threatened.”
And so, a coalition of EarthShare member organizations co-signed a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, urging the agencies to “..clarify that a species facing a high risk of extinction is, in fact, an endangered species...” Seems like a no-brainer!
Learn more about the plight of the polar bear and how you can get involved by visiting these resources from Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC, and the World Wildlife Fund. How about adopting a polar bear for Christmas?
To drill or not to drill…looks like ‘not’!
December brought some good news for states along the eastern Gulf and Atlantic coasts, too. Earlier this month, the administration made a much-welcomed announcement that they’re reinstating a moratorium on drilling in these areas for the next seven years. Many are wondering if the feds are responding to lessons learned from this year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf as the announcement effectively reverses key policy changes brought forward in March, just weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The original pre-spill plan included opening up the eastern Gulf and a large portion of the Atlantic, from Delaware to central Florida, to oil and gas exploration and drilling.
While oil production and exploration will continue in the central and western regions of the Gulf, newly revised safeguards and guidelines are now firmly in place and will hopefully help to prevent future disasters.
This new ban represents an important first step, and a major victory for our oceans and coastlines. So what’s next? Serious questions are still looming about new leases for potential drilling sites in the Arctic. According to last week’s announcement, drilling in the Arctic will proceed only after the completion of an environmental review. But environmental groups are warning that not enough is known about the possible effects of an oil spill in this region. "The Arctic is the next big test for the Administration… It is the region where the lessons of the BP disaster must next be applied,” says Vikki Spruill, President & CEO of Ocean Conservancy.
Want to learn more about offshore drilling and some of the other major issues facing the Arctic? Check out this overview from EarthShare member Oceana, and remember to do your part to put an end to offshore drilling!