Few places on the planet have experienced less humanity than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 在那里 are no roads or official campgrounds within the refuge’s borders. The Gwich’in people have stewarded this sacred land with great care for thousands of years, 离开小的足迹. Herds of caribou ford its rivers; eagles bank above its plains; polar bears, 狐狸, porcupines and more than 200 species of migratory birds thrive in this frosty sanctuary above the Arctic Circle. This often frozen tundra is a place more biologically rich and diverse than most of us can imagine possible.
Coastal Plain with cottongrass, Photo Danielle Brigida via Flickr CC BY 2.0
12月. 1960年，德怀特·D. Eisenhower preserved this natural wonder by establishing 19 million acres as the Arctic National Wildlife Range—later renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 这样做, President Eisenhower protected critical habitat for a wealth of animal and plant life, 强化了脆弱的生态系统, 减轻全球变暖, 保护神圣的本土土地. 不幸的是, 虽然, this designation did not fully protect the refuge from the woes of fossil fuel development.
The debate about how to handle the Arctic Refuge dates back to 1930 when forester 鲍勃•马歇尔 wrote about “repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth.”记者 贾维斯布鲁克 说, Marshall saw the Arctic lands he had explored as “not another chance to keep chasing America's so-called Manifest Destiny, 而是一个停止追逐梦想的机会.”
然而，追逐仍在继续. 几十年来,, oil and gas developers have obsessed over the possibility of oil below the refuge’s coastal plain. 在1980年，国会指导美国.S. Department of the Interior to research the coastal plain for potential oil and gas development, reserving for itself the decision whether to allow oil leasing and drilling. But industrializing this area to dredge up dirty fossil fuels would put a stake right through the biological heart of the refuge. 海岸平原对200人来说至关重要,000只强大的豪猪驯鹿群, who annually use this area for protection and sustenance as they birth and nurture their calves.
Now, for decades, we’ve been locked in a perennial struggle to protect the Arctic Refuge. In 2017, drilling proponents temporarily prevailed when Congress opened up the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas development. The first lease sale under that misguided decision was held in January 2021. 在那里, the refuge’s biological heart was parceled up and sold to the highest bidder; nine tracts of land were sold, 第二次租赁销售将在2024年之前举行.
保护避难所的理由有很多. 钻井有 财政不明智的; it defies the wishes of the majority of the American public; it threatens wildlife; and it exacerbates our climate crisis—to name a few.
虽然关心离家近的地方很容易, a region above the Arctic Circle seems so far away for most of us. As a result, I’ve never been to the refuge, and I suspect you’ve never been there either. The vast majority of Americans are less likely to visit the north slope of Alaska than almost any other spot in the United States. 当然, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a private plane, or you’re up for hiking and backpacking there from Fairbanks, Alaska—with all of the food and provisions you’ll need—it’s surely worth the effort. 所有人都说，这是壮观的. Still, protecting this place isn’t about whether or not we can visit.
Photo: Caribou with mountains Danielle Brigida via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Protecting the Arctic Refuge means protecting the caribou and the wolf, 鹰和北极熊, 山和河, 哥威奇人的生活和文化, 美丽和寂静, 这应该不会受到工业化的干扰. This rings especially true in our current age of advanced technology. Our scientific and engineering ingenuity makes it easier than ever to conserve, 有效地利用能源, 从可再生能源中获取我们所需的能量.
We’ve come a long way in 61 years, and yet the Arctic Refuge remains in jeopardy. On the refuge’s anniversary this year, however, hope endures. 重建更好法案(BBBA), which has passed through the House of Representatives, 为北极保护区提供保护. The bill would end the Arctic oil leasing program and buy back the tracts of land already sold.
这一胜利预示着避难所的未来, but it’s now up to the Senate to pass its version of the Build Back Better Act to keep our nation’s greatest wild place safe from oil drilling’s devastating consequences. The BBBA is a perfect opportunity to lead the charge toward a more sustainable, carbon-free future in which wildlife and humanity can coexist harmoniously.
Photo: Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 以布鲁克斯山脉为背景. (物)