Hidden deep within the Republican tax bill is a provision that deals a devastating blow to wildlife, the environment and human rights advocates nationwide. The Senate voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling in the vulnerable coastal plain. Proponents argue it would generate vast sums of money. In reality, the revenue wouldn’t even cover a single day of the federal government’s expenses.
The Arctic Refuge is home to an incredible array of biodiversity. Polar, grizzly and black bears reside there. Nearly 300,000 porcupine caribou roam the refuge, with the coastal plain serving as their calving ground each spring. Birds from all 50 states migrate to the Arctic Refuge every year. For these animals and more, the grasslands, mountains and tundra of the refuge are home. Because of Arctic’s natural beauty and significance, President Obama issued a formal recommendation to Congress to designate the entire refuge as wilderness – the highest level of conservation protection.
The Gwich’in people have lived on this land for thousands of years. They consider the coastal plain the sacred place where life begins and rely on caribou for subsistence. Preserving the refuge is a human rights issue; the lives of the Gwich’in are at stake.
Fortunately, we have one more chance to protect the Arctic Refuge. As House and Senate Republicans resolve differences between their respective tax bills, the drilling provision can be removed.
We’ve been in this situation before; there have been dozens of attempts to authorize drilling. In 2005, the refuge’s destruction was about to become law. Fortunately, seven Republican Senators, including Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) crossed the aisle to vote their conscious and preserve the refuge. Once again, their votes are critical.
The Arctic Refuge belongs to us; members of Congress represent us, so it is up to take a stand. Please call your elected officials TODAY—lives depend on it.
Elliott Davis is a Trinity sophomore.