WASHINGTON (September 29, 2017) – WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli issued the following statement on attempts by Congress to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling through the budget reconciliation process:

“Today, the Senate Budget Committee unveiled its Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution which intentionally opens up a pathway for allowing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This would be an unnecessary and harmful despoiling of a place of great natural value to wildlife, to the people who rely on this land, and for the American public – both now and in the future.

“The Arctic Refuge provides critical habitat and migration passage for a diverse array of wildlife, including caribou, muskoxen, wolverines, Arctic foxes, lemmings, gyrfalcons, ptarmigans, and a vast international assemblage of migratory birds that breed there in the summer. In addition, the coastal plain has the highest density of denning polar bears in Arctic Alaska. Faced with dramatic losses of sea ice, polar bears are increasingly dependent on safe and disturbance-free den sites to rear their young.

“WCS’s conservation legacy in the Arctic Refuge goes back more than half a century. On an exploratory field survey co-sponsored by WCS, graduate student George Schaller (whose later work with WCS established him as the pre-eminent field biologist of our time) accompanied the famed Murie Expedition into northeastern Alaska. The expedition’s findings prompted the Department of the Interior under the Eisenhower Administration to set aside this dramatic landscape in 1960.

“WCS has supported responsible extraction efforts in the Arctic, when that development is balanced with protection for the most iconic, sensitive and important wildlife habitat and indigenous hunting and fishing grounds. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge does not meet this standard. Congress must continue to protect one of America’s last remaining pristine landscapes and reject this attempt to allow drilling in the Arctic Refuge. Once done, it can never be taken back.”