WASHINGTON (October 20, 2017) – WCS Executive Vice President of Public Affairs John Calvelli issued the following statement on the failure of the Cantwell-Markey-Bennet Amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution that would have barred attempts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling:

“Earlier, an amendment was offered to the Senate’s budget resolution that would have stopped the effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling as a means to fund other priorities, including tax cuts. That amendment failed, and the budget subsequently passed, signifying one step closer to irreparable damage to one of America’s last remaining pristine places.

“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.

“The Senate’s vote to keep Arctic Refuge drilling in the budget is extremely disappointing, but we will not stop fighting this unnecessary and harmful despoiling of a national treasure.”