Historic vote to protect the Arctic Refuge : It now goes to House floor
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Historic vote to protect the Arctic Refuge

A historic vote moved the bipartisan House Bill 1146, the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act, out of the House Natural Resources Committee this month. The bill would restore protections for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The historic vote to protect the Arctic Refuge is the first since ANILCA passed in 1980.
Gwich’in Nation leaders from Alaska and Canada witnessed the historic vote. Photo courtesy the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

The bill passed out of the committee by a 22-14 vote on May 1. The last time a body of Congress voted to protect the Arctic Refuge was when it passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980.

“Today we saw House leaders stand up for our human rights and way of life by voting to protect our sacred land,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, in a press statement released after the vote. “We are thankful to them. We know we have more work to do before this bill passes through Congress and becomes law, but our people will continue to do everything in our power to fight for our human rights and protect the sacred coastal plain.”

An important first step

The Trump administration has been trying to move public lands into private hands since passage of the 2017 Tax Bill, which included opening the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas leasing and drilling. The Trump administration wants to schedule a lease sale as soon as this year.

The Porcupine Caribou herd migrating south on the Hoola-Hoola River in the Arctic Refuge. Photo by Florian Schulz.

You can help stop it by signing this petition urging House members to vote for H.R. 1146 when it goes before the full House for a vote. H.R. 1146 would reinstate protections stripped away in the 2017 tax bill and keep oil and gas leasing out of the Arctic Refuge.

Do not drill what’s sacred

Why do Gwich’in leaders travel to Washington, D.C. to talk to legislators and speak before committees, and then to Scotland to speak at an oil company’s annual shareholder meeting?

Because sometimes people need to see and hear another human being to understand their story.

The coastal plain is sacred to the Gwich’in because it nourishes the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and those caribou give Gwich’in communities food and nourishment in every possible way. They are connected. The survival of the herd and the Gwich’in Nation depends on the health of the Arctic Refuge.

Photo by Florian Schulz.

The people of the Arctic already face many challenges. Erosion and melting permafrost continue to destroy community buildings, cultural sites, and infrastructure. The lack of ice and early melting make it harder to travel safely in the winter. Rapidly changing weather patterns alter where animals go and plants grow.  

The front line reality of the changing climate demands that we stop depending on fossil fuels and invest in sustainable energy.  

Drilling in the Arctic Refuge would devastate sacred lands, worsen conditions for Arctic communities, and add to the impacts of climate change on the world. The majority of people in the United States oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge for good reason. It’s time to demand that decision makers do the same.