Lame duck administration plans Arctic Refuge lease sale in January

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced today that it will issue a notice of lease sale of lands in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge next week, just one day after the 60th anniversary of establishment of the Arctic Refuge. BLM indicated that it plans to hold a lease sale on Jan. 6, clearly an attempt to rush through leases before the change in administration.

Photo by Keri Oberly.

This action truncates an open comment period and makes it clear that public input does not matter to this administration—only the input of oil interests do.

“This action is politically motivated and legally questionable,” said Brook Brisson, senior staff attorney with Trustees for Alaska. “This administration is making a mockery of the public process and trying to bend the law to get what it wants, once again disrespecting the voices of frontline communities and showing no regard for the health of the Arctic.”

The public land sell-off focuses on the coastal plain, an area considered sacred to the Gwich’in Peoples of Alaska and Canada.

Human rights and a climate crisis

A lease sale would set into motion oil and gas activities that would degrade and pollute water and land, disrupt and destroy the birthing and nursing grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, and devastate the molting, nesting and feeding grounds of millions of migratory birds. Industrialization would harm and kill vulnerable polar bears and other wildlife, and produce carbon pollution that contributes to a disastrous climate feedback loop that puts the land and life in further peril.

Arctic communities already suffer elevated climate impacts such as reduced access to food due to sea ice loss and animal die-offs, and the loss of homes, roads, essential infrastructure, and entire communities due to coastal erosion and permafrost thaw.

Art by Jessi Thornton

Indigenous Peoples in Alaska have lived in relationship to the sacred coastal plain for thousands of years. Congress granted federal protection of these lands 60 years ago. The majority of Americans want these lands protected.

We already took this administration to court in August for breaking multiple laws when rushing its analysis, curtailing public participation, shortchanging Indigenous input and concerns, and omitting science and facts when approving this leasing plan for the Arctic Refuge.

Now we stand again with clients, partners, and all Arctic protectors in fighting to stop the exploitation of sacred and public lands in the Arctic Refuge.