Indefinitely Wild

Your Stunning Photos of ANWR

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—one of our most threatened landscapes—may be opened up to drilling, and opponents are taking to Instagram to protest

Drilling in the ANWR could threaten the outright survival of the polar bear. (Elizabeth Haslam)
2015

One of the last and largest pristine habitats in the U.S. is under threat. The Senate is currently trying to pass a budget deal that would open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, which could threaten the region's wildlife and ruin one of the country's last truly wild places.

Here's what people are saying about its potential destruction—and a small glimpse of the beauty at risk. 


The oil and gas industries have been trying to drill in the 19.6-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge since 1977. They hype lower gas prices, greater energy independence, and jobs for Alaska. 

But critics argue that the outright cost of extracting oil from the region is extremely high, and that there's only a limited amount of oil available there anyway. It doesn't make sense to sacrifice so much of our natural heritage for so little energy, they say. 

Drilling there doesn't have much support outside of the oil and gas industries, which is why some think that Republician Congress is trying to pass the measure in its budget plan.

"It's clearly so unpopular that they're trying to sneak it through," states Tiernan Sittenfeld, of the League of Conservation Voters. 

Even the GOP isn't united in its support of drilling there. "The effort to open the Arctic Refuge to development is a long-debated and highly controversial issue that we do not believe belongs in a responsible budgeting process," six Republicans testified to the House Budget Committee. 

One person who does support drilling in ANWR? Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He's been pushing for test drilling in the refuge since he took office early this year. 

The most frustrating thing about the push to drill there is that with oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel, it's not clear if exploting ANWR even makes financial sense. It looks as if the GOP is trying to drive home drilling, without even understanding the cost. Sound familiar

Zinke wants to conduct seismic surveys of the area, but it's feared that the practice could disturb denning polar bears. Due to human-caused global warming, that species has begun wintering on-shore, rather than on sea ice. Sending shockwaves through the ground could disturb new mothers and cubs who already have very low survival rates

Is it worth destroying one of our last great wild places for just a few years more of oil? It looks like Congress might answer that question for you this week. 

What can you do about it? There's a number of ways to write to your Congressperson, and the Audobon Society has streamlined the process here so that you can make your voice heard. 

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