Proposed legislation would protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Legislation reintroduced in Congress in early February would restore critical protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s largest national wildlife refuge, by designating the Coastal Plain ecosystem as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The legislation would permanently stop new oil and gas leasing, exploration, development and drilling on the Coastal Plain and safeguard subsistence rights of Arctic Indigenous peoples, including the Gwitch’in nation, which has called the region home for thousands of years.

Such action would enshrine protections sought by President Joe Biden, which were reaffirmed last June when his administration temporarily suspended drilling lease sales in the Arctic Refuge.

Supporters of the legislative package include U.S. Reps. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D- Wash., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Huffman cited the refuge as one of the last true wild places left in America, and in need of protection from climate change and to ensure “that oil activities are never allowed in this iconic wilderness.”

Co-sponsors include several dozen other members of Congress. The legislation is also endorsed by several state and national conservation groups.