Arkansas Birds Lose if We Drill in the Arctic Refuge

Sacrificing America’s bird nursery for fantasy oil revenues is a lose-lose.

[LITTLE ROCK] (October24, 2017)—Last Week, the Senate advanced a federal budget that includes language allowing oil exploration across 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic. More than 200 species of birds depend on the Arctic Refuge, including the Snow Goose, which also migrates through Arkansas.

“It’s a shame that both of Arkansas’s Senators put the interest of fossil fuel corporations ahead of steady, science-based conservation practices. Drilling in the Arctic affects the whole planet, not just that region. Migrating birds that wind up in Arkansas need that safe space in Alaska, too,” said Brett Kincaid, Executive Director for Audubon Arkansas.

The Senate budget calls for $1 billion in revenues for the federal treasury to be raised by opening the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas leasing.

“This plan is bad conservation policy and even worse math. And we’re going to fight this plan until common sense prevails,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), Audubon’s president and CEO. “There is no money to be had in the Arctic REFUGE to pay for a tax plan and if we go down this road, we will have forever lost the last true wilderness in America. Drilling the Arctic REFUGE just doesn’t add up.

Companies already are drilling or are planning to drill in Alaska. Each year land is put out for lease. Between 1999 and 2016, the average sale drew only $50 per acre, which is only 3.7% of $1,334 per acre required to hit the Senate's goal.

Furthermore, this flawed budget assumes companies will bid on every one of those 1.5 million acres they plan to open in the Arctic Refuge. But, between 2010 and 2015, industry only bid on 1.5 percent to 5.5 percent of the acres offered in one large area, the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska lease sales. Even in the 2016 NPRA lease sale—touted as a banner year—industry leased just 42 percent of the acres offered.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an iconic American treasure on par with the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite. First protected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, leaders from both parties have worked together for generations to stop attempts to open the biological heart of the Refuge—it’s pristine coastal plain—to oil and gas drilling. (maps available for download herehere and here)

“We want to thank and offer our support to all the leaders in the Senate who have stood guard over the Arctic Refuge,” added Yarnold. “As we enter the next phase of this process we will work alongside you to urge more members of Congress to pass a budget that actually adds up.”

Audubon is asking its one million members and supporters, including more than 8,000 Arkansans, to contact their members of Congress and urge them to oppose efforts to open the Arctic Refuge to oil development. 

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