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June 1, 2021

Indigenous and Conservation Groups Applaud Suspension of Arctic Refuge Leases but Call for Further Action

Biden previously placed a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain

Contacts

Corey Himrod, Alaska Wilderness League, 202-266-0426, corey@alaskawild.org

Tim Woody, The Wilderness Society, 907-223-2443, tim_woody@tws.org

Gwen Dobbs, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-0269, gdobbs@defenders.org

Dawnell Smith, Trustees for Alaska, 907-433-2013, dsmith@trustees.org

Ellen Montgomery, Environment America, 720-583-4024, lmontgomery@environmentamerica.org

Erica Watson, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, 907-452-5021, erica@northern.org

Rebecca Bowe, Earthjustice, rbowe@earthjustice.org

Washington, D.C.

Today the Biden administration announced the suspension of oil and gas leases for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — President Biden had previously placed a temporary moratorium on oil and gas leasing activities on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain via an executive order issued on his first day in office. The leases suspended today were issued under the leasing mandate contained in the 2017 Tax Act. The first lease sale held under that mandate was an epic failure that yielded little more than $12 million, less than 1% of the $1.8 billion in revenue promised by drilling advocates in the lead-up to the Tax Act.

Multiple conservation and Indigenous organizations sued the Trump administration (separate suits here and here) in August 2020 for finalizing an illegal leasing program that violated bedrock laws put in place to protect our nation’s public lands, waters, wildlife and people, including the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Endangered Species Act. These lawsuits asked the court to vacate the leasing program and cancel the leases issued under the Trump administration. This suspension means the leases would remain in place while the administration re-does the analysis for the program.

Joint statement from the Indigenous and conservation organizations:

“Thank you, President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland, for taking this step toward protecting the Arctic Refuge from oil activities. These lands are sacred to the Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples and nursery to the Porcupine caribou, polar bears, and millions of migratory birds. More work remains, however, and we look forward to working with the administration on stronger action to correct this unlawful leasing program and preserve one of our nation’s most majestic public lands. We also look to the administration and Congress to now prioritize repealing the ongoing threat posed by the statutory oil leasing mandate and restoring protections to America’s Serengeti.”

Organizations

Alaska Wilderness League
Braided River
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Yukon chapter
Center for Biological Diversity
Defenders of Wildlife
Earthjustice
Environment America
Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges
Friends of the Earth
League of Conservation Voters
National Wildlife Refuge Association
Natural Resources Defense Council
Northern Alaska Environmental Center
Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic
Trustees for Alaska
The Wilderness Society
World Wildlife Fund

 

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