Birds

Seismic oil and gas exploration will scar the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

“The Arctic Refuge still bears scars from seismic tests conducted in a restricted area more than 30 years ago,” said Natalie Dawson, general manager at Audubon Alaska. “This poses a serious threat to polar bears and other important species during their most endangered season in the refuge.”

Today the Bureau of Land Management published an operational plan and proposed measures to pave the way for the seismic exploration of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by SAExploration starting this December.

“In addition to filing for bankruptcy protection, SAExploration appears to be embroiled in serious legal issues.” added Dawson. “The Bureau of Land Management is keeping an eye on this and is allowing this without a full environmental assessment. These irresponsible political choices will cause irreversible damage to this fragile landscape. “

Modern seismic methods cut an even denser grid of paths, leaving an estimated 20,000 miles of crisscrossing tracks – the equivalent of a nearly complete trip around the earth in an area the size of South Carolina. Convoys of knockers, tractors and bulldozers weighing 90,000 pounds rolled for months, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across vast areas of the fragile tundra. These intrusive activities would cause permanent damage to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Copyright Glyn Sellors, from the Surfbirds Galleries

“The headless rush to approve permits without stopping to fully account for the damage to wildlife and the planet is incomprehensible.” said Nada Culver, vice president of public land and senior policy counsel for the National Audubon Society“The offer of just 14 days to comment and the refusal to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement confirm the deliberate disregard for any damage that seismic exploration will cause in the coastal plain of the refuge.”

Birds from all US states rely on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. From Pacific Brant in California to Semipalmated Sandpipers in Florida to the snow geese that hibernate in the Southwest – everyone makes the incredible journey back to their summer home in the Arctic. The refuge is the calving area for the porcupine caribou herd, a vital livelihood for the indigenous peoples of Alaska and Canada, and the primary polar bear habitat on land in the United States. In winter, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain is home to the highest density of suitable habitats for the endangered polar bear population in the southern Beaufort Sea.

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