The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an American treasure and is internationally known for its ecological importance and beauty. Renowned for its wildlife, forty-five species of land and marine mammals live in the Arctic Refuge, including polar bears, wolf, moose, mountain sheep and bowhead whales.
Vast and remote, the 19.5-million-acre Refuge covers an area the size of South Carolina. While 8.9 million acres are protected as wilderness, the 1.5-million-acre coastal plain, the biological heart of the Refuge, remains vulnerable to industrial development.
Big oil companies and some members of the U.S. Congress want to drill in the coastal plain which would put the future of the Porcupine Caribou Herd at risk. The herd’s migrations cover a vast area – caribou can travel up to 3,000 miles over the course of a year – yet they rely almost exclusively on the thin band of land along the coast of the Refuge to birth and nurse their young every year.
The roads, pipelines, traffic, drill rigs and other disruption that comes with oil drilling could drive the caribou away from their calving grounds. Studies of female caribou have shown that they reduced their use of the heavily developed Prudhoe Bay oil fields, to the west of the Refuge, by 78 percent.