Except for the Coastal Plain, almost the entire North Slope is open for drilling. Destroying the Coastal Plain, which sustains polar bears, muskoxen, 200 bird species that migrate to six continents, and the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou the Gwich’in need for survival, is reprehensible. Ignored are the Gwich’in people of the Arctic, who depend on the Porcupine caribou herd for their cultural, spiritual and physical survival.
I recently attended a film screening and discussion about the Arctic Refuge in Moab and heard Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee. She expressed that her people are “strong,” and 20,000 years ago followed the caribou migration, but now live in villages along the migration route and still depend on the caribou for their cultural, spiritual and physical existence. She said they also suffer from the effects of climate change.
The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, representing 229 Native Alaskan tribes, officially opposes any development on the Coastal Plain. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is federal land, not Alaska state land, and belongs to all Americans. President Dwight Eisenhower established the Arctic National Range specifically for its “unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values.” President Jimmy Carter expanded the area, designating much as protected wilderness for hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, and to protect treaty rights. I’ve trekked there and know what’s to lose.
Destroying the Coastal Plain for a six-month oil supply is an environmental, climate change, public lands, and human rights issue.