Trustees Works to Protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge

Jul 07, 2014
Lisa Oakley

Trustees for Alaska is going to court once again to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its Coastal Plain. This time, because the State of Alaska has brought a lawsuit challenging the Department of the Interior’s denial of the State’s application to conduct risky and harmful oil and gas exploration on the Coastal Plain. Governor Sean Parnell wants to conduct oil and gas exploration despite the exceptional and irreplaceable ecological and cultural values of the Coastal Plain.

The Coastal Plain is the spring calving and summer nursery grounds for the Porcupine Caribou Herd. Photo courtesy of © Amy Gulick/amygulick.com

After being told “no” multiple times by the Department of the Interior, the State of Alaska recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Department’s long-held position that exploration isn’t allowed on the Coastal Plain.

Trustees for Alaska has worked for decades with Alaska Native and conservation groups to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Trustees is the legal counsel to the Arctic Refuge. For this case, we are teaming up with Bessenyey & Van Tuyn, LLC, and the Natural Resources Defense Council to represent the Gwich’in Steering Committee, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society to safeguard the Coastal Plain and the resources it supports.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is America’s largest and wildest refuge. Its Coastal Plain — the slice of tundra that borders the Beaufort Sea on its northern side and the Brooks Range on its southern side and the Canning and Achilik Rivers on its eastern and western borders — provides vital habitat for many birds and mammals. The Porcupine Caribou Herd calves on the Coastal Plain, where the vegetation provides important nourishment to new moms, and the winds from the Beaufort Sea provide the cows and calves relief from intense swarms of insects. The Gwich’in people have regarded the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge as “Iizhik Gwat’san Gwandaii Goodlit” or “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins,” because it is vital to the Porcupine caribou herd. This caribou herd is the foundation for the social, economic, and spiritual fabric of the lives of the Gwich’in people.

Seismic testing on the Coastal Plain would cause irreparable harm to the landscape. Some places are simply too special to drill. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of them.

You can help us defend the Arctic Refuge! Donate today to support Trustees for Alaska’s work to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas exploration.

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