Defending the Arctic in court

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Our lawyers called out the illegal and destructive sell-off of Arctic lands at a February hearing at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle. 

Suzanne Bostrom, staff attorney with Trustees, after presenting oral argument at the Ninth Court in Seattle.

We filed the lawsuit in 2018, charging BLM with unlawfully leasing lands in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil and gas corporations without looking closely at the specific and cumulative impacts of fossil fuel projects on people, wildlife, water, and the integrated Arctic landscape. 

The leasing of Arctic lands to Big Oil continues unchecked, fitting within a larger Trump administration agenda to give public lands to mega-corporations, despite the severe climate and health costs to people, wildlife, and the planet’s living systems.

“This case is about the government’s responsibility to the law and all people, not just a handful of oil corporations,” said Suzanne Bostrom, staff attorney for Trustees. “The Trump Administration is in such a rush to give away our public lands to the oil industry that it isn’t even taking the time to comply with the law.”

The leasing process is an epic fail

The Trustees team at the hearing in Seattle: Brook Brisson, senior staff attorney; Suzanne Bostrom, staff attorney who argued the case; Marlyn Twitchell, vice chair of the Trustees board of directors.

Our oral arguments were specific to the 2017 lease sale, but they speak to an agency that willfully ignores the real-world impacts of a bevy of massive industrial projects on Alaska communities and wildlife, and on the lands and waters that people and animals need for health and survival. 

Bostrom argued that the law requires BLM to assess how oil and gas drilling would threaten wildlife, recreational access, and cultural and traditional activities, including hunting and fishing. She further explained that the law requires the agency to assess the impacts before handing the land over to private interests.

Handing Alaska to Outsiders. Again. 

One thing is certain. Selling off Alaska’s Arctic to private interests gives power and control over Alaska to Outsiders, who take virtually all the profits out of state, and leave behind degraded water, wildlife habitat, air quality, food access and more—all costs that frontline communities will pay for generations to come. 

Two caribou calves in the Western Arctic.
Caribou calves in the Western Arctic. Photo by Patrick Endres.

From the beginning, the Trump administration has rushed through review processes, ignored or disregarded public concerns, and made it clear that it wants to promote corporate profits over the health of food resources, waterways, wildlife habitat, and frontline communities.

Defending the Arctic in court is one way we work with clients and partners to stop this land grab and protect Alaska’s Arctic for generations to come. 

(Watch our attorney defending the Arctic.)

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