2020 March Advocacy Report

By: David Raskin, Friends President

The Arctic Refuge drilling proposal and Izembek Refuge battles continue, and we expect major events in the very near future.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Secretary of Interior stated that the Record of Decision (ROD) is expected soon. Machinations continue behind the scenes regarding the amount of recoverable oil below the Coastal Plain. There are indications that the dry wells drilled in the past near the edges of the Coastal Plain may discourage the major oil companies from bidding on leases when the lease sale opens. That may open the door for smaller companies to buy leases at bargain basement prices. The Administration’s inflated projections for oil revenue from the Arctic oil seem more far-fetched as information dribbles out. Also, the USFWS announced a comment period on the excellent study on the potential impacts of seismic exploration on denning polar bears (federal register notice). Please send in your comments by April 20 and register your concerns about the dangers of seismic exploration to the denning of the endangered Beaufort population of polar bears,

Our conservation and Native Alaskan partners continue their highly successful outreach events throughout the country, and there have been many more great pieces in various media. The campaign’s meetings with executives of oil companies and financial institutions concerning the dangers of Arctic drilling and the financial risks of supporting such efforts continue to produce impressive results. Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, and the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign (https://www.arcticrefugedefense.org) have succeeded in convincing most of the major banks and financiers to adopt policies against providing financing for oil and gas projects, with special attention to the Arctic. We continue to make progress in the decades-long battle to save and preserve the Arctic Refuge and its subsistence and cultural values!

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

The federal defendants in our federal lawsuit to stop the land transfer and road filed their reply brief last week. It contains a rehash of most of the same arguments that the Federal Court rejected in our previously successful suit. Although we await a ruling from the Court, we are optimistic that we shall again prevail. We will provide updates as this lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

Kenai Predator Control and Hunting Regulations

The proposed Kenai Refuge predator control regulations still have not been released, but we continue to expect them soon. It is likely that the new regulations will not only allow hunting of brown bears over bait, as well as loosened restrictions on hunting in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and 4-wheel drive access to frozen lakes, but we expect additional draconian measures to be included in the final version. It appears that there will be a 60-day comment period, but no public hearings. All of our conservation partners are closely monitoring this process and are preparing to take whatever action is necessary to stop this assault on Kenai Refuge wildlife.

Ambler Road

We are not aware of any significant development on the proposed 211-mile long Ambler industrial road even though it is on an “unprecedented, extreme fast track,” according to a BLM official.