Right now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking your input on a plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that, for the first time, could recommend Wilderness protection for the Coastal Plain – the Refuge’s biological epicenter that has been in Big Oil’s sights for decades. A Wilderness recommendation would protect this unparalleled area and the abundant wildlife that depends on it, including polar bears, musk oxen, caribou, and millions of birds from around the globe.
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Dear Secretary Salazar:
Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment on the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I appreciate your leadership in protecting this American icon for future generations and thank you for completing the Arctic Refuge Wilderness review.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was set aside 50 years ago for its “unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values,” and it continues to thrive as one of our nation’s most untouched wilderness areas. The Coastal Plain – the Arctic Refuge’s biological heart – provides a vital home for polar bears, caribou, musk oxen, wolves and hundreds of bird species, which gather in the Arctic Refuge each year to hatch their young before traveling to all corners of the country and across six continents.
Long before the Arctic Refuge was set aside as a protected place, the value of the Coastal Plain was recognized by wilderness visionaries and the people of the Gwich’in Nation who know it as the “Sacred Place Where Life Begins.”
I support Alternative C in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan that would recommend Wilderness designation for the Coastal Plain Wilderness Study Area, adding it to the existing Wilderness areas of the refuge. The Arctic Refuge, and particularly its Coastal Plain, deserves to be granted the strongest possible protections. The southern sections of the Arctic Refuge should be managed in a way that supports the Gwich’in people’s traditional and cultural access to the area while maintaining Wilderness characteristics. Oil and gas leasing, exploration, development and production, including seismic and any support infrastructure or activities, have no place in the Arctic Refuge and should continue to be prohibited by law as well as in refuge management policies.
I support the plan’s Arctic Refuge Vision Statement and Goals that aim to protect the Special Values of the Arctic Refuge described in the plan. Overall, the entire 19-million acres that make up our nation’s largest, wildest refuge should be managed in a manner that leaves its natural biodiversity, ecological processes, Wilderness purposes and Special Values intact so it will remain an unparalleled piece of our nation’s natural heritage.
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