After 40 years, the Department of Interior has issued a call for nominations to lease land for oil and gas development within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Episcopal Church opposes drilling in this region because of our broad commitments to environmental protection and our long connection to the Gwich’in people who strongly oppose fossil fuel development in the Refuge.
Proponents of development cite economic growth and limited environmental impact as key reasons to drill. However, oil and gas lease sales are unlikely to meet projected revenue targets or reverse long-term oil production declines in Alaska. Additionally, even with improved industry practices, drilling in the Refuge threatens denning sites for endangered polar bears, nesting grounds for migratory birds from all fifty states, and the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, which the Gwich’in people depend upon for food, clothing, and tools.
The Episcopal Church empathizes with the need for economic development rural Alaska, but such growth should not come at the cost of an entire people’s way of life and irreparably damage one of the last untouched wilderness areas in America. We urge Congress and Alaskan communities to seek long-lasting and sustainable development options that are good for people, protect critical natural habitat, and honor sacred tribal spaces.