Washington – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) signed on to legislation introduced by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) today to designate the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness and protect the land from future development. The Coastal Plain represents roughly 1.5 million acres of the 19.6 million-acre wildlife refuge. Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of President Obama transmitting the revised Arctic Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan to Congress, which for the first time in history recommended the Coastal Plain of the Refuge for designation as wilderness.
A copy of the legislation can he found here.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower established the original refuge, which comprised 8.9 million acres, as the Arctic National Wildlife Range. It was later expanded in 1980 to its current 19.6 million acres and renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, the 1.56 million acres that make up the Coastal Plain were not protected as wilderness in the Refuge’s expansion. Oil and gas leasing on the Coastal Plain was prohibited absent authorization by Congress, but the area was not given a wilderness designation.
The legislation would designate the Coastal Plain as a wilderness area. The Coastal Plain supports more than 250 species, including caribou, polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, muskoxen, wolverines, and migratory birds.
“We applaud our Congressional champions Senators Markey and Bennet and Representatives Huffman, Fitzpatrick, Gallego and LoBiondo for continuing the tradition of strong congressional support for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This bill would ensure that one of the most imperiled pieces of our natural heritage will be protected now and for future generations of Americans,” said Kristen Miller, interim Executive Director of Alaska Wilderness League. “The Arctic Refuge is one of our most iconic landscapes and one of the last truly wild places in America. It’s time to move beyond drilling and ensure that no corporate interest can plunder it for its own profit.”
Additional co-sponsors of the legislation include: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Catherin Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Tester (D-Mont.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)