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CCP Success- Nearly 1 Million People Comment for Arctic Refuge Wilderness!

The Northern Center was a major player in empowering nearly 1 million public comments for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in recent comment period.

CCP Success- Nearly 1 Million People Comment for Arctic Refuge Wilderness!

Unnamed Lake by Subhankar Banerjee

Amidst bleak political tricks, tactics, and treachery in Washington, the American public spoke loud and clear on the future of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2011.   November 15 marked the end of the public comment period on the draft of the latest Arctic Refuge Plan, the Comprehensive Conservation Plan or CCP.   More than 850,000 people submitted comments to Secretary Salazar and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding this 7-pound document.  That’s nearly a million comments demanding that the Coastal Plain, also known as the Refuge’s biological heart, be kept off-limits from oil and gas development and that it be permanently protected Wilderness.

Always fighting for our precious arctic back yard, the Northern Center led the way in Alaska hearings and organizing. We worked for months to empower Alaskans with the information and inspiration to make substantive comments on this plan.  The results were astounding.  We joined over 200 Alaska Coalition member organizations on a letter.  There were 92 Alaskan businesses signed on to a CCP comment letter.  Hundreds of people were mobilized for our hometown hearings in Anchorage and Fairbanks.  Wilderness advocates spoke with a strong majority at both public hearings.

In Anchorage, we co-hosted an Arctic Refuge Cultural Celebration prior to the hearing.  The result was a smashing success in this industry town.   Gwich’in Steering Committee representative and Fort Yukon elder, Clarence Alexander, led a strong delegation of Gwich’in people that set the tone for the evening.  Their momentum carried, and proponents of wilderness outnumbered proponents of drilling 3:1 of the more than 70 people who spoke. 

In Fairbanks, Gwich’in representative David Solomon, and long-time NAEC member and recognized Arctic Hero, Sean McGuire arrived over 3 hours early to stand in line to testify.  The line was quickly overflowing with dedicated Arctic Refuge champions brandishing “protect the Arctic Refuge” stickers, homemade signs, and antlers.  The Northern Center hosted an Arctic Refuge Gathering and Rally that made the news.  Over 60 percent of the more than 100 who testified spoke for the refuge’s Wilderness values, sending a clear message that oil and gas development is not a purpose of this wildlife refuge.

The results of the CCP comment period are a testament to the power of the refuge itself.  It is truly an incredible place to have inspired so many faithful advocates to brave phone banks, hundreds of pages of documents, Union “drill team” protesters (and their large truck!), and three-hour lines.  The Northern Center is proud to report that the Arctic Refuge’s spirit is still alive and well in Alaska.  As is our hope that this plan results in the permanent Wilderness protection that the Coastal Plain and other refuge lands deserve.

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