The Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska’s coasts are home to polar bears, whales, birds and Inupiat culture. Reckless oil and gas leasing and drilling pose unacceptable risks to this sensitive area, but you can help set a new course in America’s Arctic.
The Bush administration auctioned 70 million acres to oil companies and approved risky exploration despite scientific data gaps and risks of spills that could devastate wildlife and Inupiat culture. Obama’s agencies should take a time out on leasing and exploration and launch an Arctic Ocean conservation and energy plan.
Bountiful waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are within the circumpolar Arctic Ocean. Beaufort Sea oil drilling threatens the fall bowhead whale migration corridor, polar bear habitats, and Inupiat hunting grounds off the Arctic Refuge coast. In the Chukchi, open-water leads provide unique year-round feeding grounds and pathways for migrating bowhead and beluga whales, fish, and birds along the Chukchi coast. Oil spills and noise disruption threaten vital subsistence resources and wild coasts.
Unique Arctic wildlife is adapted to icy seas. Under-ice algae feed massive clouds of zooplankton in turn scooped up by massive bowhead whales. Polar bears prey on ringed seals and walrus dive for clams. Great flocks of birds fly from 6 continents.
The clean ocean has sustained Inupiat culture for thousands of years. For many decades, the Inupiat people have opposed offshore drilling due to risks of devastating spills that can’t be cleaned up and risks to the living resources they depend on.
A new oil rush into Arctic seas will harm wildlife and Alaska Native cultures from industrial disturbance and pollution. New sources of greenhouse gas emissions would further fuel global warming already stressing Arctic ecosystems and communities.
As sea ice disappears faster than models predict, coastal communities and true arctic animals like seals, walrus, and polar bears are threatened. They provide a clarion call for action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and a clean energy future.