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Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments from the public as it takes the initial steps toward opening drilling in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling would have a devastating impact on the ecosystem as well as on the indigenous Gwich’in tribe who lives on the land. Let the Bureau of Land Management know that you oppose opening the Refuge to drilling and that you stand with the Gwich'in People.

Once you submit comments, you can also urge your members of Congress to take legislative action to protect the Refuge.

About the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Designated by President Eisenhower in 1960, and expanded by President Carter in 1980, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge) stands as one of America’s last true wilderness areas. The Refuge, located on Alaska’s northeast coast, is roughly 19 million square acres (approximately the size of South Carolina) and contains numerous fragile arctic ecosystems including the habitats of caribou, polar bears, wolves, arctic foxes, and snow birds. Perhaps the most notable ecosystem is found in the Coastal Plain, an area of about 1.5 million acres (about eight percent of the refuge) along the Arctic Ocean.

The Coastal Plain has enormous ecological, cultural, and spiritual significance. It is the biological heart of the Refuge and is the only place in the United States where the full range of sub-arctic and arctic ecosystems are protected. The Coastal Plain is home to the porcupine caribou, which relies on the area as a calving ground. The indigenous Gwich'in tribe lives on the Coastal Plain and has used the porcupine caribou for food as well as cultural and spiritual needs for thousands of years. The Coastal Plain is of such significance to the Gwich'in that they call it “sacred place where life begins.”

On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which opened the Refuge for drilling. On April 19, 2018, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it would be opening a 60-day public scoping period to assist in the creation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program. This is the first step in opening the Coastal Plain for drilling. The Coastal Plain is of incredible environmental and spiritual significance. Allowing drilling in this area would cause incalculable ecological and cultural harm.

BLM is accepting comments from the public through June 19, 2018. It is critical that BLM hears our voices loud and clear that we oppose opening up the Coastal Plain for drilling.

Take Action

There are two things you can do to help protect this important land. First, submit comments below on the scoping for the BLM Environmental Impact Statement. After, we will direct you to a page where you can contact your members of Congress and urge them to protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by designating it as a wilderness area.

Before the BLM can lease lands for drilling, it must create an Environmental Impact Statement which details the environmental effects of drilling. The BLM is currently accepting comments on what factors it should consider in the report. Tell the BLM that it must consider how drilling would impact the local ecology, the Gwich'in people, and our climate and not drill in this special place.

Jewish Values

In Genesis we learn that when God placed the first human beings in the Garden of Eden, God gave humanity a dual role in relationship to the surrounding environment, (l'av'dah ul'shamrah), "to till it and tend it" (Genesis 2:15). This demands a balanced approach to development, a careful consideration of the competing needs both to employ the resources with which God has provided us and to protect those resources for generations to come. That is why, for more than a decade, the Union for Reform Judaism has supported wilderness designation for the Refuge, to ensure that this delicate region and its people are protected by federal law.

Judaism teaches that we have an obligation to future generations and other living creatures to protect the Earth’s ecosystem. Jewish tradition insists that we care for the earth and preserve the goodness of God’s creation. We are instructed in the Torah not to destroy (bal tashchit).  Rather, we are to become stewards and protectors of the land.  According to midrash, God charged Adam: “See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I created, for you I created. Think upon this, and do not corrupt and desolate my world; for if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28)