On Monday, the Trump Administration announced that it would begin to open up parts of the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas companies interested in drilling in the region. The move comes after a long push by the Trump Administration in a campaign to increase the nation’s energy independence. The Arctic Wildlife Refuge, where the construction would take place along the coastal plains, is a massive 19.64 million acre jurisdiction, home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, fish, unique, towering landscapes of the Alaskan frontier, and home to the Gwich'in Native American Tribe. The result of such a well-preserved frontier of American Environmentalism and Conservation efforts is reflected in the untouched land of the refuge - remained untouched for decades.
So how did we get to this point? In 2017, the Republican Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, procuring money to establish the proper means of production for oil and gas along the coastal plains of the refuge. And today, the first deals of establishing said production of fossil fuels is estimated to be hammered just days before Inauguration Day on January 20th. The Trump Administration must reverse this policy because not only are they endangering the lives of aquatic life, the drinking water of animals and indigenous peoples, and the untouched and unique fabric of the Arctic landscape, a dangerous precedent is being set for natural resource companies looking to save their industries; showing these companies that the U.S. Government is willing to toy with the delicate havens of our National Parks. In a statement regarding the current administration's announcement, Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee addressed the Trump policy saying, “Any company thinking about participating in this corrupt process should know that they will have to answer to the Gwich'in people and the millions of Americans who stand with us[...]” (National Public Radio). Ensuring that potential legal battles will ensue as companies begin to finalize plans for drilling as soon as January.
President-Elect Joe Biden has promised to protect the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge at all costs.
Oliver Laczko is a high school junior at American Heritage School in Plantation, FL.