In a victory for environmentalists and the planet, the US Department of the Interior has announced plans to terminate Arctic refuge drilling rights. The nine canceled leases span more than 400,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The leases were bought up by two oil companies and an Alaska economic development corporation, but native Alaskans and environmentalists argued that the Bureau of Land Management failed to properly assess the potential negative effects of oil development in the Arctic. The basis of the termination is several legal arguments citing insufficient environmental assessments including the fact that the projects endangered one of the US’ last truly wild places and threatened already vulnerable species like the Arctic fox, caribou, and migratory birds.
The suspension of the leases is a great first step in protecting these regions and environmental advocates are optimistic that a comprehensive environmental analysis will yield a full invalidation of the lease. Advocates hope the cancellation of the leases will also be followed by further action to permanently protect these regions.
Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee said, “After fighting so hard to protect these lands and the Porcupine caribou herd, trusting the guidance of our ancestors and elders, and the allyship of people around the world, we can now look for further action by the administration and to Congress to repeal the leasing program.”