The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska could be the next battleground in the fight between conservationists and the Trump administration over the protection of land.
Applications have been filed by two companies to begin testing for the presence of oil along the ANWR’s coastal area. This area is the birthing ground for the Porcupine Caribou. It’s not just the animals that could be affected by the testing and potential drilling, either. The caribou is also the main food source for the Gwich’in First Nation.
The application for the permits was submitted late in May. The good news for conservationists is that Alaska’s Fish and Wildlife Service has denied the initial application because they were deemed “not adequate.” According to FWS, the application for permits did not include studies on how the testing would affect the environment and local wildlife. The testing, which if approved would begin this winter, would send some 300 people into an area where even the native tribes won’t go out of respect for the land.
The applications for testing come as a surprise to many, mostly due to the speed at which the companies are moving. Just two months ago, the Bureau of Land Management held public meetings to assist in preparing Environmental Impact Statements with regards to drilling in the area. The Bureau gave no hints that companies could potentially file applications just a month later.
Those opposed to the testing have a good reason. Seismic testing requires a lot of manpower, and trails would have to be cut to the areas where the testing occurs. Tests like those proposed now were conducted in the 80s, and the land is still scarred from the trail-cutting.
Opponents fear that the proposed testing and eventual drilling would do severe damage to the biology of the Refuge. The companies applying for the permits say they plan to use specialized equipment and tactics that will minimize the environmental damage in the area.
However, as local Alaska Native tribes band together, it would appear the fight over oil drilling in the ANWR is far from over.