Reader's View: Alaska refuge needs immediate attention
There has been plenty of publicity about the possibility of copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness followed by strong public disagreement across Minnesota.
While this is a very pressing issue that warrants awareness, another wilderness requires our immediate attention: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Bureau of Land Management has released a document stating it will be going forward with seismic exploration in the Arctic Refuge as soon as January, with lease sales possible next summer. The target for this exploration, and eventual drilling for oil and gas, is the ecologically critical coastal plain region. Many animals depend on this habitat for survival, including North America's only polar bears. There has been little evaluation of the environmental impacts this drilling could have. I feel this is due to the administration of President Donald Trump rushing the process along before opposition becomes inhibitory.
Seismic testing done back in the 1980s, at a much smaller scale, still shows visible damage decades later. Yet the testing company this time, SAExploration, has not said it would conduct any scientific study on the impacts of its work. There has been no proposed period for the public to comment, even though the testing is predicted to begin within a matter of months.
Opening the refuge to drilling was slipped into tax legislation through an expedited process, sneaking the proposal through backdoors. There has been very limited exposure of these movements to the public, probably due to the strong backlash they would face if the public knew of the dangers posed to some of the last untouched wilderness. The clock is quickly winding down for advocates of the world's wilderness to fight for Alaska, and there has not enough exposure of this issue to those willing to go into battle.