Cantwell, Colleagues Re-Introduce Legislation to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and 24 of their Senate colleagues in reintroducing the Arctic Refuge Protection Act, legislation to restore protections to the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain and prevent oil and gas exploration and development activities from taking place in one of our nation’s greatest treasures. The bill would protect the region by designating the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness under the National Wilderness Preservation System, while also safeguarding the subsistence rights of the Arctic Indigenous Peoples. Congressman Jared Huffman (D, CA-02) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a pristine, million-year old ecosystem unlike anything else we have in the United States, which is why it should be permanently protected,” said Senator Cantwell. “The future of the Arctic is in tourism, and with new sea routes opening up the real value of this land is conservation, not exploitation.”

The move comes after the Trump administration, with barely two weeks left in President Trump’s term, auctioned off oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a move Cantwell vociferously opposed. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as an executive order prioritizing Tribal sovereignty and self-governance in use, management, and conservation of public lands. The Arctic Refuge Protection Act would make these protections permanent—Cantwell has introduced similar legislation in previous congresses.  

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge covers 19.6 million acres and is the largest unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 1.56 million-acre Coastal Plain, the biological heart of the Refuge, contains the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd and is home to denning polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and more than 150 species of migratory birds.

Senator Cantwell has been the leading congressional champion of the Arctic Refuge and repeatedly fought back against the Trump administration’s efforts to roll-back protections for the pristine wilderness and cosponsored multiple bills to designate its coastal plain as a wilderness area.

In addition to Cantwell and Markey, original co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate include Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE) Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN.), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.