The Fight to Designate The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge as Wilderness

The 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last intact landscapes in America. It’s a national and global treasure that’s home to polar and brown bears, wolves, muskoxen and many species of fish and migratory birds.

Perhaps most critically, the 1.2-million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge is the calving grounds of the 169,000-member Porcupine caribou herd, which has sustained the Gwich’in people of Alaska and northern Canada for hundreds of generations. In the Gwich’in language, the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain is “the sacred place where life begins.”

For decades, Big Oil forces have targeted the coastal plain for drilling because it’s not currently protected as wilderness. It’s now more threatened than ever—under a pro-oil administration, the fossil fuel industry will work quickly to exploit the Arctic Refuge and its resources. Drilling and industrial development would likely drive the Porcupine caribou from their calving grounds, endangering the survival of the herd and the Gwich’in way of life.

The Refuge—a short film produced by Patagonia in conjunction with Alaska Wilderness League launched today seeks to shed light on the plight of the Gwich’in people and the importance of this pristine refuge. In addition to the film, Care2 has launched a petition urging folks to ask their senator to pledge that they will protect the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge from oil drilling and industrial development, which you can link to here:

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About the Film

From Patagonia: The Gwich’in people of Alaska and northern Canada have depended on the Porcupine caribou herd for millennia. But their connection to the caribou goes far deeper than traditional subsistence hunting: the Gwich’in believe that they are guardians of the herd, and that the fates of the people and the caribou are forever entwined.

For the last 30 years, the Gwich’in have been fighting proposed oil extraction projects in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—to them, its pristine coastal plain where the caribou calve their young is “the Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” Directed by Kahlil Hudson and Alex Jablonski, The Refuge tells the story of two Gwich’in women who are continuing the decades-long battle for their people’s survival—and the survival of the wild animals that so faithfully bring them life.

Patagonia has supported the Gwich’in Steering Committee and the Alaska Wilderness League through our Environmental Grants Program since the early 2000s. We’re now standing in solidarity with the Gwich’in people to ask Congress to designate the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as wilderness, protecting it from oil drilling and industrial development forever.

For more info, check out: