Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a tax bill that includes numerous provisions that have nothing to do with taxes, including a plan to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in northeastern Alaska, to oil and gas drilling. First protected by President Dwight Eisenhower, the refuge is home to more than 200 bird species, as well as caribou and other wildlife.
In 2009, we published David Shaw’s excellent article about birding the refuge. He describes encountering loons, jaegers, redpolls, and many other birds. “The thought of oil exploration here terrifies supporters of wilderness, wildlife, and the environment,” he wrote. “I include myself among them… I love birds and the wild places where they live. I’ve guided in Antarctica, the tropics, and Alaska. I’ve conducted research in Mexico, Peru, and all across the north. And I’ve encountered few places that pull at my heart like this one. I like to think the refuge calls to me the way it must to the migrant birds.”
Audubon and other conservation groups are rallying their supporters against the drilling plans. Even if the provision is not stripped from the final bill and the provision became law, it would undoubtedly face lawsuits, according to an article by MinnPost.
While the debate over drilling continues, we want to show you what’s at stake. Here is a glimpse at a few of the refuge’s birds — and a stunning native mammal.
Breeds on tundra lakes in northern Russia, Alaska, and Canada. See a range map and hear its song.
A small shorebird that breeds in arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. See a range map and hear its calls and songs.
The most widely distributed member of the loon or diver family, it breeds primarily in Arctic regions, and winters in northern coastal waters. See a range map and hear its calls and songs.
Widespread in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It breeds in North America only in northern Alaska and in the far northwestern Yukon. See a range map and hear its song.
Widespread in the Old World, where it’s known as Siberian Tit. Its range extends into northern Alaska and far western Canada. Rarely seen and photographed in North America because of its remote habitat. See a range map and hear its calls and song.
A widespread Old World shorebird. Seen occasionally along northern Alaska coast, including at ANWR. See a range map and hear its calls.
Alaskan tundra wolf
Also known as the barren-ground wolf; a subspecies of gray wolf native to the barren grounds of the Arctic Coast region from near Point Barrow eastward toward Hudson Bay.
To help protect Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, start with any of these sites:
Read our newsletter!
Sign up for our free e-newsletter to receive news, photos of birds, attracting and ID tips, and more delivered to your inbox every other week. Sign up now