Today, May 15, the Sierra Club and more than 10 other organizations are delivering more than 1 million comments to President Obama, asking him to protect the Polar Bear Seas of America’s Arctic. The timing is key: right now, Shell Oil’s drill ships are on their way to the Polar Bear Seas in the Arctic Ocean to begin the most aggressive offshore Arctic drilling program in history.
The Polar Bear Seas, also known as the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, are home to the entire U.S. population of polar bears. Even after the gusher in the Gulf, Shell has no viable plan to clean up an Arctic oil spill. President Obama needs to step in and stop Shell’s rush to drill the Arctic. A catastrophic oil spill where there is no infrastructure to do clean-up will decimate native peoples as well as the caribou, bowhead-whales and other unique wildlife who call the Arctic home.
The Arctic may seem too far away to affect our lives in the lower 48, but we are linked to this majestic frontier. Every year, nearly 200 species of birds hatch and raise their young in the Alaskan Arctic tundra and ocean. These birds journey to all 50 states, and touch six continents before heading back to the Arctic, where the cycle of life is renewed. Among these amazing migrants are the Arctic tern, whimbrel and trumpeter swan.
The Polar Bear Seas aren’t the only Arctic wilderness area at stake right now. The Obama Administration also has the opportunity to protect 23.5 million acres of the Western Arctic (the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska), an area that currently has no lasting protections. This landscape supports the calving grounds of our nation’s largest caribou herd, the highest concentration of grizzly bears and wolverines in the Arctic, and Teshekpuk Lake is the most significant wetland complex in America for millions of shorebirds and waterfowl.
This issue is now coming to a crescendo — and now is the time to make our voices heard. Today we are delivering more than a million comments to the White House, and you can amplify these voices by adding your own: go to www.sierraclub.org/M15 to call the White House today and ask them to protect the special places of America’s Arctic.
Photo credit: Steven Kazlowski