Maps Paint a Dark Future for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

by Yessenia Funes | Gizmodo

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last pristine landscapes in America. Tucked along the northern border of Alaska and Canada, the nearly 20 million acres of wilderness is home to a variety of wildlife species, including the Porcupine caribou herd, which visits the refuge’s coastal plain every summer where mothers give birth to their young.

President Donald Trump is obsessed with opening up the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain to oil and gas development, and many opponents are worried about what all this new infrastructure could mean for the caribou that spend their summers there. More importantly, the people of the Gwich’in Nation—who call themselves the “Caribou people”—rely on the Porcupine caribou for sustenance and culture. They worry about how development will impact their ability to hunt the animals for food and ceremony.

Even the Trump administration can’t ignore these potential impacts: The proposal’s final environmental impact statement released in September was clear that the well pads and pipelines that come along with oil and gas development may displace some caribou, which avoid the infrastructure. This reality is still a ways away as the Trump administration has yet to issue a record of decision on the project, Leah Donahey, legislative director at Alaska Wilderness League, told Earther. From there, lease sales must begin before oil and gas companies can come in with their trucks and pipes.

What would this actually look like, though? 

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