Huffman Introduces Legislation to Protect Polar Bear Cubs from Oil Development in Arctic Refuge

July 30, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, introduced the Polar Bear Cub Survival Act to fight back against the recent actions of the Trump administration to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain to oil and gas drilling. The bill would safeguard polar bears by prohibiting oil and gas activities from impacting maternal denning habitat on the coastal plain of Arctic Refuge.

“The Trump administration’s rushed attempts to open the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas drilling will have virtually endless devastating consequences to the environment and peoples and animals that call these lands home – including already threatened polar bears,” said Rep. Huffman. “The proposed oil exploration would further threaten this species, crushing and destroying their dens and cause some mother polar bears to abandon their maternity dens leaving any surviving cubs to perish. My bill takes a clear, science-driven approach to protecting this imperiled polar bear population from proposed oil activities in the Arctic Refuge as the government continues to haggle over the ill-conceived plan to lease, explore, and develop one of the last sacred American wildernesses.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Huffman led fellow senior House Natural Resources Committee members in sending a letter to U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt expressing strong opposition to oil and gas lease sales on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, citing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“FWS”) insufficient Biological Opinion pertaining to the oil and gas leasing program on the Coastal Plain, which would further threaten endangered polar bears. 

“Oil and gas development in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge jeopardizes the existence of the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population, which is already one of the world’s most imperiled due to climate change and habitat loss. Reproductive success is key to saving these imperiled bears, but polar bears and cubs will be harmed by oil and gas development. Rep. Huffman’s bill is an antidote to the Trump administration’s reckless plan to lease Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the critical polar bear maternal denning habitat that Arctic refuge provides,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. 

“The threatened Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population is increasingly relying on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain as maternal denning habitat due to climate change and loss of sea ice,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of Alaska Wilderness League. “Mother bears use these dens to birth and nurture their newborn cubs, but during the winter months dens are hidden under the snow and visually undetectable. We already know that current den detection methods are wildly inaccurate, missing 55% of polar bear dens in surveyed areas. Rep. Jared Huffman’s bill is vital because there's no way to ensure that we're not going to end up killing polar bears during an industrial intrusion into the heart of the wildest place in America. Climate change is having an enormous impact on the Arctic, and there's simply no reason to put polar bears at additional risk there.”