Rep. Jared Huffman Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

January 08, 2015

WASHINGTON­—Congressmen Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA)  today introduced bipartisan legislation to protect one of America’s last untouched wild places—the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the north coast of Alaska. The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act (H.R. 239) would designate the 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain as wilderness, codifying into law permanent protections from damaging activities like oil drilling.

Today’s bill introduction represents a continuation of more than a half-century of bipartisan effort in Congress to protect this pristine region: in 1960, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower led the effort to protect this area for future generations when he set aside 8.9 million acres as the Arctic National Wildlife Range. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed into law Rep. Morris Udall’s legislation doubling the size of the territory and providing additional protection for the land by converting it into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, the 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain was not protected as wilderness, leaving it vulnerable.

“The Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last great expanses of untouched wilderness areas in America. It is home to tremendous ecological diversity and one of the last bastions of true ‘wildness’ in our country. It’s time to protect this national treasure,” Huffman said. “I am proud to fight to complete the work that President Eisenhower and former Representative Udall began to protect this land and ensure it remains pristine.

“I am grateful for Rep. Fitzpatrick’s support in introducing Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act. His work to protect this land is proof that safeguarding our natural heritage for future generations is a bipartisan issue,” Huffman continued.

“I believe, and always have, that protecting America’s great outdoors is an issue that transcends political parties and ideologies,” said Fitzpatrick. “It is critical to ensure that future generations have clean air and water and an appreciation for the natural beauty our nation is home to—including the Alaskan arctic. It is as simple as that. I would like to thank Congressman Huffman for his leadership on this vital issue and his commitment to bipartisan legislation which safeguards our open spaces and wild places.”

The Arctic Refuge and its Coastal Plain is home to polar bears, grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, muskoxen, and more than 130 species of migratory birds. 

The bill permanently codifies the current on-the-ground practice, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the Coastal Plain essentially as if it were wilderness.  A pdf of the bill can be found HERE.