Washington, DC got a rare sight this week — Arctic wildlife walking through our nation’s capitol.  If you were stuck in construction traffic on Constitution Avenue you may have caught sight of an Arctic Tern, a sandpiper, and yes, even two polar bears.

Photo Credit: Kelsey Bensch, The Wilderness Society
They didn’t break out of the National Zoo — they were just people in costume.  But those people put on those heavy suits and walked down to the Department of the Interior in order to protect the real Arctic wildlife species.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to a diverse ecosystem that provides habitat for polar bears and Arctic terns as well as other species such as caribou, Arctic Fox, and musk oxen.  A wilderness designation for the Arctic Refuge’s coastal plain — the area that is constantly under threat of drilling — is needed protect this habitat forever from development and help increase resiliency to the impacts of climate change.

National Wildlife Federation joined groups like Alaska Wilderness League, The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife and more to deliver 860,000 comments urging wilderness protection for the coastal plain of the refuge to the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Only Congress can designate wilderness through legislation, but a recommendation in Fish and Wildlife Service’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan would send a strong signal to Congress that oil and gas drilling is incompatible with the Refuge’s purpose.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Big Oil’s friends in Congress are still pushing a dirty energy agenda that includes open up the refuge to drilling and putting wildlife at risk.  They are even pulling out their own costumes.  Alaska Representative Don Young ‘donned’ a propeller beanie cap in a House Resources committee hearing in order to drive home the point that he favors more drilling on federal lands and waters.

Rep. Young wasn’t done there.  He also got into a heated exchange with famous author and historian Douglas Brinkley (author of “The Wilderness Warrior” about President Teddy Roosevelt) at an oversight hearing on “ANWR (Arctic Refuge): Jobs, Energy and Deficit Reduction.”  Clips from that hearing can be viewed here.

Take ActionIt’s clear that the pressure is on for the future of the Arctic Refuge and other sensitive areas at risk from drilling.  If you would like to make a difference to protect wildlife by pushing back against drilling proponents, take action by weighing in with federal decision makers.