Like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an American icon – one of the last unspoiled places left on the planet. Still, there’s constant pressure to drill for fossil fuels in the Refuge’s sensitive coastal plain.
Wildlife that could feel the impact include grizzlies, caribou, wolves, polar bears, and millions of migratory birds. Which could, in turn, have a devastating impact on the region's Native people, many of whom who live as subsistence hunters.
The Arctic drilling controversy may seem worlds away from South Carolina – but some birds that nest in the Refuge do spend their winters here. From the great Tundra Swans to smaller ducks, sparrows, and sandpipers, South Carolina and the Arctic Refuge share an intricate web of avian life.
Shorebirds, for example, have declined 70% on average since the 1970s. Shorebirds that breed in the Arctic, including the federally–threatened Red Knot and Semipalmated Sandpiper, are among the hardest hit. Ensuring a future for shorebirds in South Carolina requires protection all along their migratory routes – especially in the Arctic.
There’s also a bigger reason that local bird-lovers should be concerned about Arctic drilling. It's time to shift to clean energy for many reasons, including the fact that climate change is a top threat to birds worldwide.
The Arctic Refuge may be a hemisphere away, but the issues it raises hit very close to home. As artist and ornithologist David Sibley says in this lovely video, “If you care about the birds in your neighborhood, and the health of the ecosystems in the Lower 48, protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is essential.”
We've got blogs here and here that elaborate on the connections between our state and the Arctic. Audubon Alaska offers more comprehensive information here. Check it all out, then ask our federal officials to take a stand – so that Tundra Swans continue to sweep into South Carolina each winter, from the safety of the Arctic Refuge.