Dear Secretary Jewell:
We, the undersigned members of the United States Congress, write to express our sincere thanks for your recommendation of a Wilderness designation for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in your final Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Since it was first set aside over fifty years ago, the Arctic Refuge has stood as one of our nation's most iconic wild areas and deserves our most enduring legal protections. We applaud the Administration's efforts to take this important step toward the strongest possible protection for this vital ecosystem.
The area was first established as the Arctic National Wildlife Range on December 6, 1960 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for its "unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values." It is a sweeping landscape, bursting with wildflowers and framed by the awe-inspiring Brooks Mountain Range. Legislation to protect the Refuge's Coastal Plain as Wilderness has been introduced every Congress for the past 25 years, but gridlock in Congress has made it difficult to protect this pristine landscape. Just this month, the Udall-Eisenhower Artic Wilderness Act was introduced in the House of Representatives for the 114th Congress.
Preserving the Arctic Refuge is necessary to allow the Gwich'in people to live off their ancestral lands, as they have since time immemorial. The Gwich'in rely on the Porcupine Caribou Herd, whose calving and nursery grounds are in the Arctic Refuge's Coastal Plain which they call "the sacred place where life begins." Birds flock there to nest from every state in the union and six continents and grizzly, black, and polar bears all share the Refuge's diverse habitat. Polar bears are especially dependent on the Coastal Plain to den and raise their young as they face diminishing habitat.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a pristine landscape with values unlike any other public lands in our nation. Its value to Alaska Natives to sustain their cultural and subsistence lifestyle, as well as, its wilderness, ecological integrity, wildlife, and recreational opportunities are unmatched. Therefore, we strongly support your recommendation of a Wilderness designation for the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.