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The Year of the Arctic Refuge

On Thursday, April 29th, the Sierra Club joined our partners at the Alaska Wilderness League and The Wilderness Society, along with Congressional champions and Gwich'in Nation representatives to kick off a year-long celebration of 50 years of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO), together with Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), spoke about the importance of this thriving, verdant wilderness as the center of life for much of our nation's most valued wildlife, providing personal insights on how they have been moved by this one-of-a-kind place in their own lives.

The kickoff event marked the official launch of a nationwide "Arctic is Alive" celebration building to December 6, the day 50 years ago that President Dwight Eisenhower established the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  Throughout the year, our Arctic campaign will highlight the vital role that the Refuge, and the Coastal Plain in particular, plays in our nation's natural vitality - from the millions of birds that begin their lives there and migrate to all 50 states and six continents, to the importance that the Coastal Plain holds as a key denning and birthing place for pregnant polar bears.  Together with the people of the Gwich'in Nation, who have recognized the Arctice Refuge as the "sacred place where life begins" due to the Porcupine Caribou herd which has used the Coastal Plain as a birthing and nursing ground for thousands of years, citizens across the country will demand that Congress designate the Arctic Refuge's Coastal Plain as wilderness.

In addition to kicking off this year-long celebration, the Sierra Club also recognized Senator Udall and Rep. Markey with a special award commemorating their contributions over the years to keeping the Refuge protected from oil and gas development.  The award (which can be seen below) was designed by Doug Leen, the artist behind the well-known National Parks' Works Progress Administration-style posters.  Doug's Arctic Refuge design is the first time he has produced a poster for a National Refuge and he travelled to Washington, DC to present the awards himself.  Awards were also presented to Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT).  In the coming weeks we will be presenting awards to Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), along with Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Secretary Ken Salazar.



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