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Bipartisan support in congress to protect Alaska’s wild

A new, bipartisan bill introduced in Congress today would take major steps toward protecting and preserving some of America’s most pristine landscapes while making critical progress to turn around the climate crisis. The Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act -- coauthored by Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey and Pennsylvania Republican Michael Fitzpatrick -- would prevent dangerous drilling in America's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and protect wild places and wildlife by keeping dirty energy companies out and dirty fuels in the ground.

The Arctic Refuge and its coastal plain are home to a diverse and unique array of wildlife, from polar bears to wolves to muskoxen to more than 130 species of birds. That's why Markey and Fitzpatrick's legislation calls for the recognition of the Arctic Refuge's "extraordinary natural ecosystem," and then takes steps to preserve the area by officially designating it as protected wilderness. The area is one of the nation's last remaining untouched wilderness areas and was initially protected by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he created the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960, encompassing 8.9 million acres. But the looming threat of fossil fuel drilling in the area would not only destroy wildlife habitat and unparalleled landscapes -- it would also make our climate crisis worse.

Drilling  delivers a one-two punch to America's Arctic. Of course, drills would disrupt and destroy one of our most pristine places -- but they'd also dredge up dirty fuels that would just make the climate crisis worse in the Arctic. Once burned into the atmosphere, the greenhouse gases would exacerbate climate disruption and further melt the Arctic.

At a time when bipartisan support is hard to come by, this bill certainly makes a statement and is something we all need to get behind. Representatives Markey and Fitzpatrick understand that if we are serious about protecting our special places and fixing our climate crisis, then we must preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This legislation is a great step forward not only to protect our wild lands and wildlife but also to ensure that future generations of Americans have a safe and healthy planet.

-- Kristen Elmore, Sierra Club Media Team Intern


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