News Watch

Alaska-centric environmental legislation, research, action alerts and opportunities.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

Following President Biden’s day-one temporary order to halt oil and gas activity on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Federal house and senate lawmakers, working across the aisle, introduced legislation to permanently protect the coastal plain from oil drilling by declaring it a wilderness area. Read more here.

Arctic Policy:

The U.S. Coast Guard and Russia’s Marine Rescue Service have signed an agreement to address marine pollution in the trans-boundary waters of the Chukchi and Bering seas. The agreement includes a planned joint pollution response training exercise in the near future. International cooperation in a region as vast and remote as the Arctic is critical in preventing and quickly responding to oil spills, illegal fishing, and search-and -rescue missions. Read more here

Native American Policy:

Deb Haaland, member of the Laguna Pueblo, is Biden’s choice for Secretary of the Interior. If she makes it through the Senate confirmation process, she will be the first-ever Native American to hold a Cabinet post. Learn more about Haaland here.

The Climate Crisis:

If you’ve ever wanted a primer on weather terms like Atmospheric River, Polar Vortex, bomb cycle and the El Niño and La Niña, the Alaska Climate Dispatch’s latest State-Wide Seasonal Summary and Outlook has just the thing. And while you’re there, check out the Climate and Weather Summary for May – October 2020 for a rundown on temperatures and precipitation, lightning strikes, and sea ice minimums.   

Oil, Gas, Mining and Timber:

Planned expansion of oil and gas exploration into Lower Cook Inlet was put on hold, thanks to Biden’s pause on oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters. The pause has given the Lower Cook Inlet Defense Project time to draft a petition asking President Biden to remove the Lower Cook Inlet from future lease sales. Read more here and sign the petition.

In late May of last year, a huge oil tank collapsed in Norilsk, an industrial city in north-central Siberia. An estimated 21,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into the Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers coating the water with an oily crimson layer. One of the largest spills documented in the Arctic, the Norilsk spill has been compared to Alaska’s 1989 ExxonValdez oil spill.  As with the ExxonValdez, the spill occurred during spring migration, poisoning the waters just as fish and birds were returning to their natal grounds. Russian mining firms identified melting permafrost as the culprit – destabilizing the soil under the tank. Better surveillance of melting permafrost with inexpensive temperature probes would likely have prevented the spill. A judgement on the spill recently found Norilsk Nickel subsidiary guilty of negligence, fining the company an unprecedented 2 billion dollars. Read more here.

Fins, Feathers and Furbearing:

For you birders out there - It’s not too late to sign up for this weekend’s Backyard Bird Count. What could be more enjoyable than bundling up and spending 15 minutes or more outside (or inside with a view of the bird feeder) at least once between February 12 – 15? Then click a link to report what you see.  Learn more here

Noise pollution from boat motors, oil rigs, and seismic activity is disrupting the ability of marine animals to find food  or a mate and to evade predators. A comprehensive study published this month in the Journal Science concludes that the problem is global in scope. Even the Arctic ocean, covered by ice for much of the year, is seeing an increase in noises that disrupt Belugas and other whale species as shipping and glacial calving increase. Read more here.

Action Alert:

Sign a petition calling for the cancellation of oil and gas leasing in the Lower Cook Inlet and a permanent withdrawal of the planning area from future lease sales. 

Citizen Science:

Join the Alaska Wildlife Alliance in their effort to reduce dogs caught in traps by mapping traplines in Alaska. Visit Map the Trap to participate.