There are places on Earth we know are special without ever even visiting. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska is one of them.

Stories from the Gwich’in First Nation people and the latest climate science are clear: We need to protect the pristine Arctic Refuge from oil and gas drilling. Fossil fuel extraction is a risky, intense and disruptive activity that threatens our public lands and parks, including the Arctic Refuge.

In January, oil and gas leases in the Arctic were auctioned off for the first time, despite overwhelming public opposition and the fact that major banks say they won’t fund drilling in that region. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of the Interior under Secretary Deb Haaland put a hold on lease sales on federal lands in April and, last week, suspended leases that already had been issued.

The Arctic Refuge must be permanently protected from oil and gas drilling. The Gwich’in people depend on this land for their way of life, and truly, we all do. We don’t need fossil fuels to thrive, but we do need clean air, water and land, which the continued, large-scale burning of fossil fuels puts at risk.

I urge Maine’s congressional members to stop forced lease sales in the Arctic and support a permanent withdrawal of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Instead of extracting dirty oil and gas from our precious remaining Arctic lands, the U.S. should be leading the development of clean and renewable energy sources, like solar and wind.

Chloe Rowse

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