I remember asking for a stuffed polar bear for my 10th birthday. I had passed by one in a store, and it was so cute and fluffy that I had to have one. His name was Snow and I used to pretend that he roamed through the icy lands of my imagination.

Little did I know that there are real-life Snows living in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has the highest concentrations of onshore polar bear denning habitats in America’s Arctic.

Polar bears are listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and unfortunately, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was opened to oil and gas drilling by Congress in 2017. If drilling begins, the polar bears’ habitats will be destroyed, further placing their future in peril.

Right now, drilling efforts in the refuge have been delayed, but we must act to permanently protect the refuge and ensure that all wildlife in the Arctic have homes to live in. Future 10-year-olds should be able to imagine their own stuffed polar bears living happily in the refuge, and for them, we should be doing all we can to protect it. We have to stop the sale of oil leases in the Arctic forever, for the polar bears’ sake and for every child’s own Snow.

Alex Smalto
Portland

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