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Opinion: Don’t exacerbate climate change; protect the Arctic Refuge

As millions of people across the world come together to demand action on climate change, our president and his administration are trying to take us backward.

They tell us that there is no  climate crisis while pushing to open public lands across Colorado to new oil and gas leasing, including the North Fork Valley and spectacular wild lands along the Arkansas River Valley.

Perhaps worst of all, the administration is opening our nation’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to irreversible destruction which would exacerbate climate emissions. 

John Land Le Coq

We know from science that the climate is rapidly changing, which is drastically impacting our world and the special places we love. Increased wildfires, drought, flooding, rising sea levels and more are devastating communities around the world daily. 

The Arctic is ground zero for climate change. Temperatures there are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. Villages are eroding into the sea, permafrost melt is making infrastructure insecure, and food sources are disappearing. Indigenous arctic communities are finding it increasingly difficult to hunt and feed their families.

As the world learns to grapple with the threats and the acceleration of a warming planet, policy makers are failing to understand the severe implications of greenhouse gas emissions released by a thawing permafrost which were not included in the scientific models that helped formulate the Paris Climate Agreement. 

As a member of the board of directors at the Woods Hole Research Center, a leading climate change resource, and the founder and CEO of an outdoor recreation company that depends on the health of our world’s water resources, it’s essential that we do all we can to protect our public lands and take action on climate change.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Together with the WHRC, we have initiated a new program called Science on the Fly, an innovative global project that unites anglers and scientists to investigate rivers in key regions of the world by collecting and monitoring water samples to understand how these watersheds are changing.

This summer, we launched Science on the Fly with a trip to the Kwethluk River in Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the southern edge of mapped permafrost.

The 120-mile float by raft from the source of the river to the Kuskokwim Delta on the Bering Sea was a data-finding expedition that revealed not only important science, but the heartbeat of what truly defines America’s natural values. 

Even though the science should inform our policies and over two-thirds of Americans oppose drilling in the Arctic Refuge, the Trump administration recently took a huge step toward drilling in this majestic place.

Through a regressive action flying in the face of science and common sense, the Bureau of Land Management recently released a deeply flawed and illegal Final Environmental Impact Statement as a result of a provision that was tucked into the 2017 Tax Bill.

BLM’s plan allows for aggressive development offering oil leasing across the entire ecologically sensitive Coastal Plain — the ecological heart of the refuge — to the oil and gas industry. 

Trump’s plan provides no meaningful protections for the area’s sacred lands, wildlife, water and iconic wilderness characteristics and underestimates the impacts of oil and gas activity on the iconic species that live and breed in the Arctic Refuge.

It also calls for construction of as many as four places for airstrips and well pads, 175 miles of roads, vertical supports for pipelines, a seawater-treatment plant and a barge landing and storage site.

The Trump administration plans to begin selling off this irreplaceable landscape before the end of the year, which would be a tragedy with consequences not understood for decades. 

We know that oil drilling would compound the devastating climate impacts already being felt in the Arctic Refuge and cause permanent harm to future generations.

The serious climate and other environmental impacts of drilling one of the earth’s most sensitive, biodiverse and untouched expanses have been severely downplayed. 

The irreplaceable Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic and iconic landscapes. We must stop the Trump administration and Big Oil’s rushing to exacerbate climate change while selling the refuge off to the highest bidder all for short-sighted greed.

If we don’t protect this sacred landscape now, there won’t be another chance, and we will lose it forever. 

John Land Le Coq is the Founder, CEO, Director of Design and Development for Fishpond, Inc. a Colorado-based fly fishing and outdoor gear company.