Trump administration pushes to sell oil leases in Alaska, home to polar bears

Young polar bears, Alaska, photo: Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash
Young polar bears, Alaska, photo: Hans-Jurgen Mager on Unsplash

The Trump administration is trying to finalize the sale of oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.

They’re doing this just before Joseph Biden’s inauguration on January 20th, a government spokeswoman said on Friday.

The White House finalized a plan to allow drilling earlier this year. The 19 million-acre (7.7 million hectares) refuge is home to native tribes and wildlife populations, including caribou and polar bears.

In the coming days, the White House will ask energy companies what specific land areas should be offered for sale, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Anchorage, Alaska.

That would start the clock on a 60-day period before sales could take place in ANWR, where drilling had been banned for decades. In 2017, the ban was removed.

“This lease sale is one more box the Trump administration is trying to check off for its oil industry allies before vacating the White House in January,” said Adam Kolton, executive director at the Alaska Wilderness League, which opposes drilling in ANWR.

Several big U.S. banks have said they would not finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic region in recent months.

“This administration has consistently ignored our voices and dismissed our concerns. Our food security, our land and our way of life are on the verge of being destroyed,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

The Gwich’in tribe lives in scattered villages in the reserve and across the national border in Canada. 

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