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Major Victory for the Arctic Refuge

Thanks to support from World Wildlife Fund activists, the U.S. Senate voted on Dec. 21, 2005, to strip a provision allowing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from an unrelated bill appropriating funding to the Defense Department. Republican Sens. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), as well as Independent Jim Jeffords (Vt.), voted with the majority of Democratic senators to achieve this big win. Only four Democratic senators voted wrong: Mary Landrieu (La.), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) Ben Nelson (Nebr.), and Daniel Akaka (Hawaii.). Efforts in Congress to open the refuge to drilling in 2005 appear to be over, but the issue may return in 2006.

More than 47,000 letters and an untold number of phone calls from WWF activists to Congress during two weeks in December 2005 helped secure a huge victory for the conservation of wildlife.

This is an enormously important and hard-fought victory for conservationists and the Gwich'in people of Alaska and Canada. The teamwork has been truly inspiring. WWF thanks everyone who supported efforts to protect one of the world's most outstanding ecoregions.

More than 40 years ago, scientists and conservationists who fought to establish the Arctic Refuge envisioned preserving an undisturbed portion of America's Arctic that was large enough to be biologically self-sufficient. Of particular concern was protection of the entire range of the Porcupine caribou herd, whose range is partly in the United States and partly in Canada. For over 20 years, oil companies have been heavily lobbying to open the coastal plain -- the biological heart of the wildlife refuge -- to oil drilling. Such development would transform this sanctuary into a spider web of roads, pipelines, sewage plants, drilling pads, and housing for thousands of workers that would destroy the wilderness character of the land and limit the free movement of wildlife. In addition to caribou, polar bears, musk ox, wolves, and countless other species depend on the refuge.

From February to December 2005, WWF activists sent more than 200,000 letters opposing oil drilling in the refuge. Drilling proponents had first tried to authorize Arctic drilling using the budget reconciliation bill, but failed thanks in large part to the opposition of 29 moderate House Republicans.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) have introduced legislation to designate a portion of the Arctic Refuge as wilderness. Read the legislation.

Learn more about the Conservation Action Network. For more on the results of past campaigns, visit the Your Successes section.