Home / Politics / As experts again warn of harm to Arctic wildlife, Interior Department again pushes ANWR oil mapping

As experts again warn of harm to Arctic wildlife, Interior Department again pushes ANWR oil mapping

The bad news is that polar bears aren’t going to be around much longer. The good news is that killing them off will make a small number of people very, very rich, so you can see the dilemma.

The Republican Party has a thing about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Or rather, the oil companies that lobby the Republican Party are bent on drilling there, and by God what the oil companies want the oil companies will get, if Republican lawmakers and pundits and functionaries have anything to say about it. This came to a head yet again with Trump’s insertion into the Oval Office, because of course, and so the government has been tasked with facilitating a geophysical mapping of the refuge’s oil reserves in preparation for divvying it up to the oil companies looking to finally, at long last, liberate the oil for proper consumption and atmospheric dispersal.

This is because there is money to be made doing so, so the rest of you peasants, and your children, and your grandchildren can go right to hell for thinking this might not be a good idea.

But there is a problem. Even the Trump-era Interior Department has not yet been willing to approve the necessary seismic survey due to the extreme impact of moving heavy machinery around the refuge—including the possibility that the equipment would drive right over hidden polar bear dens, crushing them or driving them out. Crushing polar bear cubs under the tracks of industrial equipment is too on-the-nose for all but the most diehard of oil advocates, and is the rough equivalent of putting a family of live pandas through a threshing machine, from a publicity point of view.

That temporary delay (the work can only be done in winter, when the snowpack is hard enough to support the weight of the vehicles) means a renewed focus on aerial surveys. Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service scientists have warned that criss-crossing by low-flying planes is also likely to disrupt protected animals, panicking caribou herds and potentially driving polar bears out of their territories. The Interior Department is green-lighting the plan anyway, however, claiming no permit is required for the mapping flights.

Given the likelihood that Trump’s appointees will continue to ignore their agency’s scientists, that leaves conservation groups warning the aerial mapping company itself that just because Team Trump is skirting environmental laws right now doesn’t mean future administrations will ignore any resultant harm.

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