[The Scholars for Defending the Arctic Refuge campaign is hosted on the website for The Last Oil project. In February 2018, the University of New Mexico convened The Last Oil symposium as a scholarly and activist response to Trump administration policies in Arctic Alaska and beyond. We invite graduate students, faculty members, museum curators, independent scholars and writers, postdoctoral fellows, and other scholars from around the world to endorse this letter by sending an email to thelastoil@unm.edu. Please include your name, title and affiliation, and state/province and country. The public comment period on the Department of Interior’s Notice of Intent closes on June 19, 2018. The deadline for signing this letter is June 12, at which point the letter and list of signers will be sent to Secretary Zinke and distributed to the media; it may potentially be used by environmental and Indigenous organizations in their ongoing campaigns to defend the refuge.]
Dear Secretary Zinke:

The US Department of Interior recently announced a Notice of Intent to initiate an expedited process for oil and gas leasing, exploration, and development on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic Refuge may seem far away to many, but its Coastal Plain is one of the most significant biological nurseries in the Circumpolar North. Opening the Coastal Plain to fossil fuels exploration and development would endanger this nursery. It would violate human rights and jeopardize the food security of the indigenous Gwich’in people of the US and Canada. It would have detrimental effects on the health and social life of the indigenous Iñupiat people who live nearby. It would also contribute to further warming of the already rapidly-warming Arctic—an action that would affect the whole earth, as the Arctic is a critical integrator of our planet’s climate systems.

We are scholars from a wide range of fields—including the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and other areas—united in our opposition to exploration and drilling in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain. We urge you to consider the far-reaching biological, cultural, and climate impacts of this decision. We call upon the Department of Interior to continue to protect this vital transnational nursery.

As the ecological heart of the Arctic Refuge, the Coastal Plain provides critical calving and nursing habitat for the Porcupine Caribou Herd. More than 200,000 caribou embark every year on the longest land migration of any animal on earth, journeying from the taiga and boreal forest ecosystems of northeast Alaska and the adjacent northwest Canada to the Coastal Plain, where they calve and nurse their young. Caribou biologists have repeatedly warned that oil development on the Coastal Plain would constitute a grave threat to the health of the herd. In addition to nurturing caribou, the Coastal Plain provides nesting and feeding habitat for millions of migratory birds. Nearly ninety different species travel from all over the world to breed and find nourishment in the Coastal Plain. This area also offers the most important on-shore denning habitat in the US Arctic for polar bears, now listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, as their traditional sea ice habitat continues to disappear due to climate change.

Oil and gas exploration and drilling would destroy this fragile nursery, covering it with a spider web of roads, drill pads, and pipelines. Such habitat fragmentation on the narrow Coastal Plain, together with the chronic spills of oil and other toxic substances, will inevitably lead to stress, displacement, and population decline for the animals. As we are in the midst of what scientists call the earth’s sixth mass extinction, this critical Arctic nursery needs protection now more than ever.

For the Gwich’in communities on both sides of the US-Canada border, the prospect of drilling represents an existential threat to their cultural survival. The Gwich’in have relied upon the Porcupine Caribou Herd for nutritional, cultural, and spiritual sustenance for millennia. To them, the Coastal Plain is “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” Moreover, oil development would emit dangerous levels of toxic pollutants, causing respiratory illnesses and other health problems among Iñupiat people who call the area home.

The Arctic Refuge may be located in northeastern Alaska, but this is a profoundly transnational issue. The Gwich’in Nation is composed of communities situated on both sides of the international boundary. Not only do the caribou know no borders, but the US and Canada signed a bilateral agreement in 1987 to safeguard the transboundary habitat of the Porcupine herd. According to caribou biologists, the entirety of the calving and nursing grounds—stretching from the Arctic Refuge in Alaska through the Ivvavik National Park in the Yukon—should be protected if the herd is to survive and thrive. The Arctic Refuge is also connected globally through the epic migrations of birds from faraway places, including Argentina, Borneo, China, and New Zealand. And, as we are only beginning to understand, some of these species have cultural ties to peoples who live in these areas. We should have the humility to recognize that oil drilling would not only threaten wildlife species but also impact human communities well beyond the Coastal Plain.

As climate change bears down on the Arctic and elsewhere around the world, and as the global community continues to move away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, the US should aim to become a global leader in the managed decline of fossil fuels extraction. Deciding not to drill in the Arctic Refuge would be a crucial step in this direction.

The Department of Interior’s current action to advance exploration and drilling in the Arctic Refuge Coastal Plain comes only months after oil industry allies in Congress snuck a drilling provision into the unrelated federal Tax Act, circumventing normal legislative channels to get this controversial measure approved. Interior’s fast-tracking of the environmental review process ignores both the human rights of the Gwich’in Nation and the will of the American public, who have for decades urged their elected officials to permanently protect this irreplaceable ecological treasure.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge must not be auctioned off to the oil industry. Its natural and cultural values far exceed any oil that may lie beneath the Coastal Plain. As scholars from across the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world, we call upon the Department of Interior to support scientific and traditional ecological knowledge, to value environmental ethics and indigenous human rights, and to work to sustain biological nurseries and subsistence practices. We ask that you keep this cherished place and vibrant ecosystem protected for generations to come.


Subhankar Banerjee, Lannan Chair and Professor of Art and Ecology, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Finis Dunaway, Professor of History, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, Oberlin College (Alaska, USA)

Maria Shaa Tlaa Williams, Professor, Departments of Alaska Native Studies and Music, University of Alaska Anchorage (Alaska, USA)

T.J. Demos, Professor and Director of the Center for Creative Ecologies, University of California-Santa Cruz (California, USA)

Stephanie LeMenager, Barbara and Carlisle Moore Distinguished Professor in English and American Literature, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Oregon (Oregon, USA)

Rick Steiner, Professor, University of Alaska (Alaska, USA)

Gail Fraser, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University (Ontario, Canada)

Christoph Irmscher, Provost Professor of English, George F. Getz Jr. Professor in the Wells Scholars Progam, Indiana University-Bloomington (Indiana, USA)

Angela Carter, Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo ( Ontario, Canada)

Elizabeth Johnson, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Fordham University (New York, USA)

Paul S. Sutter, Professor of History, University of Colorado-Boulder (Colorado, USA)

Chie Sakakibara, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Oberlin College (Ohio, USA)

Scott Tremaine, Professor, Institute for Advanced Study-Princeton (New Jersey, USA)

Stephen Bocking, Professor, Trent School of the Environment, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Salma Monani, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies, Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania, USA)

David Abram, Director, Alliance for Wild Ethics (New Mexico, USA)

Zayn Kassam, John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College (California, USA)

Michael H. Hecht, Professor of Chemistry, Head of Forbes College, Princeton University (New Jersey, USA)

Grace Elizabeth Hale, Commonwealth Chair of American Studies and History, University of Virginia (Virginia, USA)

Joseph Cook, Professor of Biology, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Kate Ervine, Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Mark Klett, Regents’ Professor, Distinguished Sustainability Scholar, Honors Faculty, Herberger Institute for the Arts, Arizona State University (Arizona, USA)

Brenda Garand, Professor, Studio Art Department, Dartmouth College (New Hampshire, USA)

Jeffrey K. Stine, Environmental Historian (Washington D.C., USA)

Heather Houser, Associate Professor of English, The University of Texas at Austin (Texas, USA)

Janet L. Pritchard, Professor of Art, University of Connecticut (Connecticut, USA)

Harvard Ayers, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Appalachian State University (North Carolina, USA)

Julianne Lutz Warren, Conservation Ecology, Author of Aldo Leopold’s Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition (Alaska, USA)

Marguerite S. Shaffer, Professor of History, Affiliate in Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, Coordinator of Institute for Food,
Miami University (Ohio, USA)

Betsey Garand, Senior Resident Artist, Department of Art and the History of Art, Amherst College (Massachussetts, USA)

Chris Fremantle, Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer, Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen, Scotland)

Kenna S. O’Connell, Master of Public Administration, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Keith Pluymers, Assistant Professor of History, Illinois State University (Illinois, USA)

Jennifer Tucker, Assistant Professor, Community & Regional Planning, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Lisa C. Tremaine, Art Director at University of New Mexico Press (New Mexico, USA)

David Pengelley, Courtesy Professor of Mathematics, Oregon State University (Oregon, USA)

Natasha Zaretsky, Associate Professor, Department of History, Southern Illinois University (Illinois, USA)

Jonathan Luedee, Ph.D. Candidate, Geography, University of British Columbia (British Columbia, Canada)

Ivan Kreilkamp, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indiana University (Indiana, USA)

Daniel Brotman, Adjunct Professor, Director of Glendale Environmental Coalition Glendale College (California, USA)

Philip J. Sakimoto, Director of Academic Excellence, Instructor in Sustainability, University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA)

Brian Goldstein, Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania, USA)

Sarah Principato, Professor of Environmental Studies, Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania, USA)

Michael Epp, Associate Professor, English Literature and Cultural Studies, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Philip Wight, PhD Candidate, History, Brandeis University (Massachussetts, USA)

Cody Aylward, Ph.D. Student in Ecology, University of California-Davis (California, USA)

Ariel C. Wilson, MFA Candidate & Instructor of Record, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

David S. Walsh, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania, USA)

Nancy Menning, Faculty Affiliate, Ithaca College (New York, USA)

Alexandra Lakind, Doctoral Candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Wisconsin, USA)

Frank Zelko, Associate Professor, History and Environmental Studies, University of Vermont (Vermont, USA)

Adriene Jenik, Professor, Intermedia, Arizona State University (Arizona, USA)

Senta A. Sanders, Ph.D. candidate, University of Augsburg (Bavaria, Germany)

Norty Kalishman, M.D. (New Mexico, USA)

Lauren Bernofsky, D.M.A., Music Director, Musical Arts Youth Organization (Indiana, USA)

Jon Wlasiuk, Instructor, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University (Ohio, USA)

Ashley Kranjac, Assistant Professor, Chapman University (California, USA)

Dinko Kranjac, Lecturer, Chapman University (California, USA)

Stephanie Erev, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Political Science, (Johns Hopkins University (Maryland, USA)

Libby Roderick, Director, Difficult Dialogues Initiative, University of Alaska Anchorage (Alaska, USA)

Lindsey Viann Parkinson, MS Candidate, Biology and Wildlife, University of Alaska Fairbanks (Alaska, USA)

Ananda Banerjee, Environmental Journalist, Columnist, Author & Artist, (New Delhi, India)

Helen Morrogh-Bernard, Founder and Co-Director of the Borneo Nature Foundation, Director of Orangutan Research, Honorary University Fellow, College of Life and Environmental Science, University of Exeter (Exeter, UK)

Kiyoko Yokota, Associate Professor of Biology and Biological Field Station, Researcher, SUNY Oneonta (New York, USA)

David Wilcove, Professor of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Public Affairs, Princeton University (New Jersey, USA)

David N. Fisher, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada)

Nick Estes, Assistant Professor, American Studies, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Joe Gallegos, Graduate Student, American Studies, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Michael W. Twomey, Charles A. Dana Professor of Humanities and Arts, Emeritus, Department of English, Ithaca College (New York, USA)

Fernando J. Rosenberg, Professor and Chair of Romance Studies, Brandeis University (Massachusetts, USA)

Lisa Nevada, Rotating Adjunct Faculty Affiliate, Environment Choreographer and Educator, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Henry Beissel, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Department of English, Concordia University (Montreal, Canada)

Gisela Heffes, Associate Professor, Rice University (Texas, USA)

Megan J. Kelly, Teaching Associate Professor, Writing Program, Communications Officer, Faculty Senate, University of Denver (Colorado, USA)

Rafico Ruiz, SSHRC Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Sociology University of Alberta (Alberta, Canada)

Berivan Esen, PhD Candidate, University of Leicester (Leicester, UK)

Hugo Gorringe, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Kanchana N. Ruwanpura, Reader – Development Geography, Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Debbie S. Miller, Author of Midnight Wilderness: Journeys in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska, USA)

Ashley Clayson, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of English, University of West Florida (Florida, USA)

Kelly Bushnell, Adjunct Professor, University of West Florida (Florida, USA)

Hishinlai’ Peter, Instructor of Gwich’in, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Alaska Fairbanks (Alaska, USA)

Robin Blyn, Professor of English, University of West Florida (Florida, USA)

Les Field, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Michael P. Berman, Artist, Founder Gila Information Project (New Mexico, USA)

Trevor Fristoe, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Biology, Washington University (Missouri, USA)

Marit K. Munson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Jeff Fair, Author and Wildlife Biologist (Alaska, USA)

Phoebe Godfrey, Associate Professor in Residence, Department. of Sociology, University of Connecticut (Connecticut, USA)

Daniel Ackerman, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota (Minnesota, USA)

Rebecca Schreiber, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Joni Adamson, Professor, Environmental Humanities, Arizona State University (Arizona, USA)

Allen MacDuffie, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Texas (Texas, USA)

Alexandra Pulwicki, MSc, Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada)

Bruce T. Milne, Professor of Biology, W.K. Kellogg Chair in Sustainable Environmental and Food Systems, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Dominika Laster, Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Alyosha Goldstein, Associate Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Erika Osborne, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Colorado State University (Colorado, USA)

John H. Wadland, Professor Emeritus, School for the Study of Canada, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Joel Burges, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, Film and Media Studies, Digital Media Studies, University of Rochester (New York, USA)

Adam Rabinowitz, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, University of Texas at Austin (Texas, USA)

Tonia L. Payne, Professor, English Department, Nassau Community College (New York, USA)

Sara A. Thornton, Honorary Visiting Fellow, School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, University of Leicester (Leicestershire, UK)

Eve Andrée Laramée, Professor of Art and Director, Dyson College Center for the Arts, Society & Ecology, Pace University (New York, USA)

Donald Worster, Professor Emeritus of American History, University of Kansas (Kansas, USA)

Steve Barry, Emeritus Professor, Sculpture, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Kency Cornejo, Assistant Professor, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Robert P. Uttaro, Associate Teaching Professor, University of Denver (Colorado, USA)

Jeff Share, Faculty Advisor, Teacher Education Program, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California (California, USA)

Arif Khan, Director, University of New Mexico Art Museum (New Mexico, USA)

Steven James, Associate Professor of Biology, Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania, USA)

Alice Bailey, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia (Virginia, USA)

Traci Quinn, Curator of Education and Public Programs, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Judith C. Mueller, Professor of English, Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, USA)

Emily Hegarty, Professor of English, SUNY-Nassau Community College (New York, USA)

Hubert Zapf, American Studies, Environmental Humanities, University of Augsburg (Augsburg, Germany)

Szu-Han Ho, Assistant Professor of Art & Ecology, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Elizabeth Shores, Independent Scholar (Pennsylvania, USA)

Bill Gilbert, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Art & Ecology and Lannan Endowed Chair: Land Arts of the American West, Department of Art and Art History, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Mark Stoll, Professor, Texas Tech University (Texas, USA)

David Stradling, Associate Dean for Humanities, Zane L. Miller Professor of Urban History, University of Cincinnati (Ohio, USA)

Noel Mollinedo, MA Art History Candidate, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Mary Tsiongas, Professor and Associate Dean, College of Fine Arts, University of New Mexico, (New Mexico, USA)

Richmond M. Eustis, Field Instructor, NOLS (Alaska), Nicholls State University (Louisiana, USA)

Shirley Roburn, Visiting Scholar, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, McGill University (Quebec, Canada)

Alan C. Braddock, Ralph H. Wark Associate Professor of Art History & American Studies, College of William & Mary (Virginia, USA)

Amy Catherine Hulshoff, Ph.D. Art History, University of New Mexico (New Mexico, USA)

Pamela Banting, Associate Professor, University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada)

Kevin Siena, Associate Professor, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Sheryl Myers, Environmental Science Instructor, Anderson Community Schools and Harrison College (Indiana, USA)

Jay Turner, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies Program, Wellesley College (Massachusetts, USA)

Lisa E. Bloom, Scholar in Residence, Beatrice Bain Center, Gender & Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley (California, USA)

Mary Evelyn Tucker, Director, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology (Connecticut, USA)

John Grim, Director, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology (Connecticut, USA)

Robert E. Walls, Teaching Professor of Native American Studies, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA)

Karl Jacoby, Professor of History, Columbia University (New York, USA)

Anthony Lioi, Associate Professor of Liberal Arts and English, The Juilliard School (New York, USA)

Gavin Fridell, Canada Research Chair in International Development and Associate Professor, Saint Mary’s University (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Elaine Alexie, Teetł’it Gwich’in, Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta (Alberta, Canada)

Robert Coats, Research Associate, University of California, Davis (California, USA)

Bill deBuys, Independent Scholar (New Mexico, USA)

Hannah Holleman, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Department of Environmental Studies, Amherst College (Massachusetts, USA)

Karena Shaw, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (British Columbia, Canada)

Ana Maria Peredo, Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (WSÁNEC, Lkwugen and Wyomilth Territories, Canada)

James K. Rowe, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria (W̱SÁNEĆ and Songhees Territories, Canada)

Darren F. Speece, Assistant Dean, History Teacher, Sidwell Friends School (Washington D.C., USA)

Heather Green, Assistant Professor, Herberger Institute School of Art, Arizona State University (Arizona, USA)

Parker Krieg, Postdoctoral Fellow, Helsinki Institute for Sustainability Science, University of Helsinki (Unioninkatu, Finland)

Natalie Dawson, Director, Wilderness Institute, Faculty, Department of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences, University of Montana (Montana, USA)

Jeremy Milloy, Adjunct Professor, School for the Study of Canada, Trent University (Ontario, Canada)

Manuela Picq, Loewenstein Fellow and Associate Visiting Professor, Department of Political Science, Amherst College (Massachusetts, USA)

Benjamin Kochan, PhD Candidate, History, Boston University (Massachusetts, USA)

Carolyn Kremers, Writer, Fulbright Scholar, former Adjunct Lecturer, University of Alaska – Fairbanks (Alaska, USA)

Melanie Smith, Director of Conservation Science, Audubon Alaska (Alaska, USA)

Wallace Heim, Independent Scholar, Writer (Cumbria, United Kingdom)

Ivaylo R. Shmilev, Science Fiction Studies Researcher & PhD candidate, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (Hesse, Germany)

Laura Dassow Walls, Professor of English, University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA)