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USA: Indigenous community files lawsuit to prevent oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

"Gwich’in Nation launches lawsuit in effort to stop oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," 26 Sep 2020

Tucked away in the far northeast corner of Alaska lies countless kilometres of ancient Porcupine calving grounds.

These lands, protected by the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, are sacred to the Gwich’in peoples who live in Alaska and northern Canada.

In August, U.S. President Donald Trump finalized its plan to auction about 607,000 hectares of the 7.6 million hectare reserve to oil and gas development, with potential bidding to start as early as the end of this year...

This decision has infuriated Gwich’in First Nations on both side of the border, as any infrastructural disturbance to the coastal plains could have disastrous environmental effects...

Last month, the Gwich’in steering committee and allies filed a lawsuit against Trump’s secretary of Interior and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, claiming that the leasing program would “hand over” the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the oil and gas industry.

The lawsuit pinpoints several violations of environmental acts, and argues that the environmental analysis was rushed, public opinion was excluded and that Indigenous input was not considered. A United Nations committee is now investigating to see if the drilling violates the Gwich’in peoples’ human rights...

On Sept. 17, 250 environmental and religious groups from all 50 U.S. states sent a letter to four potential oil lease bidders, demanding they not drill in the refuge.