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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Antarctica

Whereas,

  • Existing management for living resources of the Antarctic region comprises a confusing array of domestic and international law, regulations and commissions together with the traditional freedoms of the high seas,
  • Interest in projected hydrocarbon resources of the Antarctic continental shelf has led to a consideration of mineral resource regimes by the contracting parties to the Antarctic Treaty,
  • Scientists agree that the simple ecological structure of the Antarctic region is extremely vulnerable to disturbance,
  • Relatively moderate changes in the abundance of particular forms of life could easily destabilize conditions for others, and recovery from such destabilization or degradation would be very slow,
  • Antarctica is known to play an important role in the formation of weather and climatic conditions over half the globe,
  • There are scientists who fear that human disturbances in polar regions - perhaps resulting from petroleum or mineral resource exploitation -- might cause serious changes in the global climate, [and]
  • Despite the fragile nature of the Antarctic environment, its importance for southern hemisphere climate and weather, and its unique collection of flora and fauna, there is no assurance that adequate environmental protection will be maintained.

The Sierra Club reaffirms its commitment to the protection of Antarctica and its dependent and associated ecosystems. We are dedicated to ensuring the primacy of Antarctica's wilderness values for science, peace, education, and inspiration. These values are of universal and paramount importance for humanity and the global environment. We urge that the unique Antarctic environment be designated an international protected area where no mining can occur.

The Sierra Club supports the following measures to protect the fragile environment of Antarctica:

  1. Setting aside forever areas of land and water large enough to protect ecosystems of unique biological significance and natural beauty.
  2. Ratification by the United States of the Agreed Measures for Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora.
  3. A ban on harvesting of living resources except for scientific purposes, until a management arrangement is developed, based on an assessment of its effect on the total Southern Ocean ecosystem. Exploitation under existing agreements (e.g., Antarctic Seal Convention and the International Whaling Commission whaling quotas) should be included in determining this assessment.
  4. The continued agreement under the Antarctic Treaty prohibiting the disposal of radioactive wastes. Extension of the prohibition to include any highly toxic or long-lasting wastes.
  5. The continued agreement under the Antarctic Treaty prohibiting all military activities.
  6. Strengthened and continued strict control of all scientific research and an open exchange of information.
  7. Limited tourism and its careful management so as to avoid pollution and damage to the Antarctic environment.
  8. Increased public participation in the decision- making process on Antarctica, including the establishment of an advisory committee on which environmental interests are represented.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 7-8, 1977; amended March 17-19, 1989; July 8, 1995


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