Sierra Club Statement on the Biden Administration’s Announcement on the Arctic Refuge, Western Arctic

Lease Cancellation a Win for the Arctic Refuge, Indigenous Communities, and the Climate

Ian Brickey, 202-675-6270,

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the White House announced a series of groundbreaking policies with major significance for the communities, landscapes, and wildlife of the Arctic and for the effort to take on climate change.

In an historic move, the Biden Administration canceled all existing oil and gas leases on federal public lands in the Arctic Refuge. The decision is a major victory for climate action, and is the culmination of a review of rushed approval of drilling plans in the Arctic by Donald Trump. The administration also unveiled unprecedented protections for 13 million acres of the Western Arctic, constituting the single largest advancement of the initiative to protect 30 percent of all lands and waters in the U.S. by 2030, and issued a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) that could finally curtail oil and gas extraction in the Arctic Refuge. Taken together, these actions are the biggest federal efforts to take on climate change and protect public lands in recent memory.

The White House also announced the beginning of comment periods on proposed regulations affecting the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA), in addition to announcing a 45 day public comment period on the DSEIS for the Arctic Refuge Oil and Gas Program. The coastal plain of Alaska is the biological heart of the Arctic Refuge, with lands and wildlife essential to sustain Indigenous communities and cultures. It is one of the world’s last intact ecosystems, and continued drilling would damage communities and exacerbate the climate crisis.

In response, Ben Jealous, Sierra Club executive director, and Mike Scott, Sierra Club’s National Oil and Gas Campaign Manager, released the following statements:

“To quote President Biden, this is a big f-ing deal. Oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge is incompatible with the long-term survival of the Arctic, the Gwich’in Nation’s way of life, and life as we know it," said Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous. "By protecting these landscapes and canceling these leases, the White House has made it clear they will take bold action to avert climate catastrophe.

“The effort to protect and preserve the Arctic Refuge was one of the first major battles of the modern environmental movement. Now, the Arctic and the communities and wildlife that rely on it are on the frontlines of climate change. Today, in listening to the Gwich’in Nation and the American people, President Biden showed that this treasured landscape is also the frontline of climate action.”


"The lease cancellation and conservation rule are a welcome beginning to a process that will protect the Arctic Refuge and the Gwich’in way of life," said Mike Scott, Sierra Club’s National Oil and Gas Campaign Manager. "We can’t stop here if we are going to address the climate crisis in the Arctic. The climate goals President Biden has set are necessary and ambitious, and massive oil and gas projects like Willow only put us further from achieving them. 

"Today’s announcement shows the Biden Administration can act to protect vital ecosystems and the people who depend on them, but it must do more. That includes establishing a climate test on future oil and gas projects in the Arctic and elsewhere."

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit