A pair of Democratic U.S. senators have introduced a bill to designate parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a permanent wilderness area.
The bill prompted immediate outrage from Alaska Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans, who want parts of the refuge opened up to oil and gas drilling. In a statement, Murkowski declared the bill “dead on arrival.”
The legislation, from Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Michael Bennett of Colorado, would protect the refuge’s coastal plain, along the Arctic Ocean. It has the support of 33 Democrats, along with Independent Bernie Sanders.
But that is nowhere near enough to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.
Similar bills to turn the coastal plain into wilderness have been introduced in every Congress for decades. And earlier this year, the Obama Administration formally recommended wilderness designation for an even larger swath of the refuge. But that proposal requires congressional action to take effect.