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Policy & Government

Senator Gardner votes to allow drilling in the ANWR

Outdoor business owners based in Colorado are livid.

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Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) voted yesterday to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as part of a tax bill moving toward a full Senate vote.

In October, Republicans voted against a Senate budget amendment that opened the possibility of fossil fuel drilling in the 19.3 million-acre Alaskan Arctic. More than a hundred Colorado-based outdoor businesses signed a letter pleading with Gardner to protect the arctic.

Osprey was proud to be one of the Colorado outdoor businesses asking Senator Gardner to keep Arctic Refuge drilling out of the tax plan, and the Osprey team is disappointed at his latest decision, to say the very least, according to Sam Mix, conduit of corporate outreach.

“Senator Gardner has said that ‘we must be good stewards of our natural environment’, but then he votes to open the Arctic Refuge? Actions speak louder than words and one can’t claim to be a supporter of public lands like Senator Gardner does and then vote to drill in America’s largest refuge,” Mix says.

He believed drilling in America’s wildest place has no place in the tax bill. “Once America’s last great wild place is opened to drilling, it can never be brought back,” Mix says.

The owner of Ouray Mountain Sports, Bill Leo, who signed the initial letter to Gardner, is “extremely pissed off at all politicians”. “I am disappointed in our Senator supporting the arctic drilling, but I am not in the least bit surprised that he chose to tow the party line. When we as a country choose to elect politicians who support only what is beneficial to their lobbyists and not to the greater good of the country, then we all lose out.”

Jaime Joseph, Backpacker’s Pantry’s sales, customer service, and social media representative is disgusted by this news. She just moved to Colorado in April and says she was expecting a representative who was more forward thinking and protective of our land. “Why would we do this? Where is the good reason?,” she asks. “The only answer comes down to money, and that’s what Gardner has voted on – money. He may speak to appeal to stewards of this earth, but his actions sure don’t back it up. The money is short term. The loss of a land like this irreplaceable.”

Outdoor industry professionals are frustrated at Gardner’s claims to support the environment and then make a vote like this. Auden Schendler, Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, says Gardner should be ashamed of himself and won’t last as a Colorado senator with this stance. “Senator Gardner keeps telling us he’s a public lands supporter, but you can’t support public lands and then vote to open America’s largest and wildest Refuge to fossil fuel development,” says Schendler, who also signed the initial letter. “Adding Arctic Refuge drilling to the budget process is sneaky and callous. It’s a way to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry by going around regular law-making procedures.”

We reached out to Senator Gardner’s office for comment but did not get a response.

What do we do now?

Kevin Timm, owner of Grand Junction-based Seek Outside, a family-owned business producing lightweight products for the outdoors, is a prime example of someone who is stepping up and taking action. In October, he traveled to Washington to express to Senator Gardner just how important the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge is to Colorado-based outdoor businesses. “The Arctic is a bucket list trip, and many of our customers purchase our products explicitly for trips to places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” he says. Timm plans to continue to advocate for public lands and wild places, which are core to his business and passions, he says.

Alexander Boian, Vice President of Government Affairs of OIA, says this is a time where it is so important to speak up and express disappointment.

OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts spoke with Gardner on Tuesday night and expressed disappointment in his vote. She told him his statements and letters to try to get the outdoor retailer show to Colorado and his statements of support for the outdoor economy directly conflict with this vote.

Boian encourages business owners and outdoorists to pick up the phone, and let legislature know they disapprove of this vote. OIA’s advocacy section on their site includes a tool to look up legislature by zip codes.

“These are issues that are not only defining who we are as an industry, but as Americans. To simply shake your head and not do anything is not acceptable,” Boian says.

“We appreciate the fact that business owners have jobs to do, but there are real threats out there, both from congress and the administration. It’s not just an attack, but it’s an attack on our industry’s values. Stand up, and speak up loudly.”