Writing a letter to the editor (LTE) to your local or regional newspaper is an effective and easy way to reach a large audience with your message. LTEs are published on the editorial page, which is one of the most read sections in the paper. Congressional staffers also tell us that members of Congress keep a close eye on media coverage, including LTEs in their local papers, so they can keep a 'pulse' on issues of importance to their constituents.
ACT NOW: Write an LTE about why we should protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
On August 17, the Trump administration gave the green light to oil and gas companies to identify areas of the sacred coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge they want to purchase. This is the latest move forward toward their plan to hold the first lease sale in December.
Talking points for your letter:
- The Arctic Refuge is one of our nation’s most majestic public lands, home to the Porcupine Caribou Herd, denning polar bears, musk oxen, wolves, and nearly 200 species of migratory birds. Its biological heart, the coastal plain, is no place for oil and gas development.
- The Administration’s rush to sell-off the Arctic Refuge must be halted. Interior is barreling forward with plans for destructive oil and gas exploration and drilling, disregarding the serious biological, cultural and climate impacts fossil fuel extraction will have in the rapidly-warming Arctic.
- The misguided rush to undermine long-held protections of the Arctic Refuge is yet another example of Interior and the Trump administration disregarding Indigenous rights in the rush to sell out our public lands to big oil interests.
- The Gwich’in are spiritually and culturally tied to the health of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the coastal plain. Protecting the caribou is a matter of basic human rights for them. Drilling threatens to alter caribou migrations and populations, risking the Gwich’in way of life.
- Oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge would threaten Indigenous rights, industrialize one of America’s last wild places, and exacerbate climate change. It’s also bad business. The remote nature of the Refuge, combined with global appetite to limit climate pollution, make drilling in the coastal plain an expensive risk that’s not worth taking.
- The carbon pollution from burning all the oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be like doubling the pollution from every coal-fired power plant in the nation for three years.
- Approximately 77 percent of the Arctic Refuge coastal plain is designated critical habitat for imperiled polar bears. BLM has downplayed the negative impacts exploration and drilling would have on this threatened species, including the potential crushing of bears in dens or the abandonment of dens by mother bears, leaving their cubs to perish.
- The coastal plain is the most important onshore denning habitat for polar bears in the United States, and mother polar bears with cubs are increasingly denning in this area as annual sea ice melts more quickly due to a warming climate. Oil and gas development in the coastal plain could forever damage this essential habitat for the species.
- Arctic Refuge drilling remains deeply unpopular with the American people who do not want, did not ask for, and will not accept that the wildest place in our country is on track to be sacrificed. According to recent public polling done by Yale Climate Connections, a large majority of American voters (67%) oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- The Trump Administration’s Record of Decision (ROD) has adopted the most destructive drilling alternative possible, and will attempt to lease the entire 2,443 square miles (more than 1.56 million acres) of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge to the oil industry. This opens the Refuge to leasing and exploration that could amount to a total loss of the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain.Bottom line: the ROD tries to paper over the massive deficiencies in the final EIS that government agencies, scientists, and Alaska Native communities have identified. The ROD, however, cannot effectively defend the indefensible: it does not change the reality that drilling the Arctic Refuge will have catastrophic impacts on subsistence resources, wildlife, air quality, water, and the climate. As a result, the courts or a new presidential administration will have ample opportunity to overturn this reckless and flawed decision.
- The case for protecting this sacred land is so clear that we have now seen 5 of the 6 major U.S. banks -- Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo -- among the two dozen banks around the world that have announced they will not fund any new oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge and across the Arctic region. Bank of America remains the only major U.S. bank that has failed to make such a commitment.
- To add an "ask" in your letter for your readers - ask that they express their outrage by telling Bank of America: Don't finance Arctic Refuge drilling!
Follow these tips:
- Respond to an article in the paper. The best letters are those that are in response to an article that ran in the paper, and many papers require that you reference the specific article. Begin your letter by citing the original story by name, date and author. Some papers do occasionally print LTEs noting a lack of coverage on a specific issue — If this is the case, begin your LTE by stating your concern that the paper hasn't focused on this important issue.
- Follow the paper’s directions. Information on how and to whom to submit a letter-to-the-editor is usually found right on the letters page in your paper. Follow these guidelines to increase the likelihood that your letter will be printed.
- Share your expertise. If you have relevant qualifications to the topic you're addressing be sure to include that in your letter.
- Refer to the legislator or corporation you are trying to influence by name. If your letter includes a legislator’s name, in almost all cases staff will give him or her the letter to read personally.
- Write the letter in your own words. Editors want letters in their papers to be original. Feel free to use our messaging tips, but also take the time to write the letter in your own words.
- Keep your letter short, focused and interesting. In general, letters should be under 200 words — often 150 or less is best. Stay focused on one (or, at the most, two) main point(s) and get to the main point in the first two sentences. If possible, include interesting facts, relevant personal experience and any local connections to the issue. If your letter is longer than 200 words, it will likely be edited or not printed.
- Include your contact information. Be sure to include your name, address and a daytime phone number; the paper will contact you before printing your letter.
If you are interested in writing and submitting an LTE or have a question, contact Lois (at) AlaskaWild.org. If you send in an LTE, we'd love to hear about it so that we can keep an eye out for it. Or better yet, let us know when you get published!