It’s 3,200 miles from Joe Balash’s office in Washington, D.C., to the Neets’aii Gwich’in community of Arctic Village. But Arctic Village is barely 200 miles from North Pole, the Alaska town where Balash grew up.
As Arctic sea ice melts, polar bears are spending more time near the Alaska North Slope village of Kaktovik. Now, federal prosecutors have charging a man there with killing one in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Until recently, Gwich’in tribes were on the winning side of the battle over drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Then, in late 2017, Congress opened the coastal plain to oil development.
“There’s probably going to be a greater amount of uncertainty with some of the information that we’re able to provide, because it’s simply not going to be as precise as it used to be,” said wildlife biologist Todd Atwood.