Friday, 3 December 2021: For Immediate Release
Soldotna, AK: Five local artists from the Cook Inlet basin have come together to raise awareness about the federal government’s Lease Sale 258, which would open up over a million acres of Lower Cook Inlet to oil and gas development. The area, from below Kalgin Island down to Augustine Island and across to Kachemak Bay, is prime fishing grounds for salmon and halibut and critical habitat for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga. Over 50 Alaskans showed up at the public hearings for the lease sale in November–and all testified in opposition to the sale. The Lease Sale will increase our greenhouse gas emissions at a time when Alaska has already warmed 2.5 to 6 degrees over the past 50 years and the Pacific cod fishery was closed in 2019-2020 because of climate change impacts. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates a 19% chance of one or more large oil spills (more than 42,000 gallons!) over the life of the leases, and that oil could end up in our amazing protected areas such as Kachemak Bay, Katmai, Lake Clark, Alaska Maritime Refuge or down to Kodiak. Not only would that oil hurt wildlife but it would also harm fisheries and Alaskans know how impossible a clean up effort would be in Cook Inlet–particularly if it occurred during our long winter months. The risks from this sale cannot make up for the miniscule financial benefits–that our Alaskan communities will likely never see.
To encourage as many Alaskans and fellow Americans as possible to oppose the Lease Sale, five Cook Inlet artists are symbolically holding “ART Sale 258.” Each of the artists contributed a piece to a Cook Inlet Fine Art Card variety set. Cards will be locally printed in Kenai, Alaska by Hannah Parker, who uses high quality archival inks and paper. Card sets can be purchased by donating $25.80 or more at inletkeeper.org/artsale and will be available for pick up at either the Homer or Soldotna Cook Inletkeeper offices, or can be mailed directly to customers. “ART sale 258” ends the same time as the comment period for the Lease Sale, at 7:59pm on Monday, December 13th. A link to submit comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and more about the lease sale, can be found at inletkeeper.org/leasesale258. For those in Soldotna, visit Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio to view an exclusive selection of originals and prints available through the Art Sale 258 Collaboration. Contact Kaitlin@inletkeeper.org or (907) 252-6525 for more info. #SellArtNotCookInlet
Artists involved in Art Sale 258 (and the titles of their pieces): Bonnie Bernard from Sterling (“Glass Beach,” watercolor); Valisa Higman from Seldovia (“Sea Otter,” multimedia papercuting); Amy Kruse from Kasilof (“Midnight Hunt,” acrylic); Kaitlin Vadla from Clam Gulch (“Cook Inlet Belugas,” acrylic); and Elisabeth Mering from Homer (“Lake Clark Reflections,” photograph).
Kaitlin Vadla (907) 252-6525
Valisa Higman (541) 520-7331
Bonnie Bernard (337) 488-7971
Elisabeth Mering (443) 463-1234
Amy Kruse, not available for comment, see statement below
Valisa Higman’s statement: I am an artist living in Seldovia, Alaska, and I strongly oppose Lease Sale 258. Having been born and raised in this area, and spending a great deal of my time exploring the land and ocean, and people’s connection to the land and ocean through my artwork, I find it hard to stomach the changes that would come with further oil and gas development in my front yard. Some of my earliest memories are of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and I worked in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. I am also a member of Seldovia’s local oil spill response team, and I know the dangers and heartbreak of oil spills. Oil’s devastating impact on our marine mammals, fisheries, and culture are well documented and well remembered. Continuing to develop oil resources is simply fueling the fire of climate change. It is time to stop compromising our wild places in our endless quest for oil, and focus on alternative energy sources.
Amy Kruse’s statement: Growing up on the shores of the Cook Inlet, it has always felt as if it was a part of me. As I venture through life, the more I become aware of how everything is a balance. How the things that are closest to our hearts and lives, are the most sacred. How shifting in a delicate balance can put into motion devastating and irreversible effects. I am not alone in my great affinity for our pristine coastal home and when something is sacred and delicate, we must work together to protect it.
Kaitlin Vadla’s statement: In my lifetime, I’ve seen Clam Gulch close to clamming, king crab and herring be decimated in Kachemak Bay, salmon and halibut become a shadow of their former world record size and abundant glory. I ask myself, “What am I doing to leave this place better than I found it?” So I must speak up. With the cod fishery closed in 2020 due to rising ocean temperatures, and the rest of the world transitioning from fossil fuels, Alaska should be joining the 21st century and investing in tidal and wind power, not more oil and gas. In 2010 the Alaska legislature started subsidizing natural gas extraction with the “Cook Inlet Recovery Act.” Since then, we have paid natural gas extractors $1.44 billion dollars, and we still have unpaid obligations, thanks to our legislators, to the total tune of $2.32 BILLION. For these past 10 years, Cook Inlet’s natural gas prices have been around $3 – $4 more than L48 prices, and drilling for more gas won’t solve the problem, it will just force the local market to keep paying more for natural gas on top of subsidizing its extraction. Developing “natural” gas (which is actually methane; “natural” is supposed to be a less scary marketing term) in Cook Inlet does not make ecological OR economic sense. We can-and MUST-do better.
Elisabeth Mering’s statement: Since moving to Alaska I’ve learned an important lesson: always bring your camera! Alaska and Cook Inlet daily provide the most amazing pictures and experiences! This picture was taken in Lake Clark and a 19% chance of one or more large oil spills where oil could likely end up on our “bear coast” or into Kachemak Bay is unacceptable. Of course it’s not just the bears but also our endangered belugas, shorebirds, marine mammals, and fish also are at risk. And with that risk, it also puts our sustainable fishing and tourism economies at risk! And of course, there is climate change which is already impacting Alaska. Alaskans can stand up and stop this sale and protect Lower Cook Inlet for Alaskans for generations to come.