BLM Protects Five Special Areas During Western Arctic Leasing Process
This past week the Bureau of Land Management issued a call for nominations for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve). This “call” is the first step toward putting forward an oil and gas lease sale that will likely take place this November. Nominations for lease sales will not be honored for roughly 11 million acres of the Reserve, in areas deemed important for their wildlife and subsistence values in the recently finalized management plan.
The areas off limits to leasing are mostly located in the Reserve’s five Special Areas and include habitat for two caribou herds, wolves, wolverines, musk oxen and one of the larger densities of grizzly bears in North America. These areas also include important habitat for marine mammals such as endangered beluga whales and spotted seals, an important subsistence resource for the native communities. The Reserve’s network of coastal wetlands and lagoons support literally millions of migratory birds and waterfowl, the most critical of which will be mostly off limits to oil and gas activities.
In an important milestone for this globally significant landscape, the Obama Administration’s 2012 Integrated Activity Plan puts roughly 11 million acres of the Reserve off limits to oil and gas drilling while creating five Special Areas totaling over 13 million acres. As the Bureau of Land Management moves forward with yearly leasing in the Reserve, the Obama Administration and Secretary Jewell deserve our praise for ensuring that the most important areas for wildlife and native subsistence are protected.