Letter to Secretary Zinke To Uphold 2013 Integrated Activity Plan

Secretary Ryan Zinke
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

June 20, 2017

Re: Uphold the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska’s 2013 Integrated Activity Plan Dear Secretary Zinke,

On behalf of the 13 undersigned organizations and our millions of members across the nation and in Alaska, we oppose changing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska’s (NPRA) Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) to allow increased oil and gas drilling, and we oppose any effort to undercut current protections to Teshekpuk Lake and other designated Special Areas. Modifying this land- use plan risks damaging some of the most biologically rich wildlife areas in America’s Arctic.

The 23 million-acre NPRA is our nation’s largest single public land unit and provides habitat for Arctic wildlife species including two caribou herds, migratory birds from across the nation and globe, and a full complement of Arctic apex predators such as grizzly bears, polar bears, and wolves. The governing statute for the NPRA directs the Department of Interior to provide maximum protection for Teshekpuk Lake and other Special Areas that contain significant fish and wildlife, subsistence, recreational, and historic and scenic values.

In 2013, after a multi-year planning process with robust public input, the Secretary of the Interior adopted the current IAP. As the first-ever comprehensive management plan for the entire NPRA, the 2013 IAP permits energy production while also taking a major step forward in protecting some of our nation’s most important Arctic areas for wildlife, subsistence, and Alaska Native history and culture. Over 400,000 sportsmen, scientists, Alaskans, North Slope residents, tribal members, and citizens commented in favor of the science-based protections that were ultimately adopted in the 2013 IAP. Revisiting the IAP would contravene the best available science and is an affront to the thousands of stakeholders who spoke in favor of these protections to exceptional ecological areas, including Teshekpuk Lake and other Special Areas.

Ever since the passage of the NPRA’s governing law in 1976, Teshekpuk Lake and its surrounding lands have repeatedly been recognized as a place worthy of special consideration, and the area is a prime example of the remarkable ecological value contained in the region as a whole. The 40,000-head Teshekpuk Caribou Herd, an important subsistence and food security resource for nearby villages and Alaska Native communities, uses the land around Teshekpuk Lake as calving grounds and insect relief areas. The greater Teshekpuk area is a globally significant important bird area. Greater White-fronted Geese, Brant, Canada Geese, and Snow Geese crowd together in and around Teshekpuk in the tens of thousands, seeking a safe space during the vulnerable molting period in their life cycle. Over half a million shorebirds of 13 species breed in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, making it one of the most important shorebird sites of the circumpolar Arctic. The Teshekpuk Lake region is on par with our nation’s most premier wildlife refuges and hotspots and merits ongoing recognition and protection.

Our organizations stand united in our support of the protections in the IAP for the natural values found within the NPRA. We urge you to leave the 2013 IAP intact and refrain from taking any future actions that would undermine existing conservation measures for the Teshekpuk Lake area and the other Special Areas.

Sincerely,

Alaska Wilderness League
American Bird Conservatory
Center for Biological Diversity
Conservation Lands Foundation
Earthjustice
Greenpeace
National Audubon Society
Natural Resources Defense Council Northern Alaska Environmental Center Sierra Club
Sierra Club Military Outdoors
Vet Voice Foundation
The Wilderness Society

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