Administration Praised for Balanced Approach in Western Arctic

Press release – Conservationists and Sportsmen Praise Obama Administration for
Balanced Approach in Western Arctic

Photo of the Reserve from the Alaska Wilderness League

Photo by Alaska Wilderness League

December 19, 2012 – A national conservation organization applauds the administration for taking an important step towards balancing resource development and conservation in Alaska’s North Slope. The Department of Interior released the final comprehensive land management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska (Reserve). The final plan allows for roughly 72 percent of the projected oil in the Reserve to be available for leasing while protecting five Special Areas, critical to wildlife, from oil and gas development.

Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior stated, “I applaud the Obama administration’s final plan. While allowing for oil and gas leasing in roughly half of the Reserve, the administration has highlighted the need to protect key wildlife habitat and areas critical to native subsistence.” Babbitt is also a member of the board of the Conservation Lands Foundation. ”This approach should be used as a model for how to bring balance to the President’s all-of-the-above energy policy.”

At nearly 23 million acres, the Reserve is largest contiguous piece of public land in the United States. The Reserve harbors a wide array of wildlife including two caribou herds, threatened polar bears, wolves, wolverines, the largest density of Grizzly Bears in North America and millions of migratory birds and waterfowl.  Areas such as Teshekpuk Lake, the Colville River, Utukok Uplands, Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay are awarded “special area” status and largely off limits to oil and gas development. Despite the Reserve’s importance to such a wide variety of wildlife, this stunning landscape does not have a single acre of land permanently protected for conservation.

The final management plan strikes an important balance between protections of nationally and globally important fish and wildlife habitat as well as vital subsistence uses for Alaskan Natives while providing for access and future development for a great majority of the Reserve’s oil resources. Responsible energy development will occur in the Reserve. In addition, the most critical special areas adding up to roughly half the acreage will be off limits.

“As a sportsman, I strongly support Secretary Salazar’s balanced approach for the Reserve. A remarkable number of migratory birds and waterfowl that are born, molt or breed in the Reserve travel the flyways to virtually every state, providing sportsmen both here in Minnesota and across the country quality hunting opportunities,” commented Gary Botzek, executive director of the sportsmen’s organization Minnesota Conservation Federation.

“I had the opportunity to visit the Western Arctic this past summer and see firsthand this stunning landscape and the wildlife,” stated Ed Norton, Chairman of the Board of the Conservation Lands Foundation. “The Conservation Lands Foundation commends Secretary Salazar and the Obama Administration for moving forward with a balanced approach to protecting the special areas in the Reserve and permitting responsible development.”

 ###