Imperiled reserve is home to polar bears, migratory birds
The Trump administration has taken a major step toward destruction of wildlands in the Western Arctic by releasing the final environmental impact statement for a new management plan that would open roughly 82 percent of the 23 million-acre tract of public land tragically named the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
Previously, nearly half of the reserve—the nation’s largest tract of public land—was set aside for conservation under the Integrated Activity Plan (IAP) enacted in 2013, which was in compliance with a 1976 congressional mandate for the federal Bureau of Land Management to protect high-value lands and wildlife habitat that remain unacknowledged in the tract’s official name. The reserve is a breathtaking landscape that is home to polar bears, migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, walrus and polar bears.
“Though long expected, the final environmental impact statement is another sad development in this administration’s shameful race to destroy public lands by auctioning off wild, beautiful places for industrial development—in the middle of a global pandemic, no less,” said David Krause, The Wilderness Society’s assistant Alaska director.
“The existing IAP balanced conservation with demands for domestic oil production. And now, while a global oversupply of oil is holding down prices and forcing companies to reduce production, this administration wants to sell our public lands at bargain-basement prices for oil production the nation doesn’t need. It is unconscionable.”
This is another sad development in this administration’s shameful race to destroy public lands by auctioning off wild, beautiful places for industrial development. - David Krause, The Wilderness Society’s assistant Alaska director.
To accommodate oil drilling, the proposed new IAP—expected to be finalized in late July—shrinks the size of the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area that is vital habitat to the Teshekpuk Caribou Herd and thousands of migratory birds. Congress’ 1976 mandate required that the area receive “maximum protection.” Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama all enlarged the size of special areas in the Western Arctic.
As recently as last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urged the administration to maintain protections for designated special areas in the reserve, saying, “full protection of these areas is necessary to sustain the biodiversity and ecologic integrity of the North Slope/coastal plain, especially given the impacts of climate change including increased coastal erosion and permafrost subsidence."