New Plan Balances Wildlife Conservation with Drilling in Western Arctic

Management Plan Shields Special Wildlife Areas Protecting Caribou, Waterfowl

12-19-2012 // Aileo Weinmann
Caribou

The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced a final management plan that will determine how oil and gas leasing can move forward while protecting wildlife in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, also known as the Western Arctic Reserve.

“Today’s release of the final Integrated Activity Plan/Environmental Impact Statement represents a balanced approach to managing the Western Arctic Reserve, taking into account the needs of local wildlife, local communities and for oil and gas production,” said Adam Kolton, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s National Advocacy Center. “We commend the Interior Department for providing vital protections for Teshekpuk Lake, Kasegaluk Lagoon and the Colville River Special Area.”

The final Integrated Activity Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (IAP/EIS), known as Alternative B-2, protects more than 11 million acres of critical wildlife habitat, including Teshekpuk Lake, one of the most important wetland complexes in the Arctic and home to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and calving ground for the 45,000-head Teshekpuk Lake Caribou herd.

“This is a nice holiday present for America’s waterfowl hunters and birdwatchers,” Kolton said. “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. If we value everything from the Common Ravens in our yards, to the sandpipers on the water to the Northern Pintails we see from the duck blinds, then we should applaud this plan’s effort to protect the most sensitive wildlife areas within the Reserve.”

“Sportsmen and other conservationists made their voices heard to the Obama administration and the Bureau of Land Management responded with a plan that carefully balances oil and gas leasing with wildlife conservation,” Kolton said. “More protections for the Western Arctic and the Arctic in general need to be made, especially in light of the devastating impacts of climate change to this sensitive, dynamic and unique environment.”

The Western Arctic Reserve is the largest single tract of public land in the country—at 23 million acres it is roughly the size of Indiana. Managed by the BLM for both the protection of high fish and wildlife values and development of oil and gas, the Reserve provides critical habitat for an incredible array of migratory waterfowl that use the four major U.S. flyways to reach all 50 states in addition to many other countries. The Arctic Reserve is also home to spectacular terrestrial and marine mammals, including grizzly and polar bears, caribou, wolves, and wolverine as well as beluga and bowhead whales, walrus and several species of seals. This wildlife, especially the huge caribou herds found in the Arctic Reserve, is a primary source of subsistence for thousands of Alaska Native residents.

Read the National Wildlife Federation’s Western Arctic wildlife fact sheet or learn more at www.nwf.org/Arctic.

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