Magnificent Seven: Teshekpuk Lake

caribou along Teshekpuk Lake
Teshekpuk Lake in the Western Arctic Reserve is home to 45,000 caribou and numerous different birds. It is constantly under threat from oil and gas development.

The Western Arctic Reserve's Teshekpuk Lake is an vital ecosystem that supports many species and Alaska native communities, which rely on the wildland for survival. While Teshekpuk Lake is valued for its natural landscape, it also is valued as a site for potential oil and gas development. This vulnerable place is under threat of development and has been for decades.

At Wilderness, we're working to help federal agencies keep it off limits to oil and gas development, which would destroy its natural beauty and ecosystem.

About Teshekpuk Lake

Teshekpuk Lake is a wildlife-rich habitat in the Western Arctic Reserve, also known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). The lake, home to 45,000 caribou and numerous types of birds, is part of the broader Arctic landscape that The Wilderness Society works to protect.

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Alaska and the Arctic

Teshekpuk Lake is an important ecosystem for many wildlife species, which rely on the landscape for mating grounds and habitat. This lake is critical to Alaska native communities, whose survival and way-of-life are tied to the landscape and its wildlife.

Teshekpuk Lake is critical to Alaska native communities, whose survival and way-of-life are tied to the landscape and its wildlife.

The reserve, originally suspected of holding substantial petroleum assets, was established in 1923 as an energy reserve for the U.S. Navy. It was later transferred to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 1976. This transfer allowed for the Secretary of the Interior to determine whether and/or where to lease lands in the Reserve for oil and gas while also requiring “maximum protection” of areas that have critical subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife, historical or scenic value.

Since then, the BLM has established four Special Areas in the Western Arctic Reserve based on these values, including the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area.

View National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska in a larger map

Threats to Teshekpuk Lake

With a name like the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, oil and gas development is always front and center in the debate over the protection of this northern Alaska area. The issue came to a head in 2006 when the BLM made the decision to open virtually the entire area to oil and gas leasing. While 87 percent had always been open to leasing, now much more — including Teshekpuk Lake and its surrounding habitat — is threatened with destruction by oil and gas development.

The Wilderness Society, other conservation groups, Alaska native communities, sportsmen’s groups and many scientists vehemently opposed the plan. Even federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency were skeptical of the value of destroying vital habitat and wilderness for oil and gas. The concern of breaking up habitat for caribou, geese and other species was at the forefront because Teshekpuk Lake and the surrounding area offer unrivaled ecological value.

In September 2006, Teshekpuk Lake won a much-needed reprieve from oil and gas development. The United States District Court of Alaska issued a decision that postponed planned lease sale of nearly a half a million acres in the Teshekpuk Lake area.

Protecting Teshekpuk Lake

At Wilderness, we are working to make sure that oil and gas development does not occur in and around Teshekpuk Lake. In fact, a new BLM draft plan stands the chance of greatly increasing protections around Teshekpuk Lake. We want to ensure this unrivaled place, which is vital to breeding caribou and molting geese, is protected for future generations.

Teshekpuk Lake has too much value to too many people and species to be handed over for energy development.

You can help

You can help ensure that Teshekpuk Lake and the Magnificent Seven wildlands remain part of our natural heritage. Help save this iconic American landscape by making a donation today.