What we hope will be gained by Sec. Jewell's visit to Alaska's threatened lands

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

flickr, nonorganical

This Labor Day weekend, Secretary Sally Jewell is heading to Alaska for her first visit there as Secretary of the Interior.

In Alaska, Jewell will visit with Native leaders, conservation groups. She'll take trips to several of Alaska’s wild and threatened places. This includes an overnight camping trip in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area we're fighting to protect.

Slideshow: See the wild landscapes and animals Jewell can expect to experience in Alaska

 

On Jewell's Itinerary:

 

 

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a place threatened by road construction - Jewell’s first stop is Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Alaska's Alaska Peninsula. Izembek is threatened by a proposed road that would cut through the very heart of the refuge. Izembek is home to bears, caribou, and most of the world's population of goose-like  birds called Pacific black Brant.

 

If a road were built through this federally protected wilderness, it would be the first time that lands in the center of the ecological heart of a wilderness area were de-designated and turned into a road. This sets a dangerous precedent for all wilderness throughout the United States. Learn more about the threat to Izembek.

Even though the US Fish and Wildlife Service has repeatedly decided against putting a road through the lagoons, wetlands, and uplands of the Izembek Refuge, some members of Congress continue to push for the road. We are urging the Department of the Interior  to  defend the decision to protect the refuge.  

 

Urge Secretary Jewell to protect Izembek National Wildlife Refuge from road construction. 

National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, an area we recently won protections for  - The Secretary’s next stop will be the National Petroleum Reserve, also known as the Western Arctic Reserve.

The Western Arctic Reserve is a place with globally significant ecological values where there is a good balance beteween energy exploration and land protection. Last February, just before Secretary Jewell took office, the Department of rhe Interior finalized a plan that protects more than 11 million acres of prime wildlife and bird habitat in the reserve, while keeping more than 70 percent of the recoverable oil in the region available to oil companies. This common-sense model of conservation and balance is one that should replicated in other states.

 

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a land threatened by oil and gas development -  Jewell’s final stop in Alaska is in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – a place that oil developers have been fighting to gain access to for decades. The landscapes that Jewell will see there, however, are simply too wild to drill. The refuge was named one of 12 places that are most threatened by oil and gas development in our recent Too Wild to Drill Report

The most recent threat – on top of three bills in Congress to open the refuge to drilling – is a scheme by the Alaska state government to pay for seismic testing and exploratory drilling to find oil deposits in the refuge's sensitive coastal plain, a key calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd. This type of testing is incredibly disruptive, especially to the wildlife in the area.

Secretary Jewell has already strongly supported the Obama administration’s position not to allow drilling in the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge. 

Hopefully, after her visit there, she will recognize the refuge’s status as the crown jewel of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and continue fending off attempts to despoil this amazing landscape with drill rigs and pipelines.

 

Learn more about the threat to the Arctic Refuge

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