Caribou cross a river in the Western Arctic's National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
U.S. Representatives Don Young and Doc Hastings have introduced H.R. 1964 in an effort to scrap the Department of the Interior’s recently finalized, comprehensive plan for the western Arctic’s National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the nation’s largest tract of public land. The bill is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow on Capitol Hill.
The 2012 NPR-A plan balances conservation and energy development by giving industry access to a majority of the reserve’s economically recoverable oil, and it allows a pipeline corridor for future offshore development while protecting key wildlife and subsistence areas. The Wilderness Society supported the development of this strategy by working with Alaska Native communities and other conservation groups, and by providing scientific research that helped federal officials analyze wildlife distribution and uses of the important habitat within the reserve, particularly caribou in the Teshekpuk Lake area.
“This is a balanced, scientifically-defensible plan which has broad support,” said Nicole Whittington-Evans, Alaska Regional Director for The Wilderness Society. “In an exemplary manner, the plan meets the 1976 mandate from Congress to identify and protect special habitat in the reserve. The Hastings-Young bill is another extremist, drill-it-all measure.”
The NPR-A plan responded to more than 400,000 public comments urging the Interior Department to provide stronger protections for the wildlife and special places in the Western Arctic. In particular, it addresses the needs of dozens of Alaska Native communities that rely on the reserve’s wealth of caribou, waterfowl, fish and marine mammals. At the same time, the plan makes approximately half of the reserve available for oil and gas leasing (11.8 million acres containing 72 percent of the reserve’s economically recoverable oil), while leaving 11 million acres off-limits to new oil and gas development.