Mitigation strategy is key to protecting the western Arctic

Nearly half of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is off-limits to development to protect its important wildlife habitat and subsistence values in designated Special Areas that have been identified by the federal Bureau of Land Management, as directed by Congress in 1976.

Bob Wick, BLM

Since the federal Bureau of Land Management finalized the Integrated Activity Plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska nearly three years ago, The Wilderness Society has continued to work on protecting high-value habitat in the western Arctic.

Today, that work is focused on developing a Regional Mitigation Strategy that will help offset the negative environmental impacts of future oil and gas development in the reserve under the IAP, which allows industry access to 72 percent of the reserve’s economically recoverable oil.

Nearly half of the reserve is off-limits to development to protect its important wildlife habitat and subsistence values in designated Special Areas that have been identified by the BLM, as directed by Congress in 1976.

We are working with federal land managers, oil industry representatives and our partners in the conservation community to shape a mitigation strategy that will ensure greater certainty to industry, subsistence and conservation interests as development moves forward. Our goals for the RMS are:

  • To strengthen protections for Special Areas to fulfill the commitment and conservation vision of the Integrated Activity Plan.
  • To ensure balanced management of key connectivity corridors that will allow species such as caribou and fish to migrate between Special Areas. This is vital to protect subsistence resources for communities in the western Arctic.
  • To establish a gain—or ensure there is no loss—of important, scarce or sensitive natural resources as identified in a new manual from the Department of the Interior on mitigation measures.
  • To constructively work with BLM and all stakeholders so that development proceeds in the right place and in the right way to protect conservation values.

The Integrated Activity Plan strikes a balance between conservation and the demands for domestic energy production. By making sure future projects adhere to the plan, and working with BLM to develop a Regional Mitigation Strategy, we can ensure that high-value wildlands and subsistence resources are protected, all stakeholders have greater certainty and that the western Arctic remains a model for management of federal lands.

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