Why the Western Arctic Reserve

Bird flying in Western Arctic
Flickr: Western Arctic National Parkland
The Western Arctic Reserve contains some of the world’s best and most sensitive wildlife and bird habitat – including the famous Teshekpuk Lake.

The oil industry is interested in drilling here, yet much of the 22 million-acre reserve contains habitat too sensitive for any type of industrial development.

This habitat is vital to:

  • Millions of migratory birds
  • Thousands of caribou
  • Polar bears, musk oxen and wolves

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Saving the Western Arctic Reserve

The Wilderness Society and its local conservation partners are working to keep oil drilling rigs out of the most sensitive areas of the Western Arctic Reserve, also known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. 

We're doing this by:

  • Working with the Department of the Interior to develop land management plans that protect fragile areas that wildlife depend upon.
  • Doing scientific research that helps identify areas — such as Teshekpuk Lake — to keep off limits to drilling.

Here's what's at stake: 

  • Millions of migratory birds from every continent on Earth hatch and raise their young in the reserve.
  • Caribou and other species rely heavily on special areas of the reserve for calving, feeding and escaping summer’s insect swarms.
  • Local communities whose way of life is deeply tied to hunting and fishing. 

This work is important because the oil industry has broken many promises about safety in drilling operations on Alaska’s North Slope. Drilling for oil is a dirty, dangerous business and it must be done right to protect sensitive habitat. 

Helpful Links

  • Bureau of Land Management, National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska:


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