Strike Three: Feds reject Alaska governor’s assault on the Arctic Refuge

For the third time five months, federal officials have told Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell that it is illegal to explore for oil on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

USFWS - Alaska

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell just doesn’t want to take “no” for an answer, but he must be getting used to it, because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has once again turned down Parnell’s request to search for oil on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In May, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell became the first to shoot down Parnell’s proposal to begin 3-D seismic testing. In early July, Parnell asked again, and USFWS Regional Director Geoffrey Haskett quickly informed the governor that his plan is not allowed under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Unwilling to accept this decision, Parnell decided to go over Haskett’s head.

Parnell had Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan ask for a reconsideration of Haskett’s decision. That request was also rejected – this time by USFWS Director Dan Ashe -- for the same reason: Oil exploration in the coastal plain of the refuge would be illegal.

The coastal plain is the home of polar bears and other marine mammals, caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, musk oxen, fish and migratory birds. It is a vital resource to Alaska’s Gwich’in people who have for generations relied on the Arctic Refuge to support ancient subsistence and cultural traditions.

The Obama administration recognizes the importance of preserving this incredible public land for future generations of Americans. Americans can be grateful that the Interior Department is sanding firm to protect one of the world’s greatest tracts of public land.

However, threats to develop the Arctic Refuge surface almost yearly in the U.S. Congress, which is why we're working to have the coastal plain of the refuge protected as designated wilderness. You can help the refuge and other great wild areas by asking Congress to take up wilderness bills this year

Map courtesy of PBS. Photo above left: Caribou crossing Accomplishment Creek in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, credit: Wendy Loya