BLM balances energy and conservation in western Arctic

Dec 19, 2012

With the release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, the federal Bureau of Land Management today set a balanced course for the future of the western Arctic, allowing oil and gas exploration while protecting special areas within the NPR-A. The vast majority of the projected oil reserves will be available for oil and gas leasing.

“This is a fair decision that serves the nation well,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. “The oil industry will have access to 72 percent of the economically recoverable oil in the reserve, but special areas such as Teshekpuk Lake will have well-deserved protections from development, as Congress intended.”

The Wilderness Society has been a leader for years among conservation groups working to protect special areas in the NPR-A, also known as the Western Arctic Reserve, and helped elevate the voices of Alaska Natives seeking to protect habitat on which they depend for subsistence resources such as caribou, and the cultural survival of Native communities.

The Wilderness Society also provided technical expertise to land managers and the Obama administration to help shape plans for future management of the reserve.

“The BLM’s decision is based on sound science,” Williams said. “That led to a management strategy that balances the nation’s demand for energy with the need to protect America’s public lands.”

The Wilderness Society’s scientific staff, in cooperation with BLM, ConocoPhillips, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the North Slope Borough and Audubon Alaska, built a solid base of information that allowed us to develop models identifying important caribou habitat  around Teshekpuk Lake, and impacts from development to that habitat.  As a result, BLM managers were better able to understand the potential impacts of their decisions to vital wildlife habitat.