Peril in the Western Arctic

The Trump administration is giving away Alaska’s public lands to corporate interests

Sep 14, 2018
Western Arctic map

Courtesy Audubon Alaska

Industry spin causes peril in the Arctic

The story of “Alaska” holds a lot of power over people. It conjures up images of harsh weather and environments—of people doing tough things and getting tougher doing them.

Extraction industries have coopted these stories by pushing a narrative of Alaska as a “resource extraction state,” as if marketing jargon can erase and ignore the sustainable economies that have allowed Alaskans to thrive for thousands of years.

Even the Western Arctic’s “legal” name—the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska—makes it sound as if exploitation is its inherent purpose.

The Western Arctic or NPRA provides habitat for migratory birds.

The 22.8 million acre Western Arctic, includes important nesting habitat for migratory birds. BLM photo by Bob Wick.

These false narratives serve Outsiders and profit interests, not the long-term health of Alaska and our future.

Trump’s Alaska giveaway

The Trump administration wants to sell off Alaska’s Arctic to private industry to prop up its “energy dominance” propaganda.  Thankfully, there are laws to protect public lands, not enable the hasty lining of pockets—and that’s why we took the Trump administration to court earlier this year.

Yet, this administration is rushing to hand over public lands in the Western Arctic to foreign-owned oil and gas companies as fast as it can, without regard to the law or the public.

Caribou in the Western Arctic. Photo by Patrick-Endres.

It rushed through the environmental review process for the Greater Mooses Tooth-2 oil project, despite the enormous impact on Alaskans who live nearby and depend on that area for their way of life.

It is rushing through the environmental review process for the Willow project, despite the project’s scope and size. Learn how this project poses massive risks to birds and wildlife and how you can speak out about your concerns.

It is pushing to modify the Integrated Activity Plan for the Western Arctic with the expressed goal of promoting oil and gas development in areas currently protected because of their critical importance to wildlife and people.

Caribou by water in the Western Arctic.

Multiple caribou herds rely on the Western Arctic, and Alaska Native people, in turn, rely on caribou herds for subsistence food. Photo by Bob Childers.

And, it intends to continue a leasing process that gives away public lands without adequately looking at the environmental impacts.

BLM broke the law

This administration broke the law during the 2017 lease sale in the Western Arctic. We will present oral argument in court on Friday, September 21, 2018, to explain how the Bureau of Land Management failed to protect our public lands.

BLM did not look closely at the impacts to wildlife, recreation, or subsistence use of the specific lands it decided to lease. It did not consider the overwhelming volume of proposed developments in the Western Arctic and look at the cumulative effect of these activities on wildlife, habitat, and people.

Shorebirds rely on the Western Arctic to nest and molt.

Long-tail duck in the Western Arctic. Photo by Bob Wick.

Our lawsuit, filed on behalf of five client groups, aims to hold agencies accountable for failing to take steps to protect fish, wildlife, habitat, and multiple human activities in the Western Arctic.

BLM knew that oil and gas developments were already causing serious impacts before the 2017 lease sale, yet it went ahead and gave away more of our public lands anyway.

That’s not oversight, it’s a free-for-all.

Take action now

The Bureau of Land Management is currently accepting public comments on the Willow project. It extended the deadline to September 20th. You can submit comments by email BLM_AK_Willow_Comments@blm.gov or mail, Attn: Willow MDP/EIS; 222 W. Seventh Ave., Stop #13; Anchorage, AK 99513-7504.

Trustees and other groups will keep you informed of other public comment periods in the weeks and months to come.

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