President Obama gave Bristol Bay and the Southeast Bering Sea permanent protection from offshore oil and gas activities in a Presidential Memorandum issued on December 16, 2014.
Bristol Bay is our nation’s “fish basket” with over 450 species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, including iconic species like salmon, halibut, and king crab. Its bounty supports fishing families and business across Alaska and the Pacific Northwest as well as Alaska Native subsistence and cultures across southwest Alaska. It provides exceptional bird and wildlife habitat for many animals, including walrus and the world’s most endangered whale, the North Pacific right whale.
Despite broad opposition, oil and gas leasing was first allowed in the mid-1980s. Trustees for Alaska went to court to try to stop the lease sale, along with other conservation groups, tribes and the State of Alaska. Unfortunately, we lost the case and leases were issued. But in 1989, following the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster, Congress issued a moratorium on oil and gas development on nearly all areas across the nation, including Bristol Bay.
From that time until 2003, oil and gas leasing was prohibited by either Congressional moratorium or executive action or both. And in 1995, the Department of the Interior actually bought back the leases it had granted in the mid-1980s. But in 2003, Congress lifted the moratorium on leasing in Bristol Bay. President Bush took action in 2007 to lift the presidential protections and his administration said it would hold lease sales in Bristol Bay. But the leasing never happened.
Soon after taking office, President Obama gave Bristol Bay temporary protection. Then, on December 16, 2014, the President announced that he was permanently protecting Bristol Bay. The President used his authority under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect what he called “one of America’s greatest natural resources.”
Trustees provided legal advice to our partners in their efforts to secure this permanent protection. We celebrate this announcement with everyone who loves Bristol Bay!
Read the Presidential Memorandum. Withdrawal of Certain Areas of the United States Outer Continental Shelf from Leasing Disposition.
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