The Western Arctic needs you

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Last month the Bureau of Land Management proposed a revised management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, or the Western Arctic. The agency’s draft environmental impact statement for the plan offers four alternatives — one that would keep the existing plan in place and three that would revise the plan to open additional, currently protected areas to oil and gas extraction.

Teshekpuk Lake teems with birds in the spring and summer, included brant. Photo by Tim Bowman, FWS.

What we need is a plan that protects wildlife, fish, and important areas in the Reserve—not a plan that would wipe those protections off the table.

The current 2013 plan for the region protects areas like Teshekpuk Lake because of their importance to wildlife and for traditional cultural uses. The designation of these Special Areas recognizes that people, animals and plants depend on interconnected natural systems, not fragmented migratory routes and disrupted watersheds.

Indeed, the facts show that the Western Arctic already suffers significant health and climate impacts that will only get worse with more fossil fuel industrialization.

BLM’s rush to open these areas to oil and gas goes against its obligation to provide maximum protections for key areas. BLM should protect these places, not open them up to further exploitation.

Here’s what you can do

You can make a difference now by speaking up at December and January public hearings, or by taking action in writing by January 21, 2020.

When speaking up, note the impacts of more drilling on people, animals, water, air, and climate, and ask for more protections and alternatives that really address your concerns.  

Let BLM know that the number of Arctic project proposals happening right now is a bombardment and that Alaskans and particularly frontline communities need more time to look at and understand the cumulative impacts of the various projects.

The “drill at all costs” agenda

This administration’s extraction agenda is focused on opening Arctic areas to fossil fuel extraction at breakneck speed, despite the climate impacts and other serious harms likely to occur.

The false choices dictated by BLM all point toward opening the Reserve to more oil and gas. Not one of the action alternatives BLM is considering adequately addresses the impact of current or future oil activities on climate, animals, water, land and people.

The Reserve is an important area for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd. BLM photo by Bob Wick.

Loosening protections to the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area to allow leasing could devastate one of the most productive bird nesting and breeding wetland complexes in the Arctic and an important calving ground for the Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd, an important food source for people in the area.

BLM is also proposing to completely eliminate the Colville River Special Area, an important hunting and fishing area for the community of Nuiqsut that also provides nesting habitat for numerous raptors, including peregrine falcons, rough-legged hawks, and gyrfalcons.

This agency process and the so-called “choices” it gives the public do not line up with science or the facts—it only lines up with an agenda that puts industry profits before protecting the public interest.

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