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Alaskans ask for Balanced Plan that Protects Special Places; NPR-A comment period closes

Significant support was shown by Alaskans for a balanced land management approach that protects special areas for wildlife, cultural values, and recreation in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. See what Rep. John Dingell, Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, and the Northern Center say about this prized place!

Alaskans ask for Balanced Plan that Protects Special Places; NPR-A comment period closes

Colville River by Jon Miller

REPRESENTATIVE DINGELL * ALASKA WILDERNESS LEAGUE * INUPIAT COMMUNITY OF THE ARCTIC SLOPE * NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER * SIERRA CLUB

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 15, 2012

Hundreds of Thousands Ask for Protections in National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska while House Republicans Look to Move Drill Everywhere Bills

Washington, DC – Next week, following their Oil Above All strategy,  House Republicans will bring a one-sided “drill everywhere” energy package (HR 4480) to the floor that includes a title which undermines a balanced land management approach for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (Reserve).

Despite politics as usual from House Republican leadership, 63 members of Congress have declared their support for a balanced plan for the Reserve by writing a letter to Department of Interior during the comment period, which ends today, on a new management plan for the Reserve. In the letter, led by Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), members call for support for Alternative B as “the best balance of both future energy production and conservation.” In addition, more than 420,000 Americans and hundreds of organizations, businesses and scientists have written letters and signed petitions to protect special places within the Reserve.

Significant support has also been coming from Alaskans in the final public comments for a balanced land management approach that protects special areas for wildlife, cultural values, and recreation in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. 

Native leaders delivered 27 resolutions, representing 90 villages, to Department of Interior calling for the protection of critical habitat for the Teshekpuk Lake caribou herd and Western Arctic caribou herd. On May 17, 2012, George Edwardson, president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS) tribal council, had the opportunity to hand the resolutions to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and ask for Interior’s support of Alternative B when he was in Washington, DC. Alaska Natives depend upon caribou herds for their subsistence culture and way of life.

At 22 million acres, the Reserve in the Western Arctic is our nation’s largest area of public land, and borders the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas – where the Obama administration has been approving Shell’s permits to drill this summer, despite the fact that there is no viable plan to clean up an oil spill in Arctic conditions. The Reserve includes ponds, wetlands, lakes, mountains and rivers and provides a habitat for some of America’s most iconic species – polar and brown bears, walrus, beluga whales, caribou, wolves, wolverines and millions of migratory birds. Even though there is a place for oil and gas leasing in the Reserve, special areas should be protected for future generations.

Quote from Representative Dingell:

“There is room for balance in the NPRA that includes both production and protection,” said Representative Dingell, also a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. “The areas surrounding Teshekpuk Lake are migratory bird factories that provide valuable habitats for birds that migrate across the world.  Protection of these habitat areas will benefit wildlife, sportsmen, and conservationists around the world and I believe that Secretary Salazar can ensure those benefits while allowing oil and gas development where it makes the most sense.”

Quote from the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope tribal council:

“The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska is home to the Western Arctic and Teshekpuk Lake caribou herds,” said George Edwardson, president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope (ICAS) tribal council. “Our villages depend on the herd for our subsistence lifestyle, which must be protected from oil and gas leasing to ensure our way of life. The administration must take this opportunity to protect special places in the Reserve to protect our heritage, culture and way of life.”

Quotes from the conservation community:

 “Representative Hasting’s bill is unnecessary and is full of rhetoric and empty promises,” said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of Alaska Wilderness League. “The bill will not provide any solutions to American’s pain at the pump and does not provide the balanced solution that we need for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. Instead, we should be focusing on protecting some of the most special places in the Reserve which provide habitat for our most iconic species like polar bears, beluga whales, caribou and more. These are our public lands and waters, and we must protect them for all Americans to enjoy – now and forever.”

“Don’t invade America’s bird nurseries and the wild places in the Arctic. That’s the message from hundreds of thousands of Americans, and it’s one I send wholeheartedly to our leaders today,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “‘Alternative B’ protects the Western Arctic’s most important areas for birds, wildlife, and Alaska Native communities. If you ask me, there is no alternative to that.”

“More than 400,000 people and 63 Members of Congress have made clear that the Interior Department should not miss this chance to protect the most important areas for birds, wildlife, and Alaska Native communities,” said Charles M. Clusen, director of the Alaska project for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We are already pleading with Chairman Hastings not to give away these resources to Big Polluters. The administration ought to be protecting this essential area.”

 “We must protect the internationally important Teshekpuk Lake wetlands for migratory birds and caribou instead of allowing leasing there because oil drilling is a risky activity with spills and industrial activity that harms sensitive wildlife and their habitats,” said Pamela A. Miller, Arctic Program Director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks. “The Reserve has other special areas such as the upper Colville River and Utukok Uplands that support caribou, bear, wolf, wolverine, and coastal estuaries like Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay where rich marine life thrives.  We need to ensure that the remarkable special areas are protected for future Alaskans and all Americans in a balanced plan.”

"While oil and gas have a place in the Reserve, we must also recognize that this area supports the calving grounds of our nation's largest caribou herd, the highest concentration of grizzly bears and wolverines in the Arctic, and millions of birds," said Dan Ritzman, Sierra Club Alaska Program Director. "What we need is a balanced approach and permanent protections for the special places of America's Arctic." 

Contacts:

Gwen Dobbs, Alaska Wilderness League, gwen@alaskawild.org, 202-329-9295

Beth Peluso, Audubon Alaska, bpeluso@audubon.org, 907-276-7034

Suzanne Struglinski, Natural Resources Defense Council, sstruglinski@nrdc.org, 202-289-2387

Pamela A. Miller, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Pam@northern.org, 907-441-2407

Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, virginia.cramer@sierraclub.org, 804-225-9113 x 102

 

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