On Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) opened a 45-day scoping period to guide the process of drafting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Analysis (SEIS) for the proposed Ambler Road. BLM’s stated intent is to identify issues with its previous analysis of impacts to subsistence, and to conduct consultation with Tribes before initiating a secondary review. They are seeking public input on the scope of the analysis and what should be considered during this process. The following are factors that could be included in their review: all potential alternatives to the proposed road development, additional assessments of resource impacts, including ecological, cultural, historical, and subsistence resources, as well as mitigation and protection measures for those resources. It is essential that this SEIS be as thorough and robust as possible, and to achieve this, Alaskans need to speak loudly and clearly.

It is due in large part to Alaskans raising their voices and sharing concerns with the initial EIS that we have the opportunity to further guide BLM’s analysis before more decisions are made about the future of the road. In August, Clean Water and Mining program coordinator, Katie McClellan, traveled to Kotzebue and the Upper Kobuk villages of Ambler, Shungnak, and Kobuk with local community members and coalition partners to show the film Paving Tundra and facilitate community discussions about the proposed Ambler Industrial Access Road. Participating conservation organizations attended in order to provide information and listen to community members’ opinions. By and large, the feedback received from community members highlighted concerns regarding the impacts the road’s development would have on their communities, culture, and traditional ways of life. 

We invite you to weigh in on the proposed Ambler Road by submitting your comments to BLM by November 4th. The Northern Center will be engaging in this process by sharing the following concerns. We encourage you to consider these points in your personal comments:

  • The Ambler Industrial Access Road would cross 11 major rivers, nearly 3,000 streams, and fill in thousands of acres of wetlands, creating significant and irreversible impacts to fish passage and healthy aquatic habitat used by culturally and ecologically important species such as sheefish and salmon. 
  • Construction and use of the road would create significant air, water, and land pollution via dust, runoff, and exposure of naturally occurring asbestos, affecting the quality of local waterways and the surrounding lands. BLM needs to thoroughly analyze the impacts that development would have on the habitat surrounding the roadway, particularly on waterways and lands that are crucial for subsistence.
  • The proposed roadway would cut through the heart of the Western Arctic Caribou herd’s migration path. The herd’s population is currently at its lowest point in the last decade and is considered as being in “preservative decline” by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Development would disrupt the herd’s migration, place further stress on the caribou, potentially contributing to further population loss, and would affect the ability of local communities to subsistence hunt.
  • In its previous Environmental Impact Study, BLM did not adequately assess cultural and tribal resources, including historic and sacred areas, traditional hunting grounds, and subsistence resources of critical importance to the physical and cultural health of local tribes. BLM must provide meaningful consultation with Tribes including meeting with all Tribal councils and villages. As most rural communities have limited access to broadband, it is imperative that BLM offer multiple methods of online and offline engagement, creating adequate opportunities for communities to submit comments in-person, over the phone, online, and in written form. BLM must also offer longer comment periods to ensure that communities have adequate opportunity to submit comments without sacrificing valuable hunting and harvesting time.

To be considered, all comments must be received prior to Nov. 4, 2022. Comments must be submitted through either email to BLM_AK_AKSO_ AmblerRoad_Comments@blm.gov; the BLM ePlanning website linked here; via fax by dialing (907) 271-5479; or mailed to BLM Alaska State Office, ATTN: Ambler Road Scoping Comments, 222 W. 7th Ave. Stop #13, Anchorage, AK 99513. For more information on this project, please contact BLM Project Manager Wendy Huber at (907) 271-3137 or whuber@blm.gov