More than 410,000 Americans expressed support for permanent protection of critical wildlife areas within the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska during a public comment period that closes today. The National Audubon Society and thousands of its supporters asked the Obama administration to adopt the so-called Alternative B management plan to protect key habitat on Alaska’s North Slope in comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). See Audubon’s full comments.
“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.”
BLM is undertaking its first-ever comprehensive plan for the Reserve. The final version of the plan will determine how and where oil and gas leasing is permitted in the Reserve, which is the nation’s largest public lands unit at 22.5 million acres, or roughly the size of Indiana. Congress has long recognized the value to wildlife of these lands and enacted legislation specifically calling for “maximum protection” of key areas such as Teshekpuk Lake and the Utukok Uplands in the Reserve.
Alternative B would protect several ecologically important areas with exceptional wildlife: Teshekpuk Lake/Dease Inlet, Peard Bay, Utukok River Uplands/DeLong Mountains, Colville River and Kasegaluk Lagoon. This alternative provides a practical balance between development and protecting key wildlife habitat.
“Millions of birds that migrate all over the U.S. and to other continents nest in the Reserve,” said Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska. “From Tundra Swans that winter on the East Coast to Bar-tailed Godwits that fly nonstop all the way to New Zealand, the Reserve is an incredibly valuable place for birds.”
Teshekpuk Lake is recognized as a globally significant Important Bird Area, noted especially for large concentrations of geese that gather in the area. Up to 30 percent of Pacific Brant use the Teshekpuk Lake area to breed, molt (shed and replace their feathers) and fatten for migration. Pacific Brant that congregate at Teshekpuk Lake area arrive from other areas of the North Slope, Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Canada and Siberia.
The Pacific Brant, Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose and Canada Goose populations at Teshekpuk Lake are valued by subsistence hunters in northern and western Alaska as well as sport hunters across the nation from coast to coast. More than forty Alaska Native communities in northern and western Alaska depend upon the Reserve for irreplaceable opportunities to harvest subsistence resources.
The Reserve also provides the calving grounds for two of Alaska’s largest caribou herds; supports a great diversity of predators including grizzly bears, wolves, arctic fox and wolverine; is relied upon by millions of migratory shorebirds; hosts internationally recognized densities of nesting raptors; and sustains various marine mammals including polar bear, beluga whale, walrus and spotted seal.
Audubon science and public policy experts are available to discuss protection of America’s Arctic. Please contact David J. Ringer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-979-3062 or Beth Peluso, email@example.com, 907-276-7034 to schedule interviews.