Alaska’s Public Lands Under Threat

Arctic Tern.

This month, the administration is rushing  to open up more of Alaska’s public lands to development before the end of the year. 

Tongass National Forest

Last month, the US Forest Service released the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on the proposed exemption of the Tongass National Forest from the federal Roadless Rule, which would allow road-building and clearcutting on over half of the nearly 17-million acre forest. The Tongass is part of the largest remaining temperate rainforest on Earth and hosts exceptional birds, some of which rely on its old-growth woods. If you haven't already, you can send public comments opposing this plan until December 17. Meanwhile, legislation to make the Roadless Rule permanent and continue to protect areas like the Tongass has been introduced in both chambers of Congress. Audubon advocates keeping the current Roadless Rule protections on the Tongass intact.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The administration will soon start the process for oil companies to drill on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by issuing what is known as a “call for nominations”. This move comes as the Interior Department finalizes a deeply flawed environmental analysis, blatantly ignoring scientific review and flouting legal requirements in its rushed process to open one of the nation’s most delicate landscapes to oil drilling. Development would create a spider web of drilling rigs, oil pipelines, and roads—permanently altering this wild landscape for millions of birds, resident polar bears, and hundreds of thousands of caribou. An opportunity to submit public comment will be available once the call for nominations is issued.

National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A)

In the coming weeks, the Bureau of Land Management may be releasing the DEIS for the proposed revisions to the NPR-A land management plan. The revisions would open up even more acres in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area to allow for more leasing. The globally Important Bird Area provides vital habitat for tens of thousands of molting geese and about half a million nesting shorebirds, along with tens of thousands of caribou. The vast majority of our nation’s largest public land is already available for drilling and BLM already plans to hold an oil and gas lease sale for 3.98 million total acres in December. Meanwhile, the region is experiencing dramatic climate change, which is causing coastal erosion and vegetation change. More resources and planning are needed to combat the effects of climate change, not more oil drilling.