Today the U.S. Department of the Interior released its Final Record of Decision on the management plan for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). The plan provides balance between expanded energy development and conservation of key areas. National Audubon Society President and CEO David Yarnold issued the following statement:

“By protecting 11 million acres of Arctic wetlands and wildlife nurseries, this decision proves that sound energy policy and conservation can go hand in hand. And not only that, they must,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “We strongly endorse the plan as a victory for birds, wildlife, and America’s future. It says that some places really are too precious to drill, and there’s no better example than the Teshekpuk Lake area, one of the planet's most prolific bird factories.”


Link: the NPR-A Final IAP/EIS Record of Decision.

The NPR-A is the nation’s largest tract of public land at approximately 23 million acres (roughly the size of Indiana) and accounts for a significant portion of the entire North Slope of Alaska. The area holds fertile breeding grounds for birds from all seven continents, including vast numbers of waterfowl and shorebirds. The NPR-A also contains calving areas for two of Alaska’s largest caribou herds and vital habitat for healthy populations of bears, wolves, and wolverines. (Audubon magazine: The Other Arctic.  Audubon Alaska: National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.)

This management plan for the NPR-A calls for leasing and development of the vast majority of the NPR-A’s oil resources (72 percent), specifically allowing for development of pipelines and infrastructure that may be needed to support offshore oil and gas development, while also protecting sensitive areas that Congress itself has directed should have “maximum protection” under the law.

Congress has long recognized the area’s extraordinary ecological resources. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed into law legislation that transferred management of the NPR-A from the U.S. Navy to the Department of the Interior with a unique dual mandate to provide for both future energy production as well as protection of special areas within the NPR-A.

Congress charged the secretary of the interior with managing the NPR-A to provide for “maximum protection” of areas with “significant subsistence, recreational, fish and wildlife, or historical or scenic value” (42 USC § 6504). Congress has directed that the secretary “shall include or provide for such conditions, restrictions, and prohibitions as the secretary deems necessary or appropriate to mitigate reasonably foreseeable and significantly adverse effects on the surface resources” of the NPR-A (42 USC § 6506a).

As recognized in the very first land management plan prepared for the NPRA in 1998, the fundamental purpose “is to determine the appropriate multiple use management” of the area; federal law “encourages oil and gas development in NPR-A while requiring protection of important surface values.”

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