Press Room

President Obama Protects Vital Marine Environments in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans

Decision will minimize the chances of oil spill occurring in important wildlife habitats.

NEW YORK—Today, President Obama announced permanent withdrawals of oil leasing in the Atlantic, as well as regions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic Ocean.

Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act allows presidents to “withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer Continental Shelf.” President Eisenhower placed areas of Florida’s outer continental shelf out of reach of oil and gas leasing in 1960. President Nixon used this power to apply protection to areas in the Santa Barbara channel following the devastating 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also used authority under Section 12(a) to protect areas of the outer continental shelf. President Obama has previously used 12(a) authority to permanently withdraw areas of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait. 

“With no capacity to effectively respond to an oil spill of even moderate size in the Arctic Ocean, this is a welcome and prudent step in protecting some of the most important and sensitive areas in the world for fish and wildlife,” said Sarah Greenberger, Audubon’s vice president for conservation.

“It is too often with hindsight that the devastating impact to birds and vibrant coastal economies from offshore oil development becomes tragically clear. Today the President has acted with great foresight, minimizing the chance of an oil spill occurring in such important areas as the busy beaches and critical fishing grounds off the Atlantic coast.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently issued a new Outer Continental Shelf Five Year Program that is slated to operate for the next five years, through 2022. The new Program does not schedule any oil and gas lease sales in the Atlantic or Arctic Ocean.


The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at and @audubonsociety.

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