The Western Arctic Reserve, also known as the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, is the largest tract of unprotected, relatively pristine public land in the United States. But Big Oil has the reserve in its sights and will not hesitate to turn this vast wilderness into a sprawling industrial complex to drum up massive profits.
The 23.5 million-acre reserve is home to imperiled polar bears, seabirds and one of the densest populations of nesting raptors in the world. Its shores and lagoons harbor beluga whales, seals, walruses and other marine mammals.
In the rapidly warming Arctic, short-sighted oil and gas development will further stress the remarkable wildlife that lives and breeds there. The BLM is accepting comments on a planning document that sets the stage for oil and gas leasing in the western Arctic for decades to come.
Help save this national treasure by telling the BLM to protect the Western Arctic Reserve from dirty fossil fuel development.
Subject: Comments Regarding the BLM's National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Integrated Activity, DEIS
Dear [Decision Maker],
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, or Western Arctic Reserve, comprises the largest unprotected tract of public land in the United States. It provides habitat for a wide variety of Arctic species, and its wilderness values are second to none. While the most environmentally protective alternative analyzed by the Bureau of Land Management (Alternative B) is an improvement over previous plans, it still allows over 11 million acres of ecologically intact wilderness-quality lands to be leased for oil development. As the BLM develops the "integrated activity plan" and "final environmental impact statement" for the reserve, I urge you to provide maximum protection for areas with high-value habitats by designating all of the Special Area contained in Alternative B, and to create additional protections for all other areas in the reserve that contain ecologically intact and/or wilderness-quality lands.
The BLM must also consider the long-term impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas development, and any future impacts of climate change on the low-lying western Arctic. Arctic animals are already stressed by a melting and warming Arctic, and none of the alternatives considered go far enough to protect these species from the wide array of impacts from oil and gas development.
Among other things, the BLM must account for sea-level rise due to ice melt, permafrost collapse, coastal erosion and increased high-energy storm events that will degrade, or wipe out, critical coastal habitat, including the Teshekpuk Lake area. The BLM must also consider the impacts of ocean acidification, changes in circulation, increased freshening due to sea ice melt, and shifts in productivity to the marine environment and to marine species, including polar bears, ice seals, walruses, bowhead whales and beluga whales.
Congress has required that "maximum protection" be given to Special Areas in the reserve. I encourage the BLM to adopt an alternative that provides protections for these areas, which include Teshekpuk Lake, the Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and the Utukok River Uplands. The BLM must also protect the Dease Inlet-Meade River area, Peard Bay and adjacent wetlands, and the Ikpikpuk River and adjacent wetlands.
I implore the BLM to adopt a management alternative that includes the strongest possible protections for the Western Arctic Reserve. This means designating Alternative B as the preferred alternative, and adding additional protective measures for important wildlife habitat and wilderness areas so they are not destroyed by ecologically devastating oil and gas development, or from the long-term impacts of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
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