Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Monday a new strategic plan to manage the 22.8-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). Known as Alternative B-2, the new guidelines protect 11.8 million acres—roughly half of the reserve—as critical habitat area, while allowing oil and gas development on the remaining half. Mr. Salazar made the announcement Monday morning in Anchorage, Ala., hailing the plan as the most responsible and equitable approach to managing the reserve.
The NPR-A is one of the Arctic's greatest migratory bird nesting and molting areas and is the summer home to hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds. It provides critical molting areas for up to 30 percent of the entire population of Pacific Flyway brant, 25 percent of the midcontinent population of greater white-fronted geese and a growing number of lesser snow and Canada geese.
"This proposal would allow us to continue to expand our leasing in the NPR-A, as we have done over the last three years as part of the Obama administration's focus on expanding safe and responsible oil and gas development, and builds on our efforts to help companies develop the infrastructure that's needed to bring supplies online," Mr. Salazar said. "This plan also strikes an important balance by recognizing the need to protect America's treasures in the Arctic, from the raptors of the Colville River and the polar bears of the Beaufort Sea coast, to Teshekpuk Lake, Peard Bay and some of the largest caribou herds on Earth."
The Teshekpuk Lake Special Area (TSLA) was the foremost area of concern for DU when considering the strategic plan; it's the center of the world's largest Arctic wetland and the heart of an international waterfowl migration.
"The importance of the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, and the peninsula and lakes just above it, cannot be overstated," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "It contains an irreplaceable array of large basin habitats that meet the special needs of breeding waterfowl and molting geese. While DU's focus is wetlands and waterfowl, this habitat is also critically important for caribou, grizzlies, other wildlife species and public uses, including hunting and other outdoor recreation."
DU has long played a role in the planning process for today's announcement. In the mid 1990s, DU worked in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and the North Slope Borough to map the NPR-A using satellite technology. In more recent years, DU consistently provided the Department of Interior with scientific support documenting waterfowl habitats and contributed management recommendation plans to ensure protection of unique and valuable habitat.
"We applaud the DOI for considering the needs of waterfowl throughout the development of this plan, and we appreciate their efforts to work with us in ensuring that key waterfowl habitats would be protected," Mr. Hall said. "I'm very pleased we were able to play a significant role in crafting this policy and we will continue to weigh in as the secretary moves toward a final decision."
Once a final Integrated Activity Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (IAP/EIS) is released, Secretary Salazar has 30 days to review it before making his decision on the NPR-A plan.