Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced the Department of Interior's "preferred alternative" for management of the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska as part of a first-ever comprehensive management plan. The plan will safeguard some of the most important and sensitive lands in Alaska's Western Arctic, areas that Audubon has been working to protect since the late 1990's.
By terms of the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (NPRPA) of 1976, the Department of the Interior has a mandate to balance future energy development with protection of the Reserve's special ecological, recreational and subsistence values. The proposed plan reflects a reasoned balance that safeguards for critical habitats for migratory birds and other wildlife while still allowing for future energy development. Under the plan, about half the Reserve would be off-limits for oil and gas leasing. That's about 11 million acres, an area roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Lands surrounding Teshekpuk Lake, a globally significant IBA, would be off-limits to oil leasing, drilling, and industry infrastructure development.
Audubon staff and members were instrumental in helping to guide the Department to this preferred alternative. Audubon president David Yarnold has released a statement praising the plan. A final decision on the plan will be made by the end of the year.