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06/13/2012

Western Arctic Threatened by Oil Drilling

Caribou
Big Oil continues its assault on the Arctic by pushing for increasing oil drilling. This time it's the Western Arctic that's particularly at risk.

Next week, House Republicans are expected to unveil a legislative package that once again calls for drilling everywhere, regardless of the risks and impacts to the climate, and to our nation's wildlands and wildlife. It includes one especially threatening bill – HR 2150 - which undermines a balanced land management approach for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

The land in the National Petroleum Reserve- Alaska is the nation's largest, wildest landscape. This area in the Western Arctic supports the calving grounds of our nation's largest caribou herd, the highest concentration of grizzly bears and wolverines in the Arctic, and critical habitat for millions of shorebirds and waterfowl.

To get a look at some of these remarkable animals, Sierra magazine just put together an amazing Arctic animal slideshow featuring images from photographer Florian Schulz.

Spanning 23.5 million acres across the western North Slope of Alaska, the Reserve is the largest single unit of public land in the nation. The Alaska Native communities that live along the Reserve have maintained a subsistence lifestyle for thousands of years based on the Reserve's living resources. While oil and gas activities have a place in the Reserve, the areas most important to wildlife and subsistence use must be kept off limits to development. Currently, there is no real lasting protection for these unique and special lands and waters, including the Utukok Uplands, which is extremely important for subsistence hunting for Native villages, and Teshepuk Lake, a globally significant area for shorebird populations and key to polar bears.

If House Republicans have their way, the oil industry will exploit this special place in the Arctic and expose its plants and wildlife to numerous hazards.

We must ensure that responsible decisions are made when it comes to development in the Western Arctic. We need balance and to protect these special pieces.

The Western Arctic sustains Native communities and is home to irreplaceable wild places and wildlife, and is already feeling the impact from climate disruption. Given these threats, we must ensure that the most special places for wildlife and wilderness are granted the strongest possible protections.

You can help – take action now to tell President Obama that some places are just too special to drill. He should protect both the Polar Bear Seas and the Western Arctic.

 - Fran Hunt, Director of the Resilient Habitat. Caribou photo by Duane Greuel.

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