Conservation Plan for the Arctic

January 2015

Exciting news!! President Obama and the Dept. of the Interior announced the new Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which provides management direction for the Refuge for the next 15 years, and for the first time ever, recommends Wilderness designation for the entire Refuge, including the contested 1002 area on the coastal plain, as well as recommending Wild River designation for the Marsh Fork of the Canning, the Kongakut and the Hulahula Rivers! Congress then has to act to officially authorize new Wilderness or Wild River designations—which will not happen with our current Congress—but this action by Arctic Refuge staff, Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewel and Pres. Obama to recommend Wilderness designation means that those areas will have to be managed as Wilderness until a point when Congress does act or a future administration adopts a different approach. Because this recommendation from Obama reverses a White House position made to Congress by Pres. Reagan in 1987 recommending oil drilling in the Refuge, this is a “big deal,” as Alaska Wilderness League Exec. Dir. Cindy Shogan said. “In the history of the Arctic Refuge, this is the closest that we have come to advancing Wilderness for the Coastal Plain.”

Since Pres. Obama and the Dept. of the Interior also announced shortly after this that they will place part of the Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling and are considering additional limits on oil and gas production in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska—further cause for jubilation!—we’re more hopeful than ever that Pres. Obama might act by executive order to designate the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as a Natl. Monument under the Antiquities Act before he leaves office, which would protect it from any future oil development.

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“There’s an indefinable energy here, maybe because it’s so far north, so close to the magnetic pole. You can almost see the curvature of the earth as you look north. You feel that you’re on the top of the world.”

—Carol Kasza