National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska:
America’s Unknown Treasure

Muskoxen. Credit: Dave Shreffler
Muskoxen. Credit: Dave Shreffler
The lands and waters of the unfortunately named National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska are not a playground for Big Oil. In fact, the area includes some of our nation’s most vital natural resources – millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands with critical habitat for millions of migratory birds, as well as grizzly bears, caribou, threatened polar bears, walrus, endangered beluga whales and more.

A flash rain shower in the Reserve. Credit: Dave Shreffler
A flash rain shower in the Reserve. Credit: Dave Shreffler
Teshekpuk Lake, situated in the northern section of the Reserve, is the most significant goose molting area in the Arctic and is home to the 45,000-animal Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd. The Colville River, Utukok River Uplands, and Kasegaluk Lagoon areas are important habitats for the highest density of nesting birds of prey in the world, the nation’s largest caribou herd (the Western Arctic caribou herd has more than 400,000 animals), and beluga whales.

Spanning nearly 22 million acres across the western North Slope of Alaska, the Reserve is the largest single unit of public lands in the nation. The Alaska Native communities that live along the Reserve have maintained a subsistence lifestyle for thousands of years based on Reserve’s living resources. While oil and gas activities have a place in the Reserve, the areas of highest conservation value must be kept off limits to development.