Thank you for your interest in learning more about our public wild lands in Alaska. Stop by often to find the latest updates and information on all of the special places we work to protect outlined here. You can also find more information about the Places We Protect here.
ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Center for America Progress has released an in-depth analysis that finds the Trump administration's attacks on the Arctic Refuge and Tongass National Forest could release almost 5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide — nearly as much pollution as all the world's cars emit in one year. These attacks on protected areas by the Trump administration will exacerbate the climate crisis and should not move forward.
The Arctic Refuge Lease Sale timing remains up in the air. The new year brings continued efforts by the Trump administration to get an oil and gas lease sale on the books for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge prior to the 2020 election. Initially, Interior Department officials had promised to complete an initial sale by the end of 2019, however, a recklessly rushed process that has seen the administration repeatedly sideline and silence its own scientists, refuse to conduct recommended new studies and dismiss expert concerns about impacts to wildlife appears to be catching up with them. Still, the pressure to get something done before a potential political shift remains strong and something Secretary Bernhardt remains intent on doing. A final Record of Decision (ROD) on the leasing plan could come within weeks with an actual lease sale following. Of course, the release of the ROD is also an opportunity for us to challenge the inadequacy of the environmental review, which we and our partners fully expect to do.
Alaska Wilderness League worked with Cook Inletkeeper on a letter from more than 550 Alaskans from 68 communities thanking investment bank Goldman Sachs for its decision not to fund oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The letter recognizes that leadership and counters a efforts by Alaska’s Governor to pressure Goldman to change course. You can read the full letter here. Goldman Sachs was the first U.S. bank to join more than a dozen major international banks that have adopted policies against financing projects there. Now amazingly since December 2019 JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, CitiBank, and Morgan Stanley have also rejected funding Arctic drilling!
We will now keep up the pressure on the ONE remaining: Bank of America.
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST
The Trump administration is seeking to open 9.3 million acres of protected Tongass land to road-building and clear-cut logging.
So much hard work was done over the course of the public comment period on the proposed Alaska specific Roadless Rule exemption draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)—400,000 individual comments were submitted; 13 tribes and city governments in SE Alaska, 254 commercial fisherman in SE Alaska, more than 100 elected officials, nearly 200 businesses in Alaska and the lower-48, and 234 scientists told the U.S. Forest Service that they oppose removing Roadless Rule protections. Altogether 96% of all of the comments received were in support of keeping Roadless Rule protections. A final EIS is expected to be released at the end of June or early July, and until then, we will continue to build support for the Roadless Area Conservation Act in both the House and Senate.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Arctic sea ice coverage was the smallest ever recorded for October 2019 at 32.2 percent below the 1981–2010 average. As our climate warms and with the Arctic warming at twice the rate as the rest of the globe, protecting the Arctic Ocean and keeping fossil fuel development out of it is essential.
In 2015 and 2016, President Obama issued a landmark Executive Order (EO) withdrawing 98% of the Arctic Ocean from future oil drilling. President Trump immediately tried to revoke this withdrawal with his own EO, which we challenged in the courts. Judge Sharon Gleason, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Alaska, vacated the Trump EO and ruled that a president does have the authority to withdraw acres from development but that a future president does not have the authority to reverse those withdrawals without congressional approval.
In 2020, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation relinquished its 21 leases in the Beaufort Sea, leases purchased from Shell when the oil major ended its own drilling plans in the Arctic Ocean. These leases were some of the last remaining in industry hands, so with this change, only 13 leases (covering about 58,000 acres, down from a peak of more than four million) remain in America's Arctic Ocean.
NATIONAL PETROLEUM RESERVE-ALASKA
In 2019 the Bureau of Land Management started the process to create a new integrated activity plan (IAP) for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. All action alternatives propose opening additional areas in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area to oil and gas leasing and industrial activity, and all eliminate the Colville River Special Area. BLM should instead strengthen protections for these special areas, not undermine or erase them from the map.
The final comment period of the Integrated Activity Plan draft Environmental Impact Statement is now closed. While the League continues to build public support to keep current protections in place, we also worked with Representatives Lowenthal (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ) and Huffman (D-CA)—and 45 of their colleagues who sent a letter to BLM in opposition to the administration’s proposed alternatives. You can read their letter here.