The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), a relatively isolated area above the Arctic Circle, has caused an uproar since it received federal protection. The oil-rich 23.5 million acres contains many interests for both man and animal.
According to an Environmental Network News article, the reserve has 17.5 trillion feet of natural gas and the equivalent of 604 barrels of oil.
At the end of 2012, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new management plan for the next 10 to 15 years for the NPR-A.
“The plan sets aside approximately half of the BLM’s nearly 23 million acres,” the article reads. Conservationists, including Audubon, the Pew Charitable Trust’s Environment Group and the Wildlife Conservation Society, celebrated the victory. These groups all agreed this plan was an equal balance between people and wildlife and would, therefore, have positive effects.
The land is a large tract of undeveloped land where mountains, coastline and Alaska’s largest wetland meet. It also “hosts migratory birds from around the world, the United States’ largest caribou herd and North America’s biggest population of wolverines.”
Steve Zack, a Wilderness Conservation Society conservationist, said the BLM’s decision was not an “environmental ‘gotcha,'” but resulted from two factors: “A growing body of scientific evidence that documented how the NPR-A contained habitat of international distinction, and the discovery that the potential oil and gas reserve was significantly less than previously thought.”
The BLM put aside 11.8 million acres for lease sales and the potential construction of pipelines to helps with oil and gas transportation. This protects about 8.3 million acres from any developments. The protected areas also includes the previously-named Special Areas, such as Utukok Uplands (calving grounds for caribou) and Kasegaluk Lagoon (provides habitats for marine animals).
While the majority of native Alaskans are happy with this decision, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski called it the “most restrictive management plan possible” and Kara Moriarty, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association’s executive director, warns that it will “adversely effect Alaska’s economy.”