Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced a new strategic plan to manage the 22.8-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Known as Alternative B-2, the new guidelines protect 11.8
million acres—roughly half the reserve—as critical wildlife habitat
, while allowing oil and gas development on the remaining half. Salazar made the announcement in August, hailing the plan as the most responsible and equitable approach to managing the reserve.
Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve is one of the Arctic's greatest migratory bird nesting and molting areas and is the summer home to hundreds of thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds. This vast area provides crucial molting habitat for up to 30 percent of the continental population of Pacific brant, 25 percent of the midcontinent population of greater white-fronted geese, and a growing number of lesser snow and Canada geese.
"This proposal would allow us to continue to expand our leasing in Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve, as we have done over the past three years as part of the Obama administration's focus on expanding safe and responsible oil and gas development, and builds on our efforts to help companies develop the infrastructure that's needed to bring supplies online," Salazar said. "This plan also strikes an important balance by recognizing the need to protect America's treasures in the Arctic, from the raptors of the Colville River and the polar bears of the Beaufort Sea coast to Teshekpuk Lake, Peard Bay, and some of the largest caribou herds on earth."
The Teshekpuk Lake Special Area was of particular concern to Ducks Unlimited. "The importance of the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, and the peninsula and lakes just above it, cannot be overstated," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "It contains an irreplaceable array of large basin habitats that meet the special needs of breeding waterfowl and molting geese. While DU's focus is wetlands and waterfowl, this habitat is also vitally important for caribou, grizzlies, other wildlife species, as well as many public uses, including hunting and other outdoor recreation."