WASHINGTON, June 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Yesterday the Secretary of Interior signed Secretarial Order (S.O.) 3352. The S.O. attempts to open over 11 million acres of fragile habitat to oil & gas drilling by reversing a 2013 plan that balanced energy development with the protection of five Special Areas in the Western Arctic: Teshekpuk Lake, Colville River, Utukok River Uplands, Peard Bay and Kasegaluk Lagoon.
The original Integrated Activity Plan already allowed for drilling in over 11 million acres of the 22.8 million-acre Western Arctic, while protecting 11 million acres critical to fish, wildlife and Native Alaskan subsistence. The plan was supported by over 400,000 Americans including sportsmen, Alaska Native subsistence users, and villages, tribes and other organizations representing more than 90 Alaskan villages.
"The Western Arctic is one of the last places that supports Native Alaskan culture and subsistence living," said Danielle Murray, Senior Director at the Conservation Lands Foundation. "Secretary Zinke's reckless order shows his true colors, and places greater value on ConocoPhillips' quarterly reports than on the Americans who live there."
"Revisiting a carefully crafted management plan that was finalized after a massive public process only several years ago is irresponsible, and the fact that this administration is doing so shows that they are only interested in developing our special public lands, not conserving the full range of values on them that so many Americans hold dear," stated Peter Van Tuyn, Managing Partner at Bessenyey & Tuyn, LLC in Anchorage, Alaska.
The Western Arctic is home to many wild and some endangered species including grizzlies, wolverines, wolves, musk-ox, polar bears and beluga whales, and provides breeding grounds for an immense number of shorebirds and waterfowl. The region most under threat, Teshekpuk Lake, hosts 32,000 caribou for calving season during the summer months.
"This action by Zinke negates years of public input by Alaskans particularly on the North Slope. The original plan balanced habitat protection with development—it's a plan that works for Alaskans," stated Michael Wald, former BLM Resource Advisory Council Member and Co-owner and Guide at Arctic Wild. "I've guided here for 15 years, and my clients are awe-inspired by the wild nature and abundant wildlife in the region. I am disheartened by Zinke's desire to open up this entire region to oil and gas development without public input."
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SOURCE Conservation Lands Foundation