Alaska Public Lands, Habitat Conserved Following Administration Action

News for Immediate Release
Sept. 6, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

Oil and gas leases cancelled in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, conservation activities prioritized in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, Indigenous rights elevated in fish- and wildlife-rich Arctic region

WASHINGTON – Important fish and wildlife habitat in Alaska will be conserved following an announcement by the Biden administration today, heeding the calls of millions of hunters, anglers, recreationists, Indigenous voices and others who have vocally advocated for the long-term conservation of America’s Arctic.

The administration’s action focuses on key areas and priority issues in Alaska:

  • Remaining oil and gas leases on the 1.5-million-acre Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses a total of 19.3 million acres as the largest tract in the National Wildlife Refuge System and the single-largest undisturbed tract of public land in the United States, will be cancelled. The seven remaining leases were suspended in June 2021.
  • Conservation activities will be prioritized in the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, the largest contiguous unit of public lands in the United States at 23.6 million acres, via initiation of a rule that will strengthen protections for approximately 13 million acres of designated “Special Areas” and provide a roadmap for the creation and conservation of additional areas of valuable fish and wildlife habitat.
  • A draft supplemental environmental impact statement issued by the Interior Department for the Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program, conservation needs and Indigenous rights in the Arctic Refuge region will be recognized – and prioritized.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, including members of BHA’s Alaska chapter, have worked for more than a decade to ensure the responsible management of this hunting and fishing paradise. Today BHA commended actions being undertaken to secure fish and wildlife habitat in America’s Arctic that is, in a word, irreplaceable.

“We thank the Biden administration for recognizing the importance of America’s Arctic as the pinnacle of our public lands system in the United States,” said John Gale, BHA vice president of policy and government relations. “These are some of the last large, intact wild landscapes in North America. With tremendous value to fish and wildlife, it is clear now as it has always been, that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is no place for development.

“Designated Special Areas in the Western Arctic deserve the strongest possible protections to ensure their conservation for generations to come,” continued Gale. “Hunters and anglers dream of the chance to pursue fish and game in these iconic landscapes. Today’s announcement will help keep those dreams alive. And furthermore, all across North America, many of us set our sights on waterfowl each season that rely on nesting grounds in America’s Arctic. The administration’s actions will help ensure that these storied pastimes endure in the Lower 48.”

Public lands in America’s Arctic provide habitat for caribou, musk oxen, Dall sheep, moose, wolves and all three species of North American bears. Tens of thousands of waterfowl rely on the vast wetland complexes, especially the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, as important nesting habitat including greater white-fronted geese, Pacific black brant, cackling geese and snow geese. Additional species of waterfowl that nest in the region and migrate to North America’s flyways include all four species of eiders, tundra swans, wigeon, pintail, longtail duck, canvasback, teal and merganser. Braided rivers and Arctic lakes in this region are home to sought after fish such as Dolly Varden, Arctic char, as well as lake trout and northern pike.

“As an Alaskan who found solace in these treasured landscapes during the grim pandemic years, I can testify that America’s Arctic is, in a word, essential,” said Barry Whitehill, a BHA life member from Fairbanks who is vice chair of the BHA Alaska chapter board. “This action by the administration speaks to the importance of these lands and waters to the American people. If our society can’t save a national treasure like the Arctic Refuge from industrial intrusion, then what can be saved?”

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.

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