Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its Draft Revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) and Environmental Impact Statement for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the CCP during a 90-day comment period which expires November 15. Public hearings will be held in September and October.
Despite State of Alaska opposition, the Service has determined that much of ANWR is eligible for Wilderness designation and four rivers are suitable for Wild and Scenic River designation. The lands reviewed for wilderness are split into three study areas – Brooks Range, Porcupine Plateau, and Coastal Plain. The draft CCP proposes six alternatives:
• Alternative A: No Action Alternative – No new wilderness (no revised Regional Management Guidelines)
• Alternative B: Recommends Brooks Range Wilderness Study Area (WSA) for designation
• Alternative C: Recommends Coastal Plain WSA for designation
• Alternative D: Recommends Brooks Range and Porcupine WSAs for designation
• Alternative E: Recommends all three WSAs for designation
• Alternative F: No new wilderness designations (with revised Regional Management Guidelines)
Both Alternative C and E recommend the Coastal Plain for wilderness, an action that would permanently close America’s most promising onshore oil and gas prospect to future development. Moreover, the CCP also proposes recommending at least four new Wild and Scenic Rivers to Congress for designation.
Congress excluded the 1002 area of the Coastal Plain from ANWR’s large Wilderness block in a compromise struck under the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The compromise also doubled the size of the refuge, designated 8 million acres Wilderness, and closed 92 percent to energy development. Congress also mandated a study of the 1002 area’s wildlife, environment and petroleum resources. In 1987, the Department of the Interior concluded oil development would have
minimal impact on wildlife and recommended Congress open the coastal plain to development. In 1995, Congress voted to open the Coastal Plain to exploration. Unfortunately, President Bill Clinton vetoed the measure.
The 1002 area, which accounts for only eight percent of the refuge, is estimated to contain upwards of 16 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Responsible development can and does occur in similar areas on the North Slope. Today, Alaskans overwhelmingly support new oil and gas exploration
and development in ANWR and believe the energy resources beneath the Coastal Plain should be part of America’s energy portfolio.
Although the Service has not identified a Preferred Alternative at this time, the Record of Decision from this planning process could recommend the designation of the Coastal Plain as Wilderness. Any proposed Wilderness designation would need to go before Congress for its approval.
First Things First Alaska Foundation supporters should be actively engaged in the public process by submitting comments and testifying at upcoming public hearings in opposition to a Wilderness designation of the Coastal Plain. The Service
should manage the 1002 area in a manner that preserves the option of responsible oil and gas development in the future. It is vital the Service hear from Alaskans about how critical ANWR’s Coastal Plain is to Alaska’s future economy and the nation’s energy security. Those wanting Wilderness status for the refuge
will likely turn out in force at public hearings and can be expected to generate heavy write-in and email campaigns. Please do not let them speak on your behalf!
Anchorage, Wednesday, September 21, Wilda Marston Theater at Loussac Library, 3:00-9:30 pm
Fairbanks, Wednesday, October 19, Carlson Center, 3:00-9:30 pm
How to comment:
Online Submittal: http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm
Mail: Sharon Seim, Arctic NWR, 101 12th Avenue, Room 236, Fairbanks, AK 99701-6237
A copy of the draft plan and additional materials are available at http://arctic.fws.gov/ccp.htm
Points to consider in your comments or verbal testimony:
• The option of future energy development in the 1002 area should remain on the table, precluding any new Wilderness designation over the Coastal Plain.
• Not only would new Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designations violate the “no more” clauses of ANILCA, they would go against the original intent of Congress and the law.
• There is no need for additional Wilderness designations in ANWR, given most of the refuge is already closed to development and managed to maintain its wilderness character. Alaska already contains 58 million acres of federal Wilderness and accounts for 53 percent of America’s federal Wilderness areas.
• The Service has unreasonably restricted the scope of alternatives and public comment by refusing to consider an oil and gas development alternative in the draft CCP. ANILCA required the Service to study 1002 area’s petroleum resources and consider how oil and gas development could impact wildlife and the environment. It also directed the Secretary of Interior to provide Congress with recommendations with respect to such development. In 1987, the Department of the Interior concluded oil development would have minimal impact on wildlife and recommended Congress open the coastal plain to development.
• ANILCA mandated the Service to periodically revisit the issue of oil and gas activity within the 1002 area. This directive is as clear as the mandate the Service claims to have that requires it to revisit wilderness issues. There have been considerable advancements in oil and gas exploration and development in the
nearly 25 years since the original study was completed.
• A federal Wilderness designation over the 1002 area would forever place off-limits North America’s most promising onshore oil and gas prospect to development and destroy the agreements made when ANILCA became law. In contrast, oil and gas development in the 1002 area would not disturb a single acre of federal Wilderness.
• Alaskans strongly oppose a Wilderness designation on ANWR’s coastal plain. In fact, 78 percent of Alaskans support oil exploration in the 1002 area. Every Alaskan Governor and every legislature and elected congressional representative and senator from Alaska has supported responsible development. The
North Slope Borough also supports responsible development, as well as a majority of residents in Kaktovik, a village within the Coastal Plain.
• There are compelling national economic and energy security reasons for opening the 1002 area to responsible oil and gas development, including a safe and secure source of energy to the nation, create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the country, and refill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which is
operating at one-third its original capacity and continually declining.
• Upwards of 16 billion barrels of oil and 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are estimated to lie within the 1002 area of ANWR.
• With advances in technology, it is possible to develop the coastal plain’s energy reserves while directly utilizing very little (potentially only 2,000 acres) of the 1.5 million acres in the 1002 area. Such development would allow access to energy Americans need without any significant disturbance to wildlife.
Deadline for comments: November 15, 2011