Thank you for your interest in learning more about our public wild lands in Alaska. Stop by often to find the latest updates and information on all of the special places we work to protect outlined here. You can also find more information about the Places We Protect here.
ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
The Center for America Progress has released an in-depth analysis that finds the Trump administration's attacks on the Arctic Refuge and Tongass National Forest could release almost 5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide — nearly as much pollution as all the world's cars emit in one year. These attacks on protected areas by the Trump administration will exacerbate the climate crisis and should not move forward.
The administration is on the verge of finalizing plans to allow for aggressive oil and gas development on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. Recent delays have pushed the first oil and gas lease sale in the Arctic Refuge into early 2020. However, that is still too soon and we continue to hold that no leasing and development should ever occur in the Arctic Refuge.
In addition, the League's executive director, Adam Kolton, has penned an op-ed in Truthout highlighting all of the ways the Gwich'in people, members of Congress and others across the country are fighting back against the Trump administration's attempts to sell the Arctic Refuge at rock bottom prices to the oil and gas industry.
TONGASS NATIONAL FOREST
The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is the crown jewel of America’s National Forest System, and at nearly 17 million acres it is the largest national forest in the United States. It stores more carbon than any other national forest, making it a critical tool to combat climate change. Its majestic ancient trees are also important for salmon, wolves, bears and other wildlife. The commercial fishing industry in Southeast Alaska relies on intact salmon habitat on the Tongass National Forest — its old-growth trees protect rivers, lakes and streams that produce 80% of the salmon caught in Southeast Alaska each year.
The Trump administration is seeking to open 9.3 million acres of protected Tongass land to road-building and clear-cut logging.
Thank you to those of you who have submitted public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to exempt the Tongass National Forest from federal Roadless Rule protections. The Roadless Rule has protected Southeast Alaska’s wildlife as well as its cultural and recreational values for nearly two decades. However, the Trump administration's preferred plan in its DEIS prioritizes a full exemption of roadless areas in the Tongass from the Roadless Rule, putting more than nine million acres of forest at risk.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Arctic sea ice coverage was the smallest ever recorded for October at 32.2 percent below the 1981–2010 average. As our climate warms and with the Arctic warming at twice the rate as the rest of the globe, protecting the Arctic Ocean and keeping fossil fuel development out of it is essential.
In 2015 and 2016, President Obama issued a landmark Executive Order (EO) withdrawing 98% of the Arctic Ocean from future oil drilling. President Trump immediately tried to revoke this withdrawal with his own EO, which we challenged in the courts. Last March, Judge Sharon Gleason, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Alaska, vacated the Trump EO and ruled that a president does have the authority to withdraw acres from development but that a future president does not have the authority to reverse those withdrawals without congressional approval. Today it stands that 98% of the Arctic Ocean cannot be leased!
NATIONAL PETROLEUM RESERVE-ALASKA
On November 22, 2019, the Bureau of Land Management announced it is seeking public input on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for a new integrated activity plan (IAP) for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.
“Special Areas in the current plan were designated to protect significant wildlife, subsistence, wilderness and other values,” said Pat Pourchot, former Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior for Alaska Affairs under the Obama administration, and current board member of Alaska Wilderness League. “Noteworthy is the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area which protects the calving grounds, migration routes and insect relief areas of the Teshekpuk caribou herd, from which local residents harvest between three and five thousand animals annually. This Special Area also contains internationally important waterfowl nesting, migration and molting areas; Endangered Species Act-listed polar bears as well as spectacled and Steller’s eiders; and the highest breeding density of shorebirds in the circumpolar Arctic. Alternatives C and D of this proposed plan revision would permit oil and gas leasing and development in this Special Area which would seriously impact these critical resources and values.”