Development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in Alaska's western Arctic has begun, multiple drilling projects are on the horizon, and industry has shifted its focus to gaining access to protected "Special Areas" including the sensitive wildlife habitat surrounding Teshekpuk Lake.
The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska — or Reserve — is the largest single unit of public lands in the nation, spanning nearly 23 million acres across Alaska's western North Slope.
The Reserve includes some of our nation’s most vital natural resources — millions of acres of wilderness-quality lands with critical habitat for migratory birds, brown bears, caribou, threatened polar bears, walrus, endangered beluga whales and more. The Alaska Native communities that live in and around the Reserve have maintained a subsistence lifestyle for thousands of years based on its living resources.
Birds from all four flyways in North America, plus several international flyways, migrate to the Reserve every year to raise their young. Tundra swans from the Atlantic Flyway, white-fronted geese from the Mississippi Flyway, pintails from the Central Flyway, and Pacific black brant from the Pacific Flyway converge on this summer destination, just to name a few. Even shorebirds from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand find their way north to the Reserve.
Five Special Areas of exceptional wildlife value have been are set aside for protection within the Reserve.
THE WILLOW DRILLING PLAN
ConocoPhillips' Willow project proposed in America's western Arctic is a disaster for this fragile Arctic region, home to Indigenous communities and bountiful wildlife including caribou, fish and migratory birds. It's also a disaster for our climate. At a time when scientists agree: We MUST STOP new drilling to secure our planet's future, Willow is a terrible idea.
As ConocoPhillips Posts Windfall Profits, Will Biden’s Climate Promises Fall Flat?
“Willow is a climate disaster we simply cannot afford”
Washington, D.C. – On Thursday November 3, ConocoPhillips posted massive third-quarter profits. Earlier this week, President Biden addressed the record-setting profits of major oil companies, which have made more than $100 billion in recent months. Meanwhile, the latest United Nations Emissions Gap Report finds that the world must cut emissions by 45 percent to avoid global catastrophe.
Statement by Kristen Miller, conservation director of Alaska Wilderness League:
“ConocoPhillips’ enormous profits should come with a surgeon-general level warning: side effects include wrecking the world’s climate and America’s Arctic. As oil and gas CEOs line their pocketbooks, it is the American people and our climate that pay the price.
“And now ConocoPhillips is touting publicly that it will ‘begin construction of infrastructure this winter for its Willow project’ in Alaska. The Willow project, the biggest oil and gas project proposed on US public lands, has yet to be approved by the Biden administration. If President Biden approves this project, it would threaten our nation’s commitment to aggressively addressing climate change, endanger the President’s climate legacy, and put vulnerable Alaskan communities at risk. Willow would lock in three decades of pollution – equivalent to the annual emissions of 76 coal-fired powerplants.
“The administration must say no to the Willow project in our nation’s western Arctic region. Our public lands are a crucial piece of America’s climate solution – and no single project on public lands has more potential to harm America’s climate future. Willow is a climate disaster we simply cannot afford, threatening to double the greenhouse gas emissions that President Biden would avoid with his efforts to expand clean energy on our public lands and waters.
“Willow is the wrong project in the wrong place at the absolute wrong time – it would endanger public health, harm wildlife, and threaten the subsistence hunting that sustain local communities. By embracing the ‘no action alternative’ and preventing the Willow climate disaster from moving forward, the President can demonstrate comprehensive climate leadership.”
Caribou from the Teshekpuk herd graze near an oil pipeline 30 miles west of Prudhoe Bay. Although the pipeline rises 6' above the tundra, in studies, caribou tend to treat the pipeline as a wall. Although Teshekpuk Lake remains a designated area with special protections, recent discoveries have prompted interest in oil drilling and infrastructure.