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Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

www.sierraclub.org/habitat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

 July 30, 2010

Contact: Kristina Johnson, (415) 977-5619

Decision Protects Alaska Wilderness Area from Oil, Gas Drilling
BLM Rules on 170,000 Acres Near Sensitive Teshekpuk Lake

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has announced it will not sell oil and gas drilling leases in a biologically-sensitive area of National Petroleum Reserve (NPR) in northern Alaska.

The area covers 170,000 acres of critical habitat in buffer zones near Teshekpuk Lake, important wildlife habitat in the Northeast Planning Area of NPRA in the Western Arctic.

Statement of Sierra Club Deputy Executive Director Bruce Hamilton

We applaud the BLM for taking an important step to protect one of Alaska's wildlife treasures. For years, we have fought to protect this area from the oil industry. It's gratifying to see the federal government recognize the importance of the caribou, migrating birds, and communities that call this region home.   

By keeping drilling out of the habitat around Teshekpuk Lake, the BLM can help ensure that a diverse array of wildlife and plants will continue to flourish. Migrating birds, including black brant, Canada geese and greater white-fronted geese, would have been threatened by oil industrialization in this area. In the face of global warming, it is more important than ever to ensure that wildlife like birds and caribou have freedom to roam and raise their young.

More than a dozen species of birds nest, molt, or rest near Teshekpuk Lake, including threatened Spectacled Eiders, King Eiders, Red-throated Loons, Dunlins, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Of special concern is the Yellow-billed Loon, which nests on deep, fish-bearing lakes in the area and is under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Tens of thousands of caribou also rely on this area for their annual breeding, and the herd provides a key subsistence resource for Alaska Natives on the North Slope.

This week's decision is a big step towards protecting migrating birds, caribou, and the communities that rely on them. Now we need to protect this area permanently.

In its upcoming planning process, the BLM has an opportunity to create additional protections and do even more to safeguard this wild treasure. 

In the long-term, we need to move America off of its oil dependence, so that more pristine areas in Alaska and nationwide do not suffer from the effects of drilling.

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