Over the last year, more than 70,000 of you have urged the Obama administration to protect the special places of the National Petroleum Reserve in Western Alaska (the largest undisturbed area of wild lands in the United States) from Big Oil.
The Obama administration heard you. They just announced that they will pursue a plan that will shield 11 million acres of Western Alaska's most fragile and important wild places from oil and gas drilling.
We're still waiting for President Obama's final decision on drilling in Alaska's Polar Bear Seas. But in the meantime, this recent announcement is great news for the Arctic.
Don't let the name fool you -- the National Pretroleum Reserve in Alaska is a wild wonderland. Its 23 million acres are home to a dizzying array of wildlife -- half a million caribou, countless migratory birds, thousands of walrus, and many polar bears. Its unique plains and lakes are crucial to the health of the entire Arctic region.
But the federal government has never had a coherent plan for managing its resources and wildlife. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been working for the last two years to change that. Of all the possible plans they considered, we have been enouraging them to adopt "Alternative B," which protects places like Tekeshpuk Lake and the Utukok Uplands, where hundreds of thousands of caribou birth their young every year and where migratory birds nest. And they have done just that!
We still have a lot of work to do to make sure these protections are adopted -- and that other special places of America's Arctic like the Polar Seas are protected from Shell Oil's plans to drill. We must show the Administration that we care deeply for this cherished landscape, and that while we're celebrating the announcment today, we'll be watching in the weeks and months to come and fighting to protect the Arctic.
Thanks for everything you do for the environment,
Sierra Club Arctic Campaign Director
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