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An Alaska Gem Protected for Generations of Americans

WASHINGTON (December 19, 2012) – Today’s decision by the U.S. Department of Interior to shield from energy development 11 million acres of sensitive habitat in Alaska’s Western Arctic Reserve is a big step toward  protecting the entire 23 million acre reserve, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Secretary Salazar has taken a bold step to protect one of America’ wildest places from energy development,” said Charles Clusen, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Alaska Project Director. “He has given the American people a spectacular holiday present that will protect our most precious heritage. The Western Arctic Reserve is a globally important home to caribou, grizzly bears, wolverines and wolves, as well as shorebirds, waterfowl and exceptional densities of cliff-nest raptors. Also found in this key wildlife habitat are nesting shorebirds, polar bears, walrus and beluga whales.”

“It has been a very long battle to bring meaningful protection to the Western Arctic Reserve—over forty years. Secretary Salazar’s decision today substantially advances wildlife and wilderness conservation. With it, we move a step further to the ultimate goal: permanent protection for all the special areas of the Reserve. That ultimate step will take enormous effort given the opposition of the oil industry, State of Alaska and others dependent on oil development.”

Salazar announced that the agency formally chose the Bureau of Land Management’s “B-2” alternative.  It identifies areas where no oil and gas leasing will occur and areas where no oil and gas infrastructure placement can occur.

For further explanation of efforts to protect the Western Arctic Reserve and of Secretary Salazar’s decision, please read Clusen’s blog post here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/cclusen/

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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