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Last 13 Percent of Protected Public Land Now Open To Drilling

Statement by Chuck Clusen, NRDC Alaska Project Director

WASHINGTON (January 11, 2006) -- The plan released today by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for drilling in Alaska's Western Arctic will open some 590,000 acres of environmentally sensitive areas that have been protected for decades, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The plan, which covers the Northeast Planning Area in the Western Arctic (named the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska by the Warren Harding administration in 1923) will fragment critical habitat for tens of thousands of migrating birds and caribou, and will threaten the livelihoods of native Alaskans who hunt and fish to feed their families. The area is west of the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. (For a copy of the BLM plan, click here. For the BLM map of the area, click here.)

Below is a statement by Chuck Clusen, director of NRDC's Alaska Project.

"Scientists, sportsmen and conservation groups all agree we should protect the last 13 percent of the most sensitive habitat in the Western Arctic's Northeast area. Eighty-seven percent was already open. The Bureau of Land Management today decided to hand all of it over to the oil companies. The agency is supposed to balance all values of our public lands. Giving 100 percent to the oil industry is not what anyone would call 'balanced.'

"We can drill every last acre of wilderness and it won't make us any more secure. We only have 3 percent of the world's oil, and the Middle East has 66 percent. Do the math. We can't drill our way to energy independence."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
The Bush Administration's Unbalanced Plan to Drill in the Western Arctic
BioGem: Western Arctic Reserve

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