Following the findings of an environmental impact statement prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, President Obama has written to the U.S. Congress, asking Congress to designate 12.28 million acres of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, including the coastal plain area of the refuge. The president has also asked Congress to place the Atigun, Hulahula, Kongakut and Marsh Fork Canning rivers in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
"This area is one of the beautiful, undisturbed places in the world," the president said. "It is a national treasure and should be permanently protected through legislation for future generations."
Thought to be highly prospective for oil and gas, the coastal plain area of the refuge has been a major bone of environmental contention for many years, with environmentalists being adamantly opposed to any development anywhere in the refuge, and with development within the coastal plain requiring Congressional approval. A wilderness designation, which has to be enacted by Congress, would permanently place the coastal plain of the refuge off limits for oil and gas drilling.
Fish and Wildlife published its environmental impact statement in February in association with the agency's conservation plan for the refuge. The proposal for wilderness designation provoked a storm of protest from Alaska officials, including Gov. Bill Walker and the Alaska Congressional delegation.
- ALAN BAILEY
See story in April 12 issue, available online Friday, April 10 at www.PetroleumNews.com