Rebecca Rimel and Dale Hall
Rebecca W. Rimel is president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. Dale Hall is CEO of Ducks Unlimited
Who says we can't strike a balance between energy exploration and wildlife protection?
For years, a false either/or argument has stalled progress in Washington on energy development. But now we have a chance to both develop and protect one of our nation's natural treasures.
Lying west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and roughly the size of Indiana, the nearly 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska supports a stunning diversity and abundance of wildlife considered globally significant by scientists. The region also contains hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. Given today's polarized politics, is it possible to protect these lands while tapping their resources?
Emphatically yes. For proof, look no farther than the August 13 announcement by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar of a strategic plan that provides a responsible and equitable approach to managing the reserve.
Read the full op-ed, Alaskan Oil and Wildlife: It's not Either/Or, on the CNN website.
View Photos from the NPR-A:
Read Pew's Letter to Secretary Salazar:
Background on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
Lying west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and roughly the size of Indiana, the nearly 23 million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) supports a stunning diversity and abundance of wildlife. The Reserve is home to caribou herds, grizzly bears, wolves, and dense populations of peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and other nesting raptors. Offshore and along coastal areas are important habitats for seals, beluga whales, and polar bears. Rare yellow-billed loons, spectacled eiders, and millions of other migratory birds from the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic Flyways and from as far away as South America journey each year to the wetlands, ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers on the Reserve’s coastal plain. The area has also sustained human communities for thousands of years and continues to supply the subsistence needs of Alaska Natives today.
Originally set aside by President Warren G. Harding in 1923 when the U.S. Navy was converting its fleet from coal to oil, the Reserve has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) since 1976 under a congressional mandate that energy exploration be conducted in a manner consistent with “maximum protection” of the environment, fish and wildlife, and historical or scenic values. Although the Reserve appropriately has a role in meeting America’s future energy needs, Congress has expressly recognized that high-value wildlife habitats in the region should be protected. Federal law states that the secretary of the interior “shall include or provide for such conditions, restrictions, and prohibitions as the Secretary deems necessary or appropriate to mitigate reasonably foreseeable and significantly adverse effects on the surface resources” of the Reserve.