The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) came out in support of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's proposed plan for energy development in Arctic Alaska. By protecting extensive coastal plain habitat around Teshekpuk Lake, and the foothills around the Utukok uplands, the most important Arctic wetlands and migratory corridor for caribou and migratory birds would be conserved.
A final management plan for the NPR-A may be issued by the secretary after a 30-day review but the WCS lauds the proposal because it balances conservation, subsistence rights for Alaska Natives, and energy extraction.
“Our conservation science has consistently shown that wildlife in the NPR-A are best served by a development approach that balances wildlife protection and responsible oil and gas leasing. Western Arctic Alaska is arguably the most important region for wildlife in all the Arctic, which is why we consider today’s announcement by Secretary Salazar an important step in the right direction," said Dr. Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO. "Critical habitat exists within the NPR-A for several species of wildlife, including nesting grounds for millions of migratory birds and calving grounds for two of Alaska’s largest and most important caribou herds. By protecting these existing areas from future development, a balance can be achieved and wildlife conservation secured.
“"By keeping development and disturbance away from essential wildlife habitat, Arctic wildlife will continue to thrive. WCS studies have shown that human activities associated with development, such as the oilfields in Prudhoe Bay, negatively affect populations of nesting birds by attracting predators such as foxes, ravens and gulls. The Arctic wetlands surrounding Teshekpuk Lake, the Utukok River Uplands, Kasegaluk Lagoon and other areas are the largest in the world and are internationally important for massive numbers of migratory birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and loon. The plan announced today will help conserve these birds and assures caribou protection across much of their migration and into their calving grounds. Many other Arctic species, including polar bear, snowy owl, and gyrfalcon, will further benefit from this plan.”