The Western Arctic Reserve or National Petroleum Reserve-Arctic (NPR-A) is a largely pristine tract of land that is home to one of the nation’s largest caribou herd, millions of migratory birds and America’s last remaining polar bears.
The Reserve was created in 1923 by President Warren Harding as a Naval Petroleum
Reserve during a period when the Navy was transitioning it’s fleet from coal to oil. In 1976 Congress transferred management authority of the Reserve from the Navy to the Department of the Interior (DOI) calling for “maximum protection” of wildlife in “special areas” within the Reserve.
These Congressionally protected areas include Teshekpuk Lake, Colville River, Kasegaluk Lagoon, and the Utukok River Uplands.
- The Teshepuk Lake region provides vital habitat for birds from six continents and is the main calving ground for the 67,000 animal Teshekpuk Lake Caribou Herd.
- The Colville River Delta is habitat for 3 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (Spectacled Eider, Steller’s Eider, and polar bear) and has been identified by USFWS as the most productive river delta in northern Alaska .
- The Kasegaluk Lagoon area provides important habitat for waterfowl,shorebirds and spotted seals, denning habitat for polar bears and serves as birthing habitat for beluga whales.
- The Utukok River Uplands provides critical habitat and calving grounds for the nearly 500,000 animal Western Arctic Caribou Herd. Additionally, it has the highest density of grizzly bears in the Western Arctic.
The government agency that oversees the leasing of land to oil companies is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In July, 2010 the agency began a planning process for the Reserve. This new plan will guide all future land management.
We are asking BLM to provide maximum protection to the above areas. The Reserve already has millions of acres of land set aside for oil and gas development, making this a key opportunity to provide balance in protecting at a minimum these key special areas.
You can make a difference on behalf of polar bears, bowhead whales, caribou, waterfowl and the other wildlife that depends on the Reserve for habitat by submitting a comment to BLM online.
Visit our Western Arctic Reserve action page and take action today.