Ben Brown’s impassioned editorial on the federal Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to “restrict” development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska omitted a few key facts. The truth is that the preferred management strategy announced by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar would allow the oil industry access to 72 percent of the reserve’s recoverable oil reserves.
At the same time, it would provide some protections for special wildlife habitat areas. Mr. Brown claims the reserve was “expressly set aside for its petroleum resources,” but he neglected to mention that Congress mandated the identification and protection of key “Special Areas” in the NPR-A when the reserve was put under BLM management in 1976. Those areas were established decades ago, and scientifically proven to contain important habitat for both migratory and Arctic species including caribou, polar bears and waterfowl.
By favoring a strategy that balances development and conservation, Salazar and the BLM are not only following the instructions of Congress, they are serving the needs of all Americans by allowing responsible oil development in appropriate areas now, while protecting America’s public lands legacy for the future.
Regional Director, The Wilderness Society