The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska sounds more like a place where our nation refuels their gas tanks than some of the most wild and remote public lands left in North America. At 23.5 million acres, the reserve comprises the largest unprotected tract of public land in the United States. Its wilderness values are second to none, and the it includes vital habitat areas that support fish and wildlife resources of local, national and global significance.
I have visited the reserve three times on rafting, hiking and photography trips. These adventures recalibrated my understanding of what wilderness means and why it is so vital to protect special areas within the reserve.
I spent days in the Utukok Uplands, a wildlife haven containing the calving grounds of the 400,000 Western Arctic caribou herd, the largest concentration of grizzly bears north of the Brooks Range, and significant populations of wolves and wolverines.
For the first time ever, Americans have the opportunity to weigh in on future of the reserve by commenting on the Department of Interior’s land conservation plan. Four options have been proposed, with Alternative B being the best option for conservation as well as responsible oil and gas leasing.
Alternative B also expands special areas like the Utukok Uplands, ensures protections for our nation’s caribou herds and safeguards areas where threatened polar bears den.
Join me in urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to make sure the wildlife and wilderness values of the reserve are protected for now and forever.