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Strong Start To Protecting Key Alaska Habitat

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently announced a final plan for managing the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, a vast and wild area in northwestern Alaska that provides vital habitat for caribou, countless shorebirds, waterfowl, bears, wolves and wolverines, among others.

The plan is the first that covers the entire reserve, and it is a major step forward for protective management of the western Arctic.

Under provisions of the plan, key habitat areas such as these are protected:

Teshekpuk Lake, a wetlands area critical for migratory birds from around the world.

The Utukok River uplands, which provide core caribou calving, insect-relief, and migration habitat for Alaska's largest caribou herd.

Coastal areas, which benefit polar bears, walrus, beluga whales and other marine mammals.

These positive conservation measures are a strong start to ensuring that wildlife and subsistence values in the reserve receive permanent protection. We commend the secretary for this significant forward progress, and we urge the secretary to adopt the plan next month.

Earthjustice, along with other conservation groups, looks forward to continuing to work with the agency to ensure protection for key habitat areas such as Kasegaluk Lagoon and Peard Bay that are not fully addressed in this plan.

Caribou along the southeast courner of the Teshekpuk Lake in 2006. (© Subhankar Banerjee)

The waters off the Arctic—especially the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas—host a rich variety of marine life,
such as beluga whales. Belugas are social animals that often migrate, hunt and interact with each other in groups ranging from ten to several hundred. (© Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild)

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