Conserving Alaska's Wildlife

Striking a Balance in America's Arctic

Research & Analysis

Although little-known, the nearly 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, public land managed by the Department of the Interior which accounts for a substantial part of the America's arctic, supports a stunning diversity and abundance of wildlife. This includes caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, polar bears, seals, and beluga whales.

The wetland complex of ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers on the reserve's coastal plain also is vital habitat for millions of migratory birds, including the rare yellow-billed loon and spectacled eider.

The Arctic has sustained human communities for thousands of years. Alaska Natives throughout the region depend on wildlife from the reserve for subsistence. These animals and fish not only provide food but also give local subsistence cultures essential strength and meaning.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has released a draft of its first comprehensive management plan for the entire reserve that describes four management alternatives. All four options will allow development of currently-held oil and gas leases totaling 1,480,296 acres.

Alternative A

  • Land available for oil and gas leasing: 13 million acres.
  • Estimated undiscovered oil and gas: 453 million barrels of oil and 9.6 trillion cubic feet of gas.
  • Special areas*: four (8.3 million acres). Special Areas include Colville River Special Area; Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, Utukok River Upland Special Area, and Kasegaluk Lagoon Special Area.
  • Wild and scenic river recommendations: None.

Alternative B (Pew's recommended option)

  • Lands offered for oil and gas leasing: 11 million acres.
  • Estimated undiscovered oil and gas 235 million barrels of oil and 7.2 trillion cubic feet of gas.
  • Special areas*: five (15.5 million acres). Special Areas include Colville River Special Area; Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, Utukok River Upland Special Area, Peard Bay Special Area and Kasegaluk Lagoon Special Area.
  • Wild and scenic river recommendations: 12.

Alternative C

  • Lands offered for oil and gas leasing: 17.9 million acres.
  • Estimated undiscovered oil and gas: 437 million barrels of oil and 14.5 trillion cubic feet of gas.
  • Special areas*: five (9 million acres). Special Areas include Colville River Special Area; Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, Utukok River Upland Special Area, Peard Bay Special Area and Kasegaluk Lagoon Special Area.
  • Wild and scenic river recommendations: three.

Alternative D

  • Lands offered for oil and gas leasing: 22.8 million acres.
  • Estimated undiscovered oil and gas: 491 million barrels of oil; 16.9 trillion cubic feet of gas.
  • Special areas*: four (8.3 million acres). Special Areas include Colville River Special Area; Teshekpuk Lake Special Area, Utukok River Upland Special Area, and Kasegaluk Lagoon Special Area.
  • Wild and scenic river recommendations: None.

While the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska appropriately has a role in meeting America's future energy needs, Congress has expressly recognized that high-value wildlife habitats in the region should be protected . Federal law states that the Secretary of the Interior “shall include or provide for such conditions, restrictions, and prohibitions as the Secretary deems necessary or appropriate to mitigate reasonably foreseeable and significantly adverse effects on the surface resources” of the reserve.

* Special Area designation does not constitute protection unless specifically detailed in the plan.

Media Contact

Brian Geiger

Officer, Communications

202.540.6431