Pew Applauds Bureau of Land Management for Protecting Western Arctic Lands

New rule to protect 13 million acres of critical tundra and wetlands

Bob Wick BLM

WASHINGTON—The Pew Charitable Trusts today applauded the Bureau of Land Management for conserving a large portion of public lands in the western Arctic of Alaska, known as the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). The final rule, released today, confers protections to 13 million acres of tundra and wetlands that are crucial habitat for millions of migrating birds and other wildlife, as well as supporting the subsistence culture of Indigenous communities located in the region. 

The rule builds on previous accomplishments for the area and includes emphasis of how to provide “maximum protection” to identified Special Areas, such as Teshekpuk Lake and its associated wetlands. Among other provisions, the rule also creates five-year intervals for reviews in which new Special Areas can be created and in which management of existing areas can be improved.

Suzanne Little, an officer with The Pew Charitable Trusts who has worked with Alaska’s Indigenous communities since 2012, issued the following statement:

“The western Arctic is one of the largest contiguous swaths of public lands in the U.S., representing a unique opportunity to conserve land and wildlife on an unprecedented scale while meeting our nation’s climate commitments, sustaining biodiversity, and protecting Indigenous peoples’ subsistence way of life for generations to come.

“In our collaborative conservation work with Indigenous communities across Alaska, we regularly hear from Indigenous leaders and community members about how quickly the environment and subsistence resources are changing, often to the detriment of local communities. More than 40 communities rely on subsistence resources of the NPR-A, and we appreciate the rule’s emphasis on maintaining subsistence hunting, fishing, and harvesting values, while drawing connections between land health and human community well-being. With climate change bearing down on this region and the state of Alaska as a whole, it’s crucial to assess and mitigate—to the maximum extent possible—impacts on subsistence hunting, fishing, and harvesting traditions.

“Additionally, we fully support advancement of co-stewardship of the region with Tribes, where federal resources can combine with Indigenous knowledge and Western science to more equitably manage and conserve our nation’s resources.”

Founded in 1948, The Pew Charitable Trusts uses data to make a difference. Pew addresses the challenges of a changing world by illuminating issues, creating common ground, and advancing ambitious projects that lead to tangible progress.

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Steller’s eiders are among the hundreds of bird species that depend on the NPR-A for critical habitat.
Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve is full of wildflowers and wildlife
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