WCS Applauds Administration for Protecting Wildlife Habitat in Arctic Alaska

July 10, 2010

WCS is extremely encouraged by the Department of Interior’s decision to protect 170,000 acres south and northeast of Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve from leasing. The area provides critical habitat for breeding birds and caribou populations.

WCS is extremely encouraged by the July 9 announcement by the Department of Interior to protect 170,000 acres south and northeast of Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve from leasing, while moving ahead with 1.8 million acres for leasing farther south of this region.

For years, the Interior had been pressing for 100% development around Teshekpuk Lake, thus endangering breeding birds and caribou that migrate in great numbers to this region.

“This announcement reflects a sensible balance of wildlife protection and energy development in this poorly known, but hugely important public landscape,” says Dr. Steve Zack, who has directed WCS studies near Teshekpuk Lake for the past six years. “Our studies have shown that migratory birds are more numerous and more successful in producing young in comparison to other areas of the coastal plain of Arctic Alaska. In that light, areas near Teshekpuk should be considered sources of bird population growth and their protection is extremely important.”

The Department of Interior also noted the importance of this region for caribou movements and their reproduction and for the fall spectacle of molting geese from Siberia, Canada, and Alaska. Both the caribou and the goose populations are important subsistence for Inupiat hunters.

“The Arctic is internationally important for wildlife populations, and the Department of Interior is right in navigating a balance in developing oil and gas while securing wildlife conservation into the future,” says WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven Sanderson. “We hope these areas deferred from leasing will gain permanent protection, such that they can act as large buffers against both development and the changing climate.

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