Media Availability: WCS Applauds Government's Protection of Habitat for Migratory Birds and Caribou

  • Protected Areas South and Northeast of Teshekpuk Lake are Critical to Wildlife Conservation in the Region
  • WCS Scientist Steve Zack Available for Comment  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 11, 2010) – The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) held a lease sale today for 1.8 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve, a parcel that excludes 170,000 acres south and northeast of Teshekpuk Lake which are critical for vulnerable wildlife populations. The Wildlife Conservation Society is encouraged by the decision to protect from development the most vital habitats for wildlife including breeding birds and caribou which migrate in great numbers to this region. In prior years, DOI had pressed for 100% development around Teshekpuk Lake.  

“The decision to exclude these areas 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 are 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.”

In the decision to protect these areas, DOI 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 the 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.”

Dr. Sanderson, Dr. Zack and other WCS scientists recently returned from an expedition in the Arctic. The purpose of the expedition was to determine what science was needed to inform policy in the Arctic relating to the balance of development and wildlife protection.

Chip Weiskotten: (202-624-8172;
Mary Dixon: (347-840-1242;

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

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