Obama Seeks Wilderness Protection For Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Protected Wilderness

President Barack Obama has announced plans to designate the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a protected wilderness area. Although the designation is meant to preserve undeveloped land and protect native species, the President’s plan is being met with stark criticism.

President Obama announced his proposal via the White House website. His reasoning was outlined in an article and a video clip.

“The Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge, one of the few remaining places in the country as pristine today as it was when the oldest Alaska Native communities first set eyes on it, is too precious to put at risk.”

As reported by USA Today, the proposed wilderness area includes 1.5 million acres along the park’s Coastal Plain. Therefore, the designation could hamper a large portion of Alaska’s oil exploration.

Alaska’s Governor and senior Senator have both spoken out against Obama’s proposal. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also heads the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, said “it’s clear this administration does not care about [Alaska], and sees [the state] as nothing more than a territory.”

Senator Dan Sullivan echoed Murkowski’s concerns, explaining that forbidding access to the Coastal Plain will put “energy security in serious jeopardy.”

Obama acknowledged the importance of domestic oil production during the announcement. However, he and his administration want to explore ways “that oil and natural gas resources can be developed safely.”

As “accidents and spills can still happen, and the environmental impacts” are devastating, President Obama hopes to preserve the Coastal Plain by federally protecting the land.

The President said he will ask Congress to designate more than 12 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a protected wilderness. However, he will certainly face strong opposition. As reported by Fox News, the Republican-controlled congress is not likely to approve the designation.

More than seven million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are already designated as a protected wilderness area. However, Obama wants the entire 19.8 million acre park to have the same designation.

Although the President’s proposal has added fuel to the fire, the Coastal Plain has been a point of controversy for many years. As conservationists have sought to protect the land, and others have lobbied for more widespread energy exploration, the debate is likely to continue.

President Obama is already receiving strong criticism from those who support energy exploration. However, conservationists are applauding his efforts to make the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge a protected wilderness.

[Image via Citizen CEO]